Meet Kim Phuc Phan Thi

Do you know what happened to the girl in this iconic Pulitzer prize winning photo from the Vietnam War?

Phan Thi Kim Phuc Vietnam Napalm by innerpendejo

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8 June 1972, a plane bombed the village of Trang Bang, near Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in South Vietnam after the South Vietnamese pilot mistook a group of civilians leaving the temple for enemy troops.

The bombs contained napalm, a highly flammable fuel, which killed and badly burned the people on the ground.

The iconic black-and-white image taken of children fleeing the scene won the Pulitzer Prize and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year in 1972.

It communicated the horrors of the Vietnam War in a way words never could, helping to end one of the most divisive wars in American history and later becoming a symbol of the cruelty of all wars for children and civilian victims.

In the centre of the photo was a nine year old girl, who ran naked down the highway after stripping off her burning clothes.

Kim Phuc Phan Thi was with her family at the pagoda attending a religious celebration when the plane struck and lost several relatives in the attack. The children running with her were her own brothers and sisters.

I had the privilege of hearing Kim speak at a meeting in New Zealand a few years ago and the 40th anniversary of the bombing was commemorated last year.

She said, looking back, that three miracles happened on that dreadful day.

The first was that, despite suffering extensive third degree burns to her left arm, back and side, the soles of her feet were not burnt and she could run.

The second was that after she collapsed and lost consciousness the photographer, Nick Ut, took her to Barsky Hospital in Saigon.

The third was that her own mother found her there later that day whilst searching for her children.

Kim remained hospitalized for 14 months, and underwent 17 surgical procedures, until she recovered from the burns.

Grateful for the care she had received she later decided to study medicine but struggled to come to terms with her deep physical and psychological scars.

‘My heart was exactly like a black coffee cup,’ she said. ‘I wished I died in that attack with my cousin. I wish I died at that time so I won’t suffer like that anymore … it was so hard for me to carry all that burden with that hatred, with that anger and bitterness.’

But it was as a second year medical student in Saigon that she discovered a New Testament in the university library, committed her life to following Jesus Christ, and realised that God had a plan for her life.

Kim never finished medical school as the communist government of Vietnam realised the value of the ‘napalm girl’ value as a propaganda {Continue reading…)

40 responses to “Meet Kim Phuc Phan Thi

  1. To see these small kids with just horrific burns is so awful!! This picture is hard to forget, because it’s highly associated with the Vietnam War. It’s interesting to see where Kim Phuc Phantom is today, and how she turned her tragedy into her very own story.

  2. I have read this article before when I was doing personal research on this tragedy. This video shows how inhuman wars have been and how disregarded the US was with the innocent population. I haven’t read the book, but I will soon.

  3. War ends, but scars remain. A cruel fact of any war is that sometimes friendly fire kills more than the enemy does. Kim Phuc Phan Thi goes on with her life and became a successful medical doctor, author, and speaker in spite of carrying the horrible reminder of the war on her arm. How she uses her war experience to help others see the brighter side of their lives is admirable. This is a good example of how a negative life experience in one’s life can transform itself to be blessings to many people later on.

  4. this was just unbelieveable even though i heard/ read about this in highschool. its sad to see the casualties of war, but it was certainly uplifting to see that the girl of picture lived out her life and has “come to terms with her deep physical and psychological scars.” i can see that she is a strong individual.

  5. It breaks my heart to see what these innocent children had to suffer just because those two countries were at war. I could not imagine what we were to do if anything like that were to happen here. This girls story is incredible that even after all that she went through she found the courage to keep going. I admire strong people like her and glad she found her calling in this world.

  6. Very remarkable and strong woman. To have gone through such s tramatic experience and to go into medicine. It must have taken her great courage to live through her experience.

  7. Its amazing how an historical and devastating event like that happen to a 9 year old girl and then survive and then get to study medicine and make a book about her experiences about the vietman war!

  8. It’s amazing that she went into medicine after that traumatic experience. It truly shows how strong she is being able to overcome her past and try to get a degree in medicine helping other people the way she was helped.

  9. Scott do us all a favor and tell us about this remarkable woman!

  10. I remember when I studided this picture in my history class in High School. I had always heard about how bad the Vietnam War was but I didn’t quite understand why until I saw this picture. Kim Phuc Phan Thi is an inspiration to many people that have experienced similar situations.

  11. This woman is very strong and I have a lot of respect for her. She has gone through great physical pain as well as psychological pain, but she still is grateful for everything she has now. This article also shows how every single person is affected by war.

  12. She is a very strong person. She did not seek for revenge but for forgiviness. That is why i admire her. I think peace exist only if people learn to forgive other.

  13. Wow I admire her for what she went through both physically as well as mentally. I can’t even imagine the fear and pain she went through the day her village was bombed. What a courageous woman.

  14. I think her testimony is truly a miracle and it shows that God will always turn your test into a testimony. For me growing up in a relgious family, it is always a blessing to hear somone put there faith in the lord. She went from wanting to die to wanting to live. Deciding on wanting to live she didn’t become selfish or shut herself out of life. She decide to go to medicle school and make a differnce in other people lives. This is an awsome read and i will definately share this story with my friends and family.

  15. It is amazing to me how people can go through so much and come out even stronger in the end. This story and the story about the waitress make me thankful for my life. This woman is very strong and intelligent. I hope that one day I can be like her.

  16. She is a really strong woman physically and mentally. To be able to keep her composure and run the distance she did while suffering from from 3RD degree burns! Really a moving life story and photo. I am glad she found love in the end.

  17. This woman is a strong woman for going through what she has been through and to be where she is at today. She had injuries that she had to recover from amd ended up turning her life around for the better.

  18. I can not believe the horrors of war sometimes. Innocent civilians being attcked during war should not be allowed. It was anaccident by the pilot but, he should have known better. To hear a story like hers of how she overcame her physical and psychological scars so she can preach the word of God is amazing.

  19. This lady has spoken at my church many times. She is very inspirational and has many of the adults in the room in tears. The man who took that photo also comes with her when she speaks. They go around the world spreading her story and the word. She is very inspirational.

  20. My heart dropped when I saw the child being carried with its skin hanging off. It’s events like these that make me more determined to be a nurse. It would be the most satisfying thing in the world to help people in such tragic disasters.

  21. I have a Time magazine that contains 100 photos that changed the world and this photo was in it. I never got to know the full story until now and I am so glad that I did. What an incredible story of physical and inner strength. I am glad she found love and true happiness.

  22. This women really is strong as a child and to where she is now. It must have been very tragic for her and i wouldn’t blame if she felt hatred but I’m glad she overcame that.

  23. It is amazing to see that no matter how down and ugly life gets there is always a reason for the actions we indure. We are not given anything we can not handle. The real struggle is believing in yourself enough to see yourself succeed.

  24. They say that war is hell, well you just saw what hell is really like, to people that had to live through This.

  25. Stories like this are not only beautiful, but inspiring.

    We all go through many trial and tribulations; however, faith and love are the true keys to happiness.

    God is love.

  26. This woman is an inspiration. She can give anyone hope that even after such tragedy, life goes on and can still be good. It’s nice to know that such amazing people live in this world.

  27. Rosamaria Valdez-Lopez

    People like this are amazing to me. She took all of this negativity in her life and still found a way to take a positive out look on it. She definitely had a tough life and it did lead her to want to better her lifestyle and make her experience for the best. The photo was an amazing photograph because it captured an image that could not be put into words; it was 1,000 words and more. It helped people realize an understanding of what was going on.

  28. It is weird and to see the lives that one has effected. I mean it is so sad to hear her life and troubles, but it is also intriguing.

  29. This women is so inspiring and so strong. I am very pleased with learning about her thankyou for sharing this with us.

  30. So sad to see all the terrible things that war can do to people. This girl is so brave and strong for having to go through so much at such a young age.

  31. War is war but there are guidelines that should be upheld and respected. Crossing the line are terms for intervenement by those who can do something. Im glad that she ended up doing something in life, given that she started in a living hell. It’s hard for people to rise and do something when given adequate conditions, let alone the ones presented to her.

  32. Wow what an amazing story she is very inspirational.

  33. It’s amazing that a person can come from a childhood that took place in war and destruction, then come out on top. People like her give me hope for the human race, that there are still strong and good people in the world.

  34. I’ve seen that iconic picture before, and I understood the horrors of the Vietnam war and the use of napalm, but it is even more horrific when yo actually understand that these are real people. They weren’t just posing for a picture. It’s beautiful how she changed her perspective on life after going through such a traumatic incident at a young age.

  35. I hope you all saw the Pulitzer winning photograph at the end–it is a classic. I remember seeing this years ago.

  36. I dont know how someone mistakes their own people for enemy troops.

  37. I respect every one who was a Vietnam war veteran, my hat goes down to them, and I would always shake their hands for their services to our country, Yes, It is tragic to see images like that for innocent civilians, but we need to remember that the enemy is not fighting fair, chemical weapons is one of the cruelist weapons. I am not trying to put a spin on this, but look at what Saddam Hussein how he used these weapons to kill his own people. President Obama, said he draws the line on Syria if they use chemical weapons, they used it. and what our president do? nothing. Although this girl was traumatised by what had happened to her, the war has unleashed her creativity and she has a ministry that she can be proud of, which is spreading the Gospel all over the world. am glad that she looks the way she does now. she is a beautiful lady. and she is helping many others to come to Jesus Christ, never mind her medical school , she is helping with what God has given her. Oh, Boy I got winded.

  38. I cant believe how strong this girl is. Not only did she recover from injuries but she also turned her life around for the better. It’s sad what war does to innocent people but im glad this little girl from the picture was able to make the most out of her life.

  39. This is absolutely traagic. I can respect war, but not when it deals with any type of chemical warfare. This is because is damages the enviornment as well as people who have nothing to do with the war itself….innocent civilians who have to live with the poor choices of others.

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