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A 1970’s Time Capsule

NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY

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The Napalm Girl

Associated Press photographer Nick Ut photographed terrified children running from the site of a napalm attack during the Vietnam War in June 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped napalm on its own troops and civilians. Nine-year-old Kim Phuc, center, ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The image communicated the horrors of the war and contributed to the growing anti-war sentiment in the United States. After taking the photograph, Ut took the children to a hospital.

“The Terror of War” by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut. He photographed terrified children running from the site of a napalm attack during the Vietnam War in June 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped napalm on its own troops and civilians. Nine-year-old Kim Phuc, center, ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The image communicated the horrors of the war and contributed to the growing anti-war sentiment in the United States. After taking the photograph, Ut took the children to a hospital.

Nick Ut (born Huỳnh Công Út) is an Associated Press (AP) photographer out of Los Angeles. He is best known for his 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for “The Terror of War”, depicting children in flight from a napalm bombing.  This photograph is one of the most influential visual stories of the Vietnam War.  Featuring a naked 9-year-old girl named Phan Thị Kim Phúc, Nick Ut and his camera captured the children running toward his view after a South Vietnamese napalm attack on North Vietnamese invaders at the Trảng Bàng village during the Vietnam War.  After the photograph was taken, Ut took her to the hospital.

Published on June 12, 1972, it almost wasn’t published.  The publication of the photo was delayed due to the AP bureau’s debate about transmitting a naked girl’s photo over the wire.  Full frontal view nudity of anyone and especially children just wasn’t done.  The New York newspaper decided that the news value outweighed the moral dilemma.

Tricky Dick was a doubter.  Audiotapes of then-president Richard Nixon show that Nixon doubted the veracity of the photograph, musing whether it may have been “fixed.”

President Richard Nixon (AP Photo)

President Richard Nixon (AP Photo)

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 June 12, 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 Phuc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives.”

— Nick Ut

 

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9 responses

  1. greyzoned/angelsbark says:

    Fantastic post!! That picture is so haunting and so emotional. The Vietnam War was such a disaster and a disgrace. So many innocent lives lost.
    Thank you for sharing this award-winning and probably one of the most memorable, if not THE most memorable. I don’t remember Nixon discounting it and disbelieving its authenticity: he was a joke.
    Fabulous post.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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  2. artistpath says:

    Powerful reminder of the horrors of war … A horror we seem to repeat with every generation.

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  3. Liam says:

    I didn’t know that Kim Phúc was still alive. How great to see her smiling.

    Another great post, thank you!

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  4. Birgit says:

    This picture is famous and I remember seeing it in the book of Life which my parents had when I was a kid. It had all the famous photos from their magazine. Nixon is….I don’t know what to say.

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