Photo of Napalm Girl freeze-frames America's war crime

China Military Online
Lin Congyi
2022-06-16 17:10:30

The Vietnam War is also known as the Living Room War, for people can witness the bloody battlefield through videos and photos in their living rooms, and feel the intensity, chaos, and cruelty of the war in person. When it comes to the most famous photo of the Vietnam War, it's no doubt for people to think of the one featuring Phan Thi Kim Phuc, a Vietnamese girl informally referred to as the Napalm girl in the photo ever since, which is believed to have changed the course of the war.

"Satan's Saliva"

In 1972, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, who lived in Trang Bom County, Vietnam, was a 9-year-old girl. What happened on June 8 changed her life forever. In order to escape the attack by the US military and South Vietnamese troops, Kim Phuc together with many villagers took shelter in a temple near the village, where many civilians were subsequently killed by the explosion or burning of multiple napalm bombs thrown. Kim Phuc and some other villagers were burned.

According to Kim Phuc, when finding she found that her left arm and back were on fire, she beat slapped them desperately, in an attempt to wipe out the flames. However, it only spread the fire. While running and screaming, she tore off her burning clothes withand part of her skin.

That’s the evilness of napalms. The word "Napalm" literally refers to the viscous ingredient in the bomb, which can stick to objects and burn for a long time, causing lasting and incurable damage or injury. It’s thereby also known as "Satan's Saliva" given its inhumanity.

Naked Kim Phuc kept running and screaming all the way. The scene happened to be snapped by a photojournalist and went public to become one of the most famous anti-war pictures in history.

The picture soon hit the headlines of major media around the world, arousing indignation from people of various countries over the war launched by the US, and also triggering an unprecedented wave of anti-war momentum within the US. People are more accustomed to referring to the picture as "Napalm Girl", instead of its official name "The Terror of War".

17 surgeries

Right after taking the picture, the photojournalist applied first aid measures to Kim Phuc and other injured children and sent them to a nearby hospital for further treatment. Little Kim Phuc, who suffered 1/3 burns of her entire body, was treated in the hospital for 14 months and underwent 17 surgeries including skin grafting. Luckily, she survived.

The burns left a large area of scars on Kim Phuc's body, which has made her suffer both physically and mentally for many years. When she was a child, she had to face discrimination and repulsion from other children; and as much as she loves wearing dress, long sleeves and pants were her only choice. Decades later, she still felt that her skin was like buffalo skin, with no hair, no perspiration, and no feeling when being touched...

In an interview by famous photographer Joe McNally in Canada in 1995, Kim Phuc agreed to take a picture of her body covered with scars: Kim Phuc, who has become a mother at that time, turned to another side while holding her son in arms, to let the photographer take a photo of her profile full of scars. Thus, another classic picture was born.

Voice from the victim

Kim Phuc was designated a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 1997, and she also established the International Kim Foundation aimed to provide medical and psychological assistance to children who are victims of war. She often travels around the world to deliver speeches, denouncing the evils of war and calling for world peace.

On June 8, 2022, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the famous picture, Kim Phuc wrote: "That picture will always serve as a reminder of the unspeakable evil of which humanity is capable. Still, I believe that peace, love, hope and forgiveness will always be more powerful than any kind of weapon."

Editor's Note: This article is originally published on, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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