A Young Girl's Cry
for Help in Vietnam and the
Photographer who saved
her are Honored by the
London Science Museum
and Queen Elizabeth II.
By Horst Faas and Marianne Fulton
June 8, 1972, children and their families fled the village of Trang
Bang down Route-1, their bodies seared by napalm. The young girl
screaming, in particular, was etched onto the world's mind by the
photograph of Huynh Cong 'Nick' Ut, an AP photographer.
The girl was Phan Thi Kim Phuc.
The photograph showing excruciating
pain and death has become a photographic icon, an antiwar rallying
point and a symbol of hope. The photograph rightly stands among
a few honorable and memorable images of the last 150 years of photojournalism.
The article and photographs show,
for the first time, the well known image among the others taken
before and after the incident. We will hear from the participants
of the time - Kim Phuc, Nick Ut and others in interviews gathered
by Horst Faas.
The occasion which brought the participants
together was the opening of the large exhibition at the London Science
Museum, "Making the Modern World", part of the new Wellcome Center.
The large display was organized by senior curator Andrew Nahum and
officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.
preparing the exhibit, senior curator Andrew Nahum said he looked
at many famous photographs "but I couldn't persuade myself that
any of them had the emotional power of the Kim Phuc photo."
"More than just showing the iconic
image, we went to unpack the history around it," Nahum said. So
the exhibition identifies other children in the photo, including
Kim's older brother who lost an eye, but survived to live until
this day in Trang Bang. There are also pictures of the two
children related to Kim Phuc who died shortly after the incident
from napalm inflicted burns.
The picture taken near the village
of Trang Bang in South Vietnam on June 8, 1972, thrust the burned,
screaming youngster into photographic history. The London "Observer"
Sunday paper calls the photograph "the most haunting image of the
horror of war since Goya" in their review of the exhibit (by science
writer Deyan Sudjic).
Next to Ut's Leica M2 camera, manufactured
in 1965, and the 35mm Summicron lens stands one of the Muirhead
picture transmitters used to transmit photographs on radio-waves
to the world from the Vietnam conflict. The camera is shown in a
case not far from the German V2 rocket of 1945 and Stephenson's
Rocket of 1829.
Stretched over four floors, the new
50 million Pounds Sterling ($75 million) Wellcome Wing of the London
Science Museum presents the new exhibition (since June 27,
2000) with a vast display of technology's iconic images and inventions
from the past 200 years. There are also displays on genetics, digital
technology, bio-medicine and artificial intelligence linking history
with current developments.
II meets Kim Phuc and Nick Ut
Elizabeth II toured London Science Museum before officially opening
the Wellcome Wing and the exhibit "Making the Modern World".
"Is that really you?" the Queen said,
when she saw the now 37-year old Phan Thi Kim Phuc standing next
to her picture from 1972, clad in a black silk traditional Vietnamese
Ao Dai tunic and trousers. Beside Kim stood photographer Nick Ut
and Horst Faas, AP's Saigon photo editor in 1972, who had selected
and transmitted the photograph. Behind Kim stood her husband Bui
The two women chatted for several
Stefan Klein, London correspondent
of the renowned Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote of the meeting:
"She has suffered a lot and sometimes
Kim Phuc thought she won't manage to live on. However, now she stood
there, a smiling Asian woman, deep in conversation with the British
Queen, who may have wondered how during the journey of a lifetime
a bridge can be built from horror and dread to peace and forgiving,
all personified in one human being". Klein continues: " The photographer
was also a human being: It was he who poured water over the wounds
of the burned girl and he drove her to a hospital where her life
Kim Phuc, now a United Nations goodwill
ambassador working for world peace. Kim Phuc was asked by the Queen
about the picture and her life today.
Kim said: "I told her it seemed
a long time ago."
The Impact of the
Kim Phuc Picture
From Press Reviews
of the Exhibit
Martin Woolacott, a former Vietnam
correspondent wrote about a display of the exhibition's photographs
in the London Daily Telegraph (27 June 2000): "Nick Ut's photograph
had an extraordinary impact around the world. The psychological
history of the war seems inconceivable without this image. Along
with half a dozen other photographs, it helped at some deep level
to shape the popular feelings which in turn influenced policy it
deepened the skepticism with which by the mid-1972, the war was
being viewed. "
Woolacott added: "The image was so
powerful that it was immediately appropriated by the Vietnamese
communists for propaganda use."
In the International Herald Tribune,
from Thursday June 29, 2000, Tom Buerkle wrote, "The picture.. For
anyone old enough to remember the Vietnam War the photograph of
the naked 9-year-old girl running toward a camera screaming in agony
as napalm burned her flesh is seared into the consciousness. "
"Her image has become a symbol of
war that transcends debate about the rights or wrongs of U.S. intervention