Phan Thị Kim Phúc, (born 1963) is a Vietnamese-Canadian best known as the child depicted in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken during theVietnam War on June 8, 1972. The iconic photo taken in Trang Bang by AP photographer Nick Ut shows her at about nine years of age running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back by a South Vietnamese napalm attack.
Kim Phuc and her family were residents of the village of Trang Bang, South Vietnam. On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese planes dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang, which had been attacked and occupied by North Vietnamese forces. Kim Phuc joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese soldiers who were fleeing from the Caodai Temple to the safety of South Vietnamese–held positions. A South Vietnamese Air Force pilot mistook the group for enemy soldiers and diverted to attack. The bombing killed two of Kim Phuc’s cousins and two other villagers. Kim Phuc was badly burned and tore off her burning clothes.Associated Press photographer Nick Ut’s photograph of Kim Phuc running naked amid other fleeing villagers, South Vietnamese soldiers and press photographers became one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War. In an interview many years later, she recalled she was yelling, Nóng quá, nóng quá(“too hot, too hot”) in the picture. A cropped version of the photo with the press photographers to the right removed was featured on the front page of the New York Times the next day. It later earned a Pulitzer Prize and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972.
After snapping the photograph, Ut took Kim Phuc and the other injured children to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive. After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures, however, she was able to return home. Ut continued to visit her until he was evacuated during the fall of Saigon,
Audio tapes of President Richard Nixon, in conversation with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, reveal that Nixon doubted the authenticity of the photograph, thinking it might have been “fixed.” After the release of this tape, Út 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 12 June 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 Phúc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives.”