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Saturday, 16 June 2012


There is a well-written and moving story about Kim Phuc

The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War by Denise Chong
Permalink: http://amzn.com/0140280219

This made my day. Thank you so much for posting it!

Have you seen this video on YouTube?


There was also a TV news team present at the scene, from ITN, and this is their film. I assume that the naked girl they film is in fact Kim Phuc; what's interesting is that in the TV footage, she just runs through the frame (at about 50 seconds), there isn't the 'frozen moment' that makes Nick Ut's picture so memorable.

The later footage of the baby in the woman's arms is very disturbing.

Nick Ut's picture is possibly the most compelling, impactful photograph I've seen - and surely I'm not alone in saying so. It reminds how powerful an image can be - and, at the same time, it makes us (even more) aware of the horrors of war. Which, in its turn, prompts some dark reflections on the world and mankind. In this it is accompanied by Kevin Carter's famous photograph of the starving child with the vulture, taken in Sudan, and some of James Nachtwey's photos. Kudos for the evocation, Mike.

In 1972, Nick Ut had free access to the battlefield. Today, whenever the USA is involved with military action on the ground, journalists don't. How many 'napalm girls' have we have missed since 1972?

Last Thursday Horst Faas, important war photographer who discovered and educated local photographers (Nick Ut amongst others) died.

Let me see if I got this right: if in "Random excellence" your intention is to give merit to whoever took the picture in question, then according to the linked page, that guy was apparently Nick Ut, who appears in several of the photos of the event Steve Russel documented. Please do correct me if I got it wrong and in any case, there's no need for you to post this comment.

Ironically, a photo like that today stands an uphill battle of getting published and distributed in any meaningful, worthwhile manner thanks to the hypocritical Conservative bloc in our Congress.

Mr. Ut would not be hailed as a Pulitzer prize winning photographer- but condemned as a child pornographer.


Thanks for pointing us to this story. Moving and inspiring in many ways.

Nick Ut took the picture of Kim Phuc, the picture known as "The napalm girl," 40 years ago. It was Steve's portraits of Kim and "Uncle Ut" together that I meant to highlight today.


David Burnett's photo reminds me of another TOP post:


Wonderful story and so very inspiring for sure. The photograph is so descriptive that you can almost feel the emotion coming from those children. Thank you for posting it as a reminder that with every day there are new opportunities.

That photo was critical for me to form my position about the war.

And thank whatever powers that be not only for Nick, but for the Toronto Star, which continues as one of the great journalistic forces of our times. I am headed to Toronto tomorrow (Sunday, Father's Day) to spend a little time with my children. It's always good to go home.

Kim Phuc's (The girl in the picture) story is apparently standard fare recounted by Vietnamese tour guides to tourists en route to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Our tour guide ("Jackie," an ARVN lieutenant during the Vietnam war) had a photocopy of Nick Ut's iconic photo which he passed around as part of his briefing. He pointed out to us the spot along Highway 22 where the picture was taken. He also told us the apochryphal story about Kim meeting her alleged bomber ("pilot") "in Canada" and forgiving him. He seemed to believe that the perpetrators of the atrocity were Americans. (The napalm bombs were American, dropped by the South Vietnamese Air Force.)

Steve Russel's photos of Nick Ut and Kim Phuc both looking well and happily reunited 40 years on are uplifting. Like Steve said, this is not their first reunion. Nick Ut checked on Kim while she was undergoing treatment for severe burns in a Saigon hospital (where Nick and other journalists took her and the other child victims after taking photos), and kept in touch with her during the war until the fall of Saigon and thereafter.

Meanwhile, Kim Phuc parlayed her "celebrity" for the benefit of child victims of latter-day wars through her foundation and UN agencies.

Wikipedia has well-documented entry of Kim Phuc and Nick Ut's remarkable journey here:

What a beautiful lady and what a wonderful portrait. I can feel the warmth from here. Wow.

Tom Burke:
"The later footage of the baby in the woman's arms is very disturbing."

Was that missed by those photographers around? Would have made a strong image I guess.

The baby must have little chance to survive. Kim Phuc was very luck after the event.

I revere Kim Phuc for overcoming this horrible trauma at age 9 and then living her life in such an exemplary manner.

But, 40 years on, there is no excuse for not understanding what the real atrocity was here and who were its perpetrators.

The proximate cause for this event was that her village of Trang Bang was attacked and occupied by North Vietnamese troops. South Vietnamese forces came to the aid of their countrymen, but in the process, a South Vietnamese pilot mistook his own soldiers, leading the civilians to safety, for enemy, and dropped the napalm on them, rather than the NVA.

Some time ago, Kim Phuc said, referring to her life under Communist rule,

"I got burned by napalm, and I became a victim of war … but growing up then [under Communist rule], I became another kind of victim. … I wished I died in that attack with my cousin, with my South Vietnamese soldiers."

Her phrase, "...my South Vietnamese soldiers..." makes it clear that Kim understands who wore black hats and who white.

By this time this photo was taken, American combat troops had been withdrawn from Vietnam, and the South Vietnamese, with our financial help, were more than holding their own against the aggression by the North. It's a great tragedy that this amazing photo was used to tell US audiences exactly the wrong story. It was fundamental to turning public opinion against continued assistance to the South Vietnamese in defending their country.

Two years later, Congress voted to cut off aid to South Vietnam, and not long after, the country fell to the North. Thus started years of years of dark existence for the former citizens of South Vietnam under communist rule.

The only saving grace of our mistake in abandoning South Vietnam is that so many brave and worthwhile Vietnamese refugees ended up in the US and Canada and have contributed so richly to our societies.

Call me shallow, but I couldn't help but notice this comment in the captions to David Burnett's photographs in the Washington Post:

“It took another 20 or 30 seconds for me to finish loading my stubborn Leica..."

Steve Rosenbach- Before neatly summarizing and packaging a foreign country's history, you'd do well to study the history of empire and colonialism throughout the world, and the legacy of devastation and atrocity it bequeaths upon its subjects.

We do agree on a couple of things, however- that photo and the ones taken at My Lai (where US forces slaughtered hundreds of innocent Vietnamese men, women and children) did help turn American opinion, and yes, what occurred in Viet Nam (and Cambodia) was a travesty that we have yet to learn from, as made abundantly clear in Iraq and Afghanistan.

[clip] Before neatly summarizing and packaging [clip]

And that's quite enough on subject here, from anyone on any side of that issue. Thanks.

Mike the mod.

As a matter of interest, following surmising by a couple of others above...

According to a later report by Horst Fass (http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0008/ng_intro.htm) and also using other AP based sources, the two wounded babies/toddlers seen in the ITN film-clip were relatives of Kim Phuc and both died soon after the incident.

The AP bureau, where Fass was chief photographer, received eight rolls of black-and-white film but most of the negatives were later destroyed during a "weeding out" of the huge archives after the war. The pictures now used are based on digital-copies of the negs of the original, AP-distributed, images, which are securely stored.

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