After 35 years, wounds of Vietnamese napalm girl Kim Phuc still hurt


Kim Phuc just after the bombing, photo by Nick Ut

From Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws:

The scars of the napalm girl of Vietnam still hurt

Kim Phuc, who, during the Vietnam war, became known as the “napalm girl”, still hurts at the scars she got from the US American air attack with napalm bombs on 8 June 1972.

“It hurts especially when the weather changes”, Kim, today a 43-year-old woman, says.

Kim Phuc with baby in 2005

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58 thoughts on “After 35 years, wounds of Vietnamese napalm girl Kim Phuc still hurt

  1. Wow! Forgive my ignorance! Thank you for this. I was looking for another site and came upon your blog. I remember the original photo, and wondered what happened to her, or better yet, if anyone cared enough to follow up. I am happy the sister has been strong enough to go on, and still let us know that her scars aren’t going anywhere, even though we may try to erase them from our minds.

  2. Hi sahara, thanks for this comment! You have an interesting blog yourself.

    I did know that Kim Phuc was married, but, until finding the Laatste Nieuws article, did not know about the scars.

  3. Iraq and Vietnam: Contrasting Protests
    By DAVID CRARY
    AP National Writer

    March 20, 2007, 4:44 PM EDT
    NEW YORK — America’s current anti-war movement is resourceful and persistent, but often seems to lack the vibrancy of its counterpart in the Vietnam era when protesters burned draft cards, occupied buildings and even tried to levitate the Pentagon.

    The biggest difference, say activists and historians, is the lack of a draft.

    Today’s college-age youth face no threat of conscription to fight in Iraq, and campuses are more tranquil than during Vietnam.

    “We’re not as unified, not as hard-core, not as big,” said Frida Berrigan, 32, a board member of the War Resisters League and daughter of the late peace activist Philip Berrigan. “There’s a reason there’s not a draft.”

    Since Saturday, protests marking the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war have been held in hundreds of communities nationwide, ranging from small-town vigils in Maine to a “die-in” in San Francisco. Passions sometimes ran high and more than 100 protesters were arrested. But attendance in many cities was modest, no national turnout figure was announced, and at no point did the events come close to dominating the national agenda.

    “There is tremendous anti-war sentiment in the country that has not all found its way into activism,” said Leslie Cagan, a student protest organizer during the Vietnam War and now national coordinator of the anti-war coalition United for Peace and Justice.

    “Our challenge is to tap into that sentiment and help people see legitimate, productive ways to express themselves,” Cagan said. “Part of what we’re up against is an attitude that you can’t fight the powers that be.”

    With both Iraq and Vietnam, public opinion gradually shifted over the years until polls showed more opponents than supporters. In each era, protesters railed against White House determination to pursue the war regardless of widespread doubts.

    But there are several key differences now: far lower U.S. casualties — roughly 3,200 vs. about 58,000 then; less of the generational conflict that added fuel to the Vietnam protests; and, a desire by many anti-war leaders not to demonize the military.

    “There’s a lot of caution now,” said David Schmitz, a history professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. “Many people who oppose the war in Iraq are very concerned that they not be seen as being against the troops.”

    James Carafano, an Army veteran and defense policy expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the contrast in attitudes toward the military is stark.

    “During Vietnam, the perception was that atrocities were everywhere — the military was looked down on,” he said. “There is a serious effort now not to stigmatize the military — a conscious effort to say, ‘This is not a bunch of baby-killers.’”

    For Vietnam protesters, the military served as a prime foil. Students demanded the ouster of ROTC programs from their campuses and protested at draft centers, chanting “Hell No, We Won’t Go.” Four days of demonstrations at Kent State University — that included the burning of an ROTC building — ended disastrously when National Guard gunfire killed four students in 1970.

    Now campuses are quieter, and some liberal baby-boomer professors grumble that students are too detached. But 24-year-old Miranda Wilson, national campus coordinator for Peace Action, says such stereotyping is wrong and contends there is broad, though often low-key, opposition to the war.

    “During Vietnam, people were questioning the government itself — it got a lot more coverage,” she said. “What’s happening now isn’t so dramatically visible from the outside.”

    Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who returned from Vietnam combat duty to join the anti-war movement, said the lack of a draft “has greatly affected the level of activism and the intensity” of today’s protest campaign.

    “Right now, it’s not changing a lot of minds,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. But the anti-war movement is “putting some pressure on people as they run for public office. It will help change the makeup of Congress — it already has.”

    The Vietnam era featured larger-than-life figures — Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, Muhammad Ali — and colorful provocateurs such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Hoffman masterminded the attempt to levitate the Pentagon in 1967; both were at the center of protests that sparked clashes with police at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.

    For all their intensity, however, the Vietnam protests failed to produce quick results, with U.S. troops pulling out six years after the first huge anti-war rallies in 1967. The effectiveness of the current movement remains to be judged; even some of its leaders sound unsure.

    “The so-called normalcy of life allows people to go about their business, even if they’re against the war,” said Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action. “Meanwhile, Bush and Cheney don’t care how low their popularity is — they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing until someone stops them.”

    Barry Romo, who served with the Army in Vietnam, became an anti-war activist after his return home and remains a national leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

    While proud of the Vietnam protest movement, he says the Iraq anti-war campaign is even more impressive under the circumstances.

    “It cuts across class lines,” he said. “You see black churches and trade unions involved. When I go to demonstrations, it really is a rainbow.”

    Comparing the two movements, Frida Berrigan suggested today’s protesters perhaps have a broader sense of compassion and global awareness.

    “A lot of the opposition to Vietnam was motivated by people’s fear of going to war — maybe it was pretty self-centered,” she said. “With this movement, maybe it’s not as big, but it comes from a deeper place than ‘Hell No, We Won’t Go.’”

  4. hi am write to say when i first saw that picture of u i could not belive it was true.
    i am a fraid to say that you are very strong and also i watch the vedio and you are a very powerful person to
    endure.
    i am learnin about the war in my school i think that it is very sad what they did to your contry
    good luck in life love gemma and maggie email me back gem_gemz1992@hotmail.com or gemmapower7@hotmail.com

  5. Umm… the truth about that photo… The U.S. didn’t do that folks. That was the North Vietnames that accidentally hit one of their own towns. They didn’t mean too, but still it was them. New history scholars are just now uncovering even more secrets about that war… anybody remember Tet?

  6. I could be wrong… and I’m not trying to dismiss what Ms. Kim Phuc has been through. That would be horrible to experience and I can’t even imagine the pain. I’m just saying thats what I heard. NO OFFENCE INTENDED.

  7. Hi steph, what you heard was a conspiracy theory. It would be entirely “new history” if the North Vietnamese air force would have bombed South Vietnam at any time of the war; especially with the US weapon napalm. And especially when Kim Phuc and the children with her were killed or hurt.

    There are also self-proclaimed “New history scholars” like David Irving and Bishop Williamson who claim that Hitler did not have six million Jews killed. And there are people claiming that either Saddam Hussein or George W. Bush ordered the attack on the WTC in New York City … All untrue.

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  12. There have been lots of odd coincidences lately. I was just thinking about this girl. What I actually was thinking was that if this pic was taken today, they may have blocked out her her genital area. I wonder what her thoughts are on this. Also I was thinking about how terrified she must have been. This photo affected me deeply when it was first published. So terrible. Thought provoking post. Thanks,
    Cindy

    • Hi Cindy, thanks for your comment!

      It is good that she survived; sad that she still feels the pain.

      Together with the photo of the Buddhist monk setting himself on fire in despair (which Buddhist monks usually don’t do); and of the Saigon general shooting a prisoner at point blank range; and of the photo of despair about the Kent State shooting of students; this is an iconic image of the Vietnam war.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this! That photo has haunted me. So sad that she has continued to suffer. I hope she knows how impactful and inspirational her story has been to others. Brave woman x

  14. Thank you for visiting my blog it’s interesting to see yours especially the article about the lion seal and also the photo of the Vietnamese I still remember seeing that picture when I was at school. War really is not good especially for civilians caught up in it and of course they have nowhere to escape to

    • Hi Mark, thanks for your commment, and for your subscription to my blog!

      I hope that stories like about Ms Kim Phuc will help to stop more wars from breaking out.

      All the best for you, your art, and your blog!

  15. About Ms Kim Phuc, my heart goes out to this women as with all of the women and men with war scars, wish I could give some skin and help with the pain, the double edge sword in this as I see it as a Vietnam veteran is, the draft as stated.
    I was drafted into the army, living in a navy family I had it changed to navy.
    I had to go or go to jail, I did not kill anyone, just did the job assigned to a navy man.
    Point being, when my mother had her heart attack I was sent home to be at her side for the outcome, when I stepped off the train about four miles from her hospital, a group of people drowned me in blood hit me in the head with a stone and I woke up in the hospital two floors below my mom, I was not allowed to leave my bed for two more days to be with my mother at her bedside.
    I hear that this happened to many of my brothers and sisters when they came home from a war that they also did not agree with, but had to go!
    This is a psychology scar that also never goes away!

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