Phan Thi Kim Phuc

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In this Vietnamese name, the family name is Phan. According to Vietnamese custom, this person should properly be referred to by the given name Kim Phúc.
Phan Thị Kim Phúc
June 8, 1972: Kim Phúc, center left, running down a road naked near Trang Bang after a South Vietnamese Air Force napalm attack. (Nick Ut /AP)
Born Phan Thị Kim Phúc
(1963-04-02) April 2, 1963 (age 52)
Trang Bang, South Vietnam
Residence Ajax, Ontario
Nationality Canadian
Other names Kim Phúc
Ethnicity Vietnamese
Citizenship Canadian
Alma mater University of Havana, Cuba
Occupation Author, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
Known for Being "The Girl in the Picture" (Vietnam War)
Religion Christianity
Spouse(s) Bui Huy Toan
Children Two
Awards Order of Ontario

Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt (Vietnamese pronunciation: [faːŋ tʰɪ̂ˀ kim fúk͡p̚]; born April 2, 1963) is a Vietnamese-Canadian best known as the nine-year-old child depicted in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken during the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972. The iconic photo, taken in Trang Bang by AP photographer 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]

Vietnam napalm[edit]

Kim Phúc and her family were residents of the village of Trang Bang, South Vietnam. On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese planes dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang, which had been attacked and occupied by North Vietnamese forces.[2] 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. A South Vietnamese Air Force pilot mistook the group for enemy soldiers and diverted to attack. The bombing killed two of Kim Phúc's cousins and two other villagers. Kim Phúc was badly burned and tore off her burning clothes. Associated Press photographer Nick Ut's photograph of Kim Phúc running naked amid other fleeing villagers, South Vietnamese soldiers and press photographers 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. New York Times editors were at first hesitant to consider the photo for publication because of the nudity, but 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 and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972.

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.[3] After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures including skin transplantations, however, she was able to return home. A number of the early operations were performed by a Finnish plastic surgeon Aarne Rintala (1926–2014).[4][5]

Ut continued to visit Kim Phúc until he was evacuated during the fall of Saigon.[6]

Thumbnails of the film footage showing the events just before and after the iconic photograph was taken.

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.[7] After the release of this tape, Út 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."[8]

Less publicized is film shot by British television cameraman Alan Downes for the British ITN news service 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[9][10][11] (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,[12] including Christopher Wain who gave her water (top-right frame) and poured some over her burns.[12] As she turns sideways, the severity of the burns on her arm and back can be seen (bottom-left frame). A crying woman runs in the opposite direction holding her badly burned child (bottom-right frame). Sections of the film shot were included in Hearts and Minds, the 1974 Academy Award-winning documentary about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis.[13]

Adult life[edit]

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[14]

As a young adult, while studying medicine, Phúc was removed from her university and used as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of Vietnam. In 1986, however, she was granted permission to continue her studies in Cuba. She had converted from her family's Cao Đài religion to Christianity four years earlier.[15] Phạm Văn Đồng, the then-Prime Minister of Vietnam, 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 and went on their honeymoon in Moscow. During a refuelling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, they left the plane and asked for political asylum in Canada, which was granted. The couple now lives in Ajax, Ontario near Toronto, and have two children.[2] In 1996, Phúc met the surgeons who had saved her life. The following year, she passed the Canadian Citizenship Test with a perfect score and became a Canadian citizen.[16] In 2015, it was reported that she was receiving laser treatment at a hospital in Miami, Florida, United States to reduce the scarring on her left arm and back. The treatment is being provided free of charge.[17]

Kim Phúc Foundation[edit]

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.[18] Later, other foundations were set up, with the same name, under an umbrella organization, Kim Phúc Foundation International.

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.[19]

On December 28, 2009, National Public Radio broadcast her spoken essay, "The Long Road to Forgiveness," for the "This I Believe" series.[15] 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.[18] 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.[12][20]


In 1996, 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. Rev. John Plummer, a Vietnam veteran, who believed he took part in coordinating the air strike with the South Vietnamese Air Force (though Plummer's entire chain of command and declassified documents indicate otherwise[21]) met with Phúc briefly and was publicly forgiven. Plummer later admitted to The Baltimore Sun he had "lied"; claiming he was "caught up in the emotion at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the day Phuc spoke".[22] 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. On October 22, 2004, Kim Phúc was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law from York University in Toronto, Ontario, for her work to support child victims of war around the world. She was also awarded the Order of Ontario. On October 27, 2005, she was awarded another honorary degree in Law from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.[23] On June 2, 2011 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Lethbridge.[24]

The Girl in the Picture[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 work 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 Girl in the Picture 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.[25]

2015 Skin Treatment in Miami[edit]

Still suffering from pain in the left arm, with limited motion, and severe burn scars on her back and left arm, Phuc, 52, began laser treatments without charge in September 2015 by Dr. Jill Waibel of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute in Miami, Florida. The treatments are intended to smooth and soften pale thick scar tissue which ripples from her left hand up her arm, up her neck to her hairline, and down her back. It is hoped the treatments will also relieve the deep aches and pains from her burns Phuc still suffers from daily. Phuc is expected to require at least seven treatments in the next nine months.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Associated Press (June 11, 1972). "Girl, 9, Survives Napalm Burns". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 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 Kathleen Burge (February 14, 2013). "Girl in famous Vietnam photo talks about forgiveness". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2014-08-18. More than 40 years after her injury, Phuc, now married with two teenagers and living near Toronto, ... Phuc lived in Trang Bang, 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. 
  3. ^ "History". Kim Phúc Foundation International. Retrieved May 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ Sirpa Asko-Seljavaara, Hannu Salo, Jorma Rautio (2014-10-05). "Kuolleet: Aarne Rintala 1926–2014. Kirurgi hoiti napalmin polttaman tytön" [In memoriam. Aarne Rintala 1926–2014. Surgeon treated girl burned with napalm.]. Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki: Sanoma). pp. C 33. Retrieved 2014-11-28. 
  5. ^ Rintala, Aarne (2004). Työtä ja kaskuja: plastiikkakirurgi muistelee. [‘Work and jokes. A plastic surgeon remembers.’]. Lieto, Finland: Finnreklama. 
  6. ^ "Kim Phúc and Nick Ut Meet Again". July 11, 2000. Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Nixon, The A-Bomb, And Napalm". CBS News. 28 February 2002. 
  8. ^ from program booklet for Humanist Art/Symbolic Sites: An Art Forum for the 21st century
  9. ^ "warning – graphic ITN news footage of the event". Youtube. Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  10. ^ Lucas, Dean (2013). "Phan Thi Kim Phúc the Vietnam Napalm Girl". Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  11. ^ Graphic A&E TV Network clip includes interviews with Kim and reporters.
  12. ^ a b c "Radio 4 Programmes – It's My Story, The Girl in the Picture". BBC. Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  13. ^ Thomson, Desson. "'Hearts And Minds' Recaptured", The Washington Post, October 22, 2004. 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."
  14. ^ South Vietnam, June 9, 1972, Nick Ut by Ian K. Smith, New Statesman, April 1, 2001
  15. ^ a b "The Long Road to Forgiveness". This I Believe. June 30, 2008. NPR. 
  16. ^ "Kim Phúc – David Spencer's Education Paragon: Helping students develop citizenship, literacy, responsibility and vision". Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  17. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard. "Girl in the ‘napalm picture’ during Vietnam War gets free laser surgery". Metro. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  18. ^ a b Lumb, Rebecca (May 17, 2010). "Reunited with the Vietnamese 'girl in the picture'". BBC News. Retrieved May 18, 2010. 
  19. ^ Omara-Otunnu, Elizabeth, "Napalm Survivor Tells of Healing After Vietnam War", UConn Advance, November 8, 2004. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  20. ^ Jackson, Kate (May 19, 2010). "Maimed 30 years apart, two different wars.. but united by courage". The Sun. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  21. ^ "The Fraud Behind The Girl in the Photo". Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Honorary Degrees Queen's University Archived June 6, 2011
  24. ^ "Choose language | Drupal". Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  25. ^ Diana Lary (June 9, 1953). "Denise Chong". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  26. ^

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