Sumin Chen, Grade 11
9-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc, commonly referred to as “Napalm Girl,” was the centerpiece of Associated Press Photographer Nick Ut’s photo. The Pulitzer Prize winning photo depicts children fleeing from a Napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. The bomb was mistakenly dropped by South Vietnamese Air Forces after being ordered by the U.S. to do so. As shown in the photo, Kim Phúc was running down the road naked due to the effects of napalm which melted through her clothes and layers of her skin.
Napalm, a mixture of plastic polystyrene, hydrocarbon benzene, and gasoline, was a chemical weapon U.S. troops used from roughly 1963-1973 in the Vietnam War. The weapon was first used as flamethrowers to destroy enemy villages. Later on, the U.S. began to drop them as bombs, which caused more devastation. When ignited, napalm sticks to nearly anything and burns severely, resulting in unbearable pain. On June 8, 1972, Vietnamese civilians were alerted by soldiers to evacuate the town of Trang Bang after realizing they were going to be bombed. However, not everyone was alerted in time and many civilians did not make it out alive. Kim Phúc was one of the few that survived, although she received third degree burns. As illustrated in the photo, she was running and screaming having torn off her flaming clothes. Coincidentally, she ran towards Nick Ut, who captured this photo.
This striking photo eventually contributed to the end of the war. The Vietnam War was “the first televised war,” and for the first time, people in the United States were able to witness the destruction and trauma caused by war. The publication of “Napalm Girl” only strengthened anti-war movements. For instance, massive demonstrations in places such as universities were conducted against the use of napalm. Additionally, The Dow Chemical Company, which produced napalm for the U.S., was boycotted worldwide. This artifact emotionally provoked the average American and helped to convince them that the war was unethical.
- Ut, Nick. “Photographer Nick Ut: The Napalm Girl.” AP Images. Accessed August 10, 2017.http://www.apimages.com/Collection/Landing/Photographer-Nick-Ut-The-Napalm-Girl-/ebfc0a860aa946ba9e77eb786d46207e.
- Geard, Tiffany Hagler. “The Historic ‘Napalm Girl’ Pulitzer Image Marks Its 40th Anniversary.” ABC News. June 08, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2017. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/06/the-historic-napalm-girl-pulitzer-image-marks-its-40th-anniversary/.
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- Press, The Associated. “Iconic ‘napalm girl’ photo from Vietnam War turns 40 .” NY Daily News. June 01, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2017. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/iconic-napalm-girl-photo-vietnam-war-turns-40-article-1.1088201.
- Rohn, Alan. “Napalm in Vietnam War.” The Vietnam War. January 18, 2014. Accessed August 10, 2017. http://thevietnamwar.info/napalm-vietnam-war/.
- Budanovic, Nikola. “Liquid Fire – How Napalm Was Used In The Vietnam War.” WAR HISTORY ONLINE. March 31, 2017. Accessed August 10, 2017. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/vietnam-war/history-napalm-vietnam-war.html