Children are innocent. They must not harmed. But war and bombs do not spare even the innocent. In yet another war photograph, today I am going to tell you the story of Kim Phuc, a Vietnamese little girl who had to suffer napalm burns.
Napalm is a flammable gel which is used mixed with fuels like gasoline in the warfare. United Nations has banned the use of napalm against civilians since 1980. But there was no such ban in place on the day of 8th June 1972. And that is why 9-years old Phan Thị Kim Phúc had to bear one of the most horrendous pain.
On 8th June 1972, during Vietnam War, the Vietnamese Air Force had dropped a napalm bomb on the village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam. As the village was engulfed in a storm of fire, Kim Phuc began to run for a safe place. Her clothes caught fire —she saved herself by tearing away all her clothes. As she was running on the road along with her siblings, the Associated Press photographer Huỳnh Công Út (professionally known as Nick Ut) took the above iconic photograph.
After taking the photo, Nick took all the kids to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, where it was determined that Kim Phuc’s burns were so severe that she probably would not survive. After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures, however, Kim Phuc was able to return home.
This photograph raised awareness about the horrors of war and helped in bringing the Vietnam war to an end. In the photo Kim Phuc (aged 9; middle left) runs naked in the street. Also in the picture is her older brother Phan Thanh Tam (aged 12; far left), younger brother Phan Thanh Phuoc (aged 5; background left, looking back), and younger cousins Ho Van Bo and Ho Thi Ting (boy and girl, respectively; middle right).
…an editor at the AP rejected the photo of Kim Phuc running down the road without clothing because it showed frontal nudity. Pictures of nudes of all ages and sexes, and especially frontal views were an absolute no-no at the Associated Press in 1972…Horst argued by telex with the New York head-office that an exception must be made, with the compromise that no close-up of the girl Kim Phuc alone would be transmitted. The New York photo editor, Hal Buell, agreed that the news value of the photograph overrode any reservations about nudity.
The photograph however was eventually published and it won Nick Ut a Pulitzer Prize. Here is a YouTube video from a Belgian TV that shows the napalm strike and children, including Kim Phuc, running away from fire. It also shows an interview with Kim Phuc. She shares her experience.
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