Sharing the story behind an infamous Vietnam War photo

Published: Jun. 8, 2019 at 9:37 PM CDT
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The subject and photographer of the infamous “Napalm Girl” photograph spoke at UW-Madison Saturday, describing how the moment, which helped make America aware of the horrors of the Vietnam War, was more than just a picture. The event marked the 47th anniversary of the day the photo was taken.

Kim Phuc, pictured running and crying naked in the center of the photograph, said the experience changed her life.

After being burned by the napalm, Phuc suffered pain and limited mobility. The Vietnamese Government also removed her from University, placed her into heavy surveillance and forced her to become a propaganda symbol, which persisted until she defected to Canada.

Despite the horrors described, Phuc made it clear that she was sharing a message of hope.

“Sometimes, dear friends, a terrible thing can happen to us,” Phuc said. “If we are lucky, we can learn from our experience. It can make us stronger.”

Nick Ut, the photographer, joined Phuc at the event Saturday. Ut went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, but he achieved more than just global recognition. Phuc also credited him with her survival.

“Nick Ut, he won a Pulitzer prize, but first, he won my heart,” Phuc said. “When he put down his camera, and he rushed me to the nearest hospital, Uncle Ut he saved my life.”

Phuc and Ut have been close friends for several years, and they often celebrate the anniversary of that photo together.

As a result of her experiences, Phuc created the Kim Phuc Foundation to help provide relief and medical care to child victims of war.

Phuc also wrote a book in 2017, called “Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness and Peace.” Phuc signed copies for the audience on Saturday. In her book, she talks about how she moved past the horrors of war to find happiness.