Phan Thi Kim Phuc

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Phan Thị Kim Phúc

Group of children and soldiers moving on foot away from a distant cloud of smoke rising from the ground. Several children are crying and one in the center is also naked as she runs toward the camera.
June 8, 1972: Kim Phúc, center, running down a road naked near Trảng Bàng after a South Vietnam Air Force napalm attack (Nick Ut / The Associated Press)
Phan Thị Kim Phúc

(1963-04-06) April 6, 1963 (age 59)
Trảng Bàng, South Vietnam
Other namesKim Phúc
CitizenshipSouth Vietnam (1963–1975)
Vietnam (1975–1997)
Canada (1997–present)
Alma materUniversity of Havana, Cuba
Occupation(s)Author, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
Known forBeing "The Girl in the Picture" (Vietnam War)
Bui Huy Toan
(m. 1992)
AwardsOrder of Ontario

Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt (Vietnamese pronunciation: [faːŋ tʰɪ̂ˀ kim fúk͡p̚]; born April 6, 1963), referred to informally as the girl in the picture and the Napalm girl, is a South Vietnamese-born Canadian woman best known as the nine-year-old child depicted in the Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph, titled "The Terror of War", taken at Trảng Bàng during the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972.

The image, taken for the Associated Press by a 21-year-old Vietnamese-American photographer named Nick Ut, shows her at nine years of age running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back by a South Vietnamese napalm attack.[1]

She later founded the Kim Foundation International to provide aid to child victims of war.[2]

Vietnam War napalm attack[edit]

Phan Thi Kim Phúc and her family were residents of the village of Trảng Bàng in South Vietnam. On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese planes dropped napalm on Trảng Bàng, which had been attacked and occupied by North Vietnamese forces.[3] Kim Phúc joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese soldiers who were fleeing from the Caodai Temple to the safety of South Vietnamese-held positions.[4] The Republic of Vietnam Air Force pilot flying an A-1E Skyraider mistook the group for enemy soldiers and diverted to attack.[5][6] The bombing killed two of Kim Phúc's cousins and two other villagers. Kim Phúc received third degree burns after her clothing was burned by the fire.[7]

Images and rescue[edit]

Associated Press photographer Nick Ut took a photograph of Kim Phúc running naked amid other fleeing villagers, South Vietnamese soldiers, and other press photographers. This became one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War. In an interview many years later, she recalled she was yelling, Nóng quá, nóng quá ("too hot, too hot") in the picture. The New York Times editors were at first hesitant to consider the photo for publication because of the nudity, but they eventually approved it. A cropped version of the photo—with the press photographers to the right removed—was featured on the front page of The New York Times the next day. It later earned a Pulitzer Prize[8] and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year for 1973.[9]

After snapping the photograph, Ut took Kim Phúc and the other injured children to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive.[10] After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures, including skin transplantations, she was able to return home. A number of the early operations were performed by Finnish plastic surgeon Aarne Rintala.[11][12] It was only after treatment at a special hospital in Ludwigshafen, West Germany, in 1982, that Kim Phúc was able to properly move again.[13]

Ut continued to visit Kim Phúc until he was evacuated during the fall of Saigon, and they now speak almost weekly via telephone.[14]

Thumbnails of the film footage showing the events just before and after the photograph was taken[15][16]

Less publicized is the film,[17] shot by British television cameraman Alan Downes for the British Independent Television News (ITN) and his Vietnamese counterpart Le Phuc Dinh who was working for the American television network NBC, which shows the events just before and after the photograph was taken[18][19][20] (see image on right). In the top-left frame, a man stands and appears to take photographs as a passing airplane drops bombs. A group of children, Kim Phúc among them, run away in fear. After a few seconds, she encounters the reporters dressed in military fatigues,[21] including Christopher Wain who gave her water (top-right frame) and poured some over her burns.[21] As she turns sideways, the severity of the burns on her arm and back can be seen (bottom-left frame). A crying woman, Kim Phúc's grandmother, Tao, runs in the opposite direction holding her badly burned grandchild, 3-year-old Danh, Kim Phúc's cousin, who died of his injuries (bottom-right frame). Sections of the film shot were included in Hearts and Minds (1974), the Academy Award-winning documentary about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis.[22]


Audio tapes of President Richard Nixon, in conversation with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman in 1972, reveal that Nixon mused, "I'm wondering if that was fixed", after seeing the photograph.[23] After the release of this tape, Ut commented, "Even though it has become one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century, President Nixon once doubted the authenticity of my photograph when he saw it in the papers on 12 June 1972... The picture for me and unquestionably for many others could not have been more real. The photo was as authentic as the Vietnam War itself. The horror of the Vietnam War recorded by me did not have to be fixed. That terrified little girl is still alive today and has become an eloquent testimony to the authenticity of that photo. That moment thirty years ago will be one Kim Phúc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives."[24]

Adult life[edit]

Phúc was removed from her university as a young adult studying medicine and used as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of Vietnam.[25] Due to constant pain, she considered suicide, but in 1982 she found a New Testament in a library that led her to become a Christian. Her faith enabled her to forgive.[26] In 1986, she was granted permission to continue her studies in Cuba. Prime Minister of Vietnam Phạm Văn Đồng became her friend and patron. After arriving in Cuba, she met Bui Huy Toan, another Vietnamese student and her future fiancé. In 1992, Phúc and Toan married.[3]

On the way to their honeymoon in Moscow, they left the plane during a refuelling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, and asked for political asylum in Canada, which was granted.[2] The couple now live in Ajax, Ontario and have two children.[3] In 1996, Phúc met the surgeons who had saved her life. The following year, she became a Canadian citizen.[27] In 2015, it was reported that she was receiving laser treatment, provided free of charge at a hospital in Miami, to reduce the scarring on her left arm and back.[28][29][30][31]


Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?

Kim Phúc, NPR in 2008[32]

In 1997, she established the first Kim Phúc Foundation in the U.S., with the aim of providing medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war.[33] Later, other foundations were set up, with the same name, under an umbrella organization, Kim Phúc Foundation International.[34]

In 2004, Phúc spoke at the University of Connecticut about her life and experience, learning how to be "strong in the face of pain" and how compassion and love helped her heal.[35] She is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and gives lectures around the world.[36]

On December 28, 2009, National Public Radio broadcast her spoken essay, "The Long Road to Forgiveness," for the "This I Believe" series.[37] In May 2010, Phúc was reunited by the BBC with ITN correspondent Christopher Wain, who helped to save her life. On May 18, 2010, Phúc appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme It's My Story.[33] In the programme, Phúc related how she was involved through her foundation in the efforts to secure medical treatment in Canada for Ali Abbas, who had lost both arms in a rocket attack on Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.[21]

In a December 21, 2017, article for The Wall Street Journal, Kim Phúc wrote that the trauma she suffered in the napalm strike still requires treatment, but that the psychological trauma was greater: "But even worse than the physical pain was the emotional and spiritual pain." This led directly to her conversion to Christianity, which she credits with healing the psychological trauma of living over forty years being known to the world as "Napalm Girl". "My faith in Jesus Christ is what has enabled me to forgive those who had wronged me," she wrote, "no matter how severe those wrongs were."[38]

In July 2022, Kim Phúc in person welcomed 236 Ukrainian refugees with children aboard a special flight from Warsaw to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. The airplane used for the special flight bore an image of her iconic 1972 photo. The flight was arranged by an organization called Solidaire.[36]


In 1996, Kim Phúc gave a speech at the United States Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day. In her speech, she said that one cannot change the past, but everyone can work together for a peaceful future. John Plummer, a Vietnam veteran, who said he took part in coordinating the air strike with the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (though Plummer's entire chain of command and declassified documents indicate otherwise)[39] met with Phúc briefly and was publicly forgiven. Plummer later admitted to The Baltimore Sun he had lied, saying he was "caught up in the emotion at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the day Phuc spoke".[40][41] Canadian filmmaker, Shelley Saywell, made a documentary about their meeting.

On November 10, 1994, Kim Phúc was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Her biography, The Girl in the Picture, was written by Denise Chong and published in 1999. In 2003, Belgian composer Eric Geurts wrote "The Girl in the Picture," dedicated to Kim Phúc. It was released on Flying Snowman Records, with all profits going to the Kim Phúc Foundation. It was released again in 2021 as part of Eric's album "Leave a Mark".[42]


On October 22, 2004, Kim Phúc was made a member of the Order of Ontario, and received an honorary Doctorate of Law from York University for her work to support child victims of war around the world. On October 27, 2005, she was awarded an honorary degree in Law from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.[43] On June 2, 2011, she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Lethbridge.[44] On May 19, 2016, she was awarded a Doctor of Civil Law, Honoris Causa by Saint Mary's University (Halifax).

On February 11, 2019, Kim Phúc was awarded the 2019 Dresden Peace Prize[45] in recognition of her work with UNESCO and as an activist for peace.[46]

Retrospective works[edit]

The Girl in the Picture: The Kim Phúc Story, the Photograph and the Vietnam War by Denise Chong, is a 1999 biographical and historical book tracing the life story of Kim Phúc. Chong's historical coverage emphasizes the life, especially the school and family life, of Kim Phúc from before the attack, through convalescence, and into the present time. The book deals primarily with Vietnamese and American relationships during the Vietnam War, while examining themes of war, racism, immigration, political turmoil, repression, poverty, and international relationships through the lens of family and particularly through the eyes and everyday lives of women. Kim Phúc and her mother, Nu, provide the lens through which readers of The Girl in the Picture experience war, strife, and the development of communism in Vietnam. Like Chong's first book, The Girl in the Picture was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for non fiction.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Girl, 9, Survives Napalm Burns". The New York Times. June 11, 1972. p. 17. Retrieved August 18, 2014. Nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim-Phuc is recuperating in a Saigon children's hospital, the unintended victim of a misdirected napalm attack ...
  2. ^ a b Phan Thị, Kim Phúc (June 6, 2022). "It's Been 50 Years. I Am Not 'Napalm Girl' Anymore". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Burge, Kathleen (February 14, 2013). "Girl in famous Vietnam photo talks about forgiveness". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 18, 2014. More than 40 years after her injury, Phuc, now married with two teenagers and living near Toronto ...Phuc lived in Trảng Bàng, north of Saigon, when the war started. On June 8, 1972, Phuc, her family, other villagers and South Vietnamese soldiers had been hiding in a temple for three days. The day of the attack, they heard planes flying overhead. One of the soldiers told the civilians to run away, that the plane was going to bomb the temple.
  4. ^ "1973 Photo Contest, World Press Photo of the Year". World Press Photo. World Press Photo Foundation. Retrieved May 17, 2020. South Vietnamese planes mistakenly dropped napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians.
  5. ^ Times, Fox Butterfield Special to The New York (June 9, 1972). "South Vietnamese Drop Napalm on Own Troops". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 22, 2023. Standing in the company command post here today, Sgt. Nguyen Van Hai watched incredulously as a South Vietnamese plane mistakenly dropped flaming napalm right on his troops and a cluster of civilians.
  6. ^ Campbell, W. Joseph. "50 years after 'Napalm Girl,' myths distort the reality behind a horrific photo of the Vietnam War and exaggerate its impact". The Conversation. Retrieved February 22, 2023.
  7. ^ Collins, Nick. "Vietnam War 'girl in the picture' reunited with journalist who saved her life". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  8. ^ "The 1973 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Spot News Photography: Huynh Cong Ut of Associated Press". The Pulitzer Prizes.
  9. ^ "World Press Photo of the Year, prize singles: Nick Ut, USA". World Press Photo.
  10. ^ "History". Kim Phúc Foundation International. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
  11. ^ Asko-Seljavaara, Sirpa; Salo, Hannu; Rautio, Jorma (October 5, 2014). "Kuolleet: Aarne Rintala 1926–2014. Kirurgi hoiti napalmin polttaman tytön" [In memoriam. Aarne Rintala 1926–2014. Surgeon treated girl burned with napalm]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). p. C 33. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  12. ^ Rintala, Aarne (2004). Työtä ja kaskuja: Plastiikkakirurgi muistelee [Work and jokes: A plastic surgeon remembers]. Lieto, Finland: Finnreklama.
  13. ^ "40 Jahre danach: So geht es dem Napalm-Mädchen heute". December 15, 2015. Archived from the original on December 15, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. ^ "Kim Phúc and Nick Ut Meet Again". July 11, 2000. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  15. ^ "The Vietnam collection 2; TX South Vietnamese planes bombing village". Getty Images.
  16. ^ "Phan Thi Kim Phuc Videos and B-Roll Footage".
  17. ^ ITN (March 23, 2017). "Reporters at war collection 1". gettyimages. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  18. ^ War in Vietnam – Napalm dropped on Vietnamese village. Đất Đỏ District: ITN Source. June 6, 1972. Archived from the original on November 14, 2007. Retrieved June 6, 2012 – via YouTube.
  19. ^ Lucas, Dean (2013). "Phan Thi Kim Phúc the Vietnam Napalm Girl". Retrieved May 22, 2013.
  20. ^ Graphic A&E TV Network clip[dead link] includes interviews with Kim and reporters.
  21. ^ a b c "It's My Story, The Girl in the Picture". BBC Radio 4. May 18, 2010. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  22. ^ Thomson, Desson (October 22, 2004). "'Hearts And Minds' Recaptured". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 7, 2008. "Hearts and Minds is also the movie that enshrined the now-household images of the naked Vietnamese girl, also made famous by Nick Út's Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, running from a napalm attack, her body a patchwork of burns, and the infant in a woman's arms, suffering from the same injuries, skin hanging off its body."
  23. ^ Collins, Dan (February 28, 2002). "Nixon, The A-Bomb, And Napalm". CBS News. Retrieved June 12, 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ Kelly, William (2003). Art and Humanist Ideals: Contemporary Perspectives. South Yarra: Macmillan Art Publishing. pp. 284–285. ISBN 1876832258.
  25. ^ "The girl in the picture". CBS News. October 25, 2015. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  26. ^ "Phan Thị Kim Phúc on Pain and Forgiveness". CBC Documentary Channel. January 8, 2020. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  27. ^ "Kim Phúc". David Spencer's Education Paragon: Helping students develop citizenship, literacy, responsibility and vision. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  28. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard (October 26, 2015). "Girl in the 'napalm picture' during Vietnam War gets free laser surgery". Metro. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  29. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Laser treatment for Vietnam War napalm attack victim". CNN. November 4, 2015 – via YouTube.
  30. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "The girl in the picture". Sunday Morning. CBS. October 25, 2015 – via YouTube.
  31. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "In News History: Napalm Girl". Newseum. June 7, 2012 – via YouTube.
  32. ^ Smith, Ian K. (April 1, 2010). "South Vietnam, June 9, 1972, Nick Ut". New Statesman.
  33. ^ a b Lumb, Rebecca (May 17, 2010). "Reunited with the Vietnamese 'girl in the picture'". BBC News. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
  34. ^ "The KIM Foundation International : Healing Children of War".
  35. ^ Omara-Otunnu, Elizabeth, "Napalm Survivor Tells of Healing After Vietnam War", UConn Advance, November 8, 2004. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  36. ^ a b "Ontario woman who was known as Vietnam War's 'napalm girl' helping Ukrainians settle in Canada". The Globe and Mail. August 3, 2022.
  37. ^ Phan Thị, Kim Phúc (June 30, 2008). "The Long Road To Forgiveness". NPR. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  38. ^ Phan Thị, Kim Phúc (December 21, 2017). "The Salvation of 'Napalm Girl'". The Wall Street Journal.
  39. ^ "The Fraud Behind The Girl in the Photo". NDQSA. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  40. ^ "Pastor Admits Lying About Vietnam Bombing". 11th Armored Cavalry's Veterans of Vietnam & Cambodia. January 12, 1998.
  41. ^ "Pastor Admits Lying About Vietnam Bombing". Maranatha Christian Journal. January 12, 1998. Archived from the original on March 2, 2003.
  42. ^ "The Girl in the Picture". Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  43. ^ "Honorary Degrees – Fall Convocation 2005" (PDF). Queen's University. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 6, 2011.
  44. ^ "Chancellor's dinner". ULeth. Retrieved June 6, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  45. ^ "The Duke of Kent awards the 10th Dresden Peace Prize". The Royal Family. February 12, 2019.
  46. ^ ""Napalm Girl" Kim Phuc from iconic Vietnam photo honored for peace work". CBS News. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  47. ^ Lary, Diana (June 9, 1953). "Denise Chong". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2012.

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