Kim Phuc from the famous Vietnam war photo has received the German peace prize for her work helping children of war, reports the Guardian. Known as the “Napalm girl” the 1972 photo snapped by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured the horrors of the aftermath of a Napalm attack. In the black and white photo, Kim Phuc who was only nine years old can be seen running towards the camera naked and crying for help. Her village was bombed by napalm by South Vietnamese planes because they believed North Vietnamese troops were stationed there. Phuc along with her relatives ran down the street trying to get away from the attacks.
Kim Phuc told the Guardian what happened that day and the pain she endured. On June 8, 1972, she was at her village when she heard planes over her. Someone yelled to everyone that they should leave as bombs would be raining down. Kim looked up and saw planes drop canisters that spun in the air. Before she knew it the bombs hit land and flames hit her left arm. The heat evaporated her clothes and ate her flesh. She took down running down the highway burned and in pain.
While running with burn wounds she ran into Nick Ut who photographed the scared child. The photo would end up winning Nick Ut the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. The 21-year-old photographer would end up driving the girl to the hospital. “I cried when I saw her running. If I don’t help her and if something happened and she died I think I’d kill myself after that,” he told the Guardian in 2012.
Kim Phuc woke up in the hospital confused, scared, and in severe pain. “I had no idea where I was or what happened to me,” she told the Guardian. “I woke up and I was in the hospital with so much pain, and then the nurses were around me. I woke up with terrible fear.
Over 30% of Phuc’s body was burned with third-degree burns. It took nearly thirteen months of painful skin grafts and surgeries to get her healed. “Every morning at 8 o’clock, the nurses put me in the burn bath to cut all my dead skin off. I just cried and when I could not stand it any longer, I just passed out.”
The Vietnam war was the first war that was televised. It brought the horrors of war to the family living room where it shocked the staunchest supporters of the war. America was high off World War II and the Korean War and felt invincible. War drums pounded as many thought communism would take hold and needed to be stopped. The battleground was Vietnam and the United States enemies were the Viet Cong. This was supposed to be another victory but it turned out to be a nightmare. During the war, many tactics were used but the most sadistic was napalm which is incendiary fluid used in bombs and flamethrowers to burn down villages.
Kim Phuc eventually made her way to Canada where she now lives. She’s 55 years old and has two children. In 1997, she set up the Kim Phuc Foundation to help children of war with medical and psychological assistance. She has met Nick Ut several times after their first meeting and refers to him as an uncle.
Now Kim Phuc has received the 2019 Dresden Peace Prize for her work.