Terror of iconic war image retold

01:43, Jan 31 2009
THIRTY YEARS ON: Kim Phuc has a moving story of pain and forgiveness to tell.

An accidental icon of the Vietnam War and the ensuing peace movement is to tell her story on the North Shore.

At the height of the war Kim Phuc was photographed running naked with her siblings sobbing "too hot, too hot".

The then nine-year-old girl had been mistakenly bombed by a South Vietnamese fighter pilot.

ICONIC IMAGE: Kim Phuc runs from the napalm attack which left her scarred for life.

Sixty-five percent of her body was covered with napalm.

Her image was spread across the world, horrifying many and becoming an icon for a peace movement which changed the course of the war.

It earned photographer Nick Ut a Pulitzer Prize and was awarded picture of the century by several publications.


Now the small girl in his photo is a 45-year-old with a story of pain, forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Canadian citizen is coming to Windsor Park Baptist Church to share what happened in the three decades after the photo changed her life forever.

Mrs Phuc’s pain did not end on that day in June 1972.

Mr Ut took her to hospital but doctors told him her injuries were too severe and she would not survive.

Her mother found her later that day in a morgue with third degree burns covering most of her body.

Although she survived an ensuing 14-month hospital stay and excruciating treatment for her burns, more troubles were to come.

The newly appointed communist government of Vietnam discovered the girl from the "famous picture" was alive and apprehended her.

She was made a showcase in its efforts to spread anti-Western propaganda across the country.

It was 1986 before Mrs Phuc was given leave to continue her studies in Cuba, where she converted to Christianity.

Three years later she and her husband Bui Huy Tuan defected to Canada, claiming political asylum.

Now she is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and the recipient of several honorary degrees and humanitarian awards.

Her advocacy for forgiveness and reconciliation has included publicly forgiving a pilot who admitted helping plan the bombing which scarred her.

Mrs Phuc will speak at Windsor Park Baptist Church at 550 East Coast Rd on Sunday, August 24, at 6.30pm.

North Shore Times