Kim Phuc Talks About the Incident of June 8, 1972

by Horst Faas and Marianne Fulton

Kim Phuc said in London:
        "I see the picture and the documentary (referring to a film that was made about her life in 1997). That makes me remember all the time. I saw the airplane. I saw the fire. I got burned. I was so scared and crying and running out of the fire."

Kim Phuc  added later:
        "Panicking under the fire I suddenly realised that my feet had not been burned. At least I could run away. If my feet wound have been burned I would have died in the fire."

Kim Phuc does not try to avoid memories. She wants to see the photograph exposed to future generations. "Let the world see how horrible wars can be", Tom Buerkle of the IHT quotes her.

Rather than returning with his eight rolls of film directly to the AP office in Saigon Nick Ut did not hesitate to load Kim Phuc with some members of her family into the AP's minibus and drive her to the provincial hospital in Cu Chi.

Nick Ut recalled in London, 28 years later, with Kim Phuc standing beside him: "When we reached there the hospital was overcrowded with war injured people. I had the impression that the emergency nurse who received us intended to hospitalise Kim Phuc, but not rush her to be treated - considering her a hopeless case and to die sooner or later. I got through to a doctor and explained who I was, what I had photographed and that Kim Phuc needs immediate help." 

Kim Phuc said in London about Nick Ut:" He saved my life. He's wonderful, isn't. he? I am so grateful that he didn't only do his job, but he's a human being helping another."

Kim Phuc now calls Huynh Cong 'Nick' Ut  her 'Uncle Ut'. 

However, the happy ending in London was preceded by endless years while doctors fought for her life. Her chin was molded to her chest, caused by burn wounds. Her left arm was almost lost, except for the bones and scarred flesh. Seventeen operations were necessary to give Kim Phuc a life back worth living.

Today Kim says she knows no hate. "If I could talk to the pilot who dropped the bomb," she said," I would say that we can' t alter history."

Pilot and plane were part of the 518th Squadron of the South Vietnamese Airforce (VNAF) based in Bien Hoa. 

The family of Kim Phuc - in Nick Ut's pictures

Phan Thi Kim Phuc had seven brothers and sisters between the ages of 18 and 1 years old at the time of the June 8, 1972 air raid in which she was injured.

Her parents - the father Phan Thanh Tung and mother Du Ngoc Nu owned a small roadside restaurant and some land just behind the Cao Dai pagoda. The members of the family were at the time believers of the Cao Dai religion, a faith combining elements of Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism, founded in the region west of Saigon in the early 20th century.

The family had not fled when North Vietnamese troops showed up in Trang Bang. They were not aware until the very last moment that they would be in the target area of an air strike which was aimed at North Vietnamese troops but mistakenly caught unaware civilians.

In Nick's award winning picture other members of her family run alongside her.

At left, screaming in agony from an eye injury is her then 12-year old brother Phan Thanh Tam. A bit behind is her youngest brother Phan Thanh Phuoc , then 5 years old and not seriously injured in the raid. At right are Kim Phu's small cousins Ho Van Bo, a boy, and Ho Thi Ting, a girl. 

Other pictures show Kim Phuc's aunt, Nguyen Thi Xi, carrying the nine-months old boy Phan Can Cuong and her grandmother Ly Thi Tho with the three year old Phan Van Danh - both distant relatives of Kim Phuc. 

Cuong and Danh were the two fatal casualties of the raid. Danh died in Kim Phuc grandmother's arms, Cuong died ten days later from burns.