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Iconic Vietnam napalm photo 40 years old

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Iconic Vietnam napalm photo 40 years old


It has been 40 years since an airstrike in Vietnam produced one of the most memorable images of war ever taken, and led to an extraordinary story of survival.

The photographer Nick Ut returned to Highway One before the anniversary of the South Vietnamese napalm attack on Trang Bang village where the little girl Kim Phuc was severely burned.

“I looked at her arm and the body skin came off,” Ut explained. “I said: ‘Oh my God.’ I cried a little bit myself and I said: ‘I don’t want her to die’ because first I shot (photos of) two kids (who had) died already. I said: ‘I don’t want her to die.’ I wanted to help her.

“That’s why I put all of my four cameras on Highway One right away. I wanted to put the water on the body and I wanted to bring her to the hospital. If Kim Phuc died and I didn’t help her, I think I (would have killed) myself.”

Other reporters helped to pour water on Kim Phuc’s skin but it was Nick Ut who took her to hospital and insisted she be treated immediately.

Her cousin Phan Thanh Hien now runs a cafe in Trang Bang village.

She said: “People ran in all directions. Kim Phuc ran in one direction, and I ran in the other. The gel from the napalm bomb also hit me but luckily I didn’t catch fire. But Kim Phuc caught fire and it burnt her clothes and body. We only reunited when we got to the bridge. Her burns terrified me.”

For Nick Ut, it meant a Pulitzer Prize.

For Kim Phuc, who was around nine at the time, it meant more than a year in hospital and nearly 20 operations. She studied medicine, and sought asylum in Canada 17 years after Communist forces took over South Vietnam.

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