“He took a picture and saved me” – Corriere.it

from Pierluigi Pansa

Kim Phuc, “Napalm Girl”, who was 9 at the time, and Pulitzer-winning photographer Nick Ut, at the inauguration of the “From Hell to Hollywood” exhibition at Palazzo Lombardia: they recalled that morning on June 8, 1972.

Fifty years after the famous symbolic photo of the Vietnam Warthe one taken by Nick Ut it represents a naked girl named Kim Phucwho runs away crying from napalm bombs, la «Napalm girlAnd the photographer is in Milan for the inauguration Friday night la mostra “From Hell to Hollywood”. The photo exhibition, curated by La Thi Than Thao and Sergio Mandelli at Palazzo Lombardia until May 31, follows the entire career of photojournalist Nick Ut fifty years later the shot that won him the 1973 Pulitzer Prize.. The photo was taken in the morning of the dayJune 8, 1972. We heard that it will be bombardment in the village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam, occupied by the North Vietnamese. There were several photo operators on site this morning and lots of photos were taken. The bombs were dropped by some Douglas Skyraiders used by the South Vietnamese Air Force. You can see it in some photos too Grandma Kim Phuc holding a dead grandson in his arms. Kim Phuc has undergone 17 operations and he lived first in Cuba, then in Vietnam and Canada. She lives in Los Angeles, worked for Hollywood and continues her profession. From a photo, in 2004, a street artist Banksy created a famous ironic mural.

Kim Phuc: “I am an anti-war witness”

“It was June 8, 1972, and I was a nine-year-old girl. I was playing and South Vietnamese soldiers came to tell us to leave because they were bombing. ” Thus began the memory of Kim Phuc. “We ran out into the street and the bombs exploded right after that: I am only one of the millions of children who suffered in the war.”

Who are the other children in the photo?

«They are relatives: the two boys on the left are my brothers and the other two children are my cousins. My brother died in 2004; everyone else is alive ”.

What happened then?

“Nick Ut took me to the hospital. I spent 14 months in hospital and underwent 17 operations, the last one in 1984 in Germany. I saw the picture for the first time after 14 months in the hospital and my father showed it to me cut out of a newspaper. I didn’t want to see her. Until 1975 there was war and we have nothing left. We in the South thought we would be happy after the war. But then the Khmer people came and life was terrible.

What did he do next?

“The next year he leaves Vietnam for Cuba. During my stay in the hospital, the doctors inspired me a lot and I thought that I wanted to be like them. In 1982, I was admitted to a medical course, but that’s when the Vietnamese government noticed me. They decided that I should become the symbol of the Vietnam War precisely because of this famous photo. So they took me away from school. For the second time I felt like a victim: I have become a testimony ”.

To last.

“Then I met faith in Christianity and that helps me. I think, thank God, we’re still alive. Physical pain and the marks that I still wear on my skin, but the emotional and spiritual pain was even more difficult to overcome ”.

Did he have children?

“The children of the whole world are my children,” he replies. “Anyway, I first lived in Cuba, then got married, moved to Canada, and had two children. Now I am a Canadian citizen and a representative of UNESCO ».

What do you think about the war in Ukraine?

“It’s terrible, the same things happen again. War extinguishes childhood dreams. I would like to share my story to serve as a lesson. “


“To give a copy of this photo of me to Pope Francis, I hope it happens as soon as possible.”

Nick Ut: “I dropped my cameras to help her”

“I was a reporter for the Vietnamese Associated Press covering the war against others. We got a hint that there would be a bombing of Trang Bang in South Vietnam, a village occupied by the North Vietnamese. There were a dozen photo operators this morning and a lot of shots were taken. I started photographing at the age of sixteen, replacing my brother who had died ».

We come to the photo.

“I was there for about three hours of documenting. At one point I saw a Vietnamese soldier drop a grenade and then saw helicopters over the pagoda dropping two bombs and three minutes later napalm bombs. Then I saw people running from black smoke. One such person was Kim’s grandmother, who wore the body of her three-year-old cousin. I took a picture of the baby who died three minutes later. Then I saw Kim appear and run away and went to take a picture. When I took the picture, I thought everyone would be dead. “


“When she passed me, I saw her shoulder and back were hurt. I didn’t take any more because I thought she was going to die. I had four cameras, left them there, and ran with a bottle of water to sprinkle it on his body; she screamed: smoke, smoke. But she wanted a drink. I stayed with the BBC to help her. I had a little van and I opened it and took the kids. I picked Kim up and put her in the van. They screamed and everyone said they were dying and she asked about her brother.

And then?

“We reached a small hospital in 30 minutes. I asked doctors to help her, but they didn’t have enough medicine. They helped me take her to Saigon.


“There I went to the Associated Press in Saigon and ten minutes later it was drafted. The next morning we returned to the village and saw a woman and her husband looking for a daughter. I showed them the picture and said I took her to the hospital. ”

The next year, she earned a Pulitzer, and then what?

“I came back to the village the day Kim left the hospital and gave her the book.”

She then moved to Los Angeles and worked for Hollywood, but has always supported the struggle for human rights. What can the photo do for the war in Ukraine?

«Even a photo can be useful. I talked a lot with Ukrainian refugees in Los Angeles who invited me to leave. They’d like me to see this war too and start over. ”

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May 6, 2022 (change May 6, 2022 | 11:39)

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