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Who took the napalm girl photo?

The iconic and harrowing photo of a young Vietnamese girl running naked after being severely burned by a napalm attack is one of the most memorable images from the Vietnam War. Known as ‘The Terror of War’ or simply ‘Napalm Girl’, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo was taken on June 8, 1972 during the Vietnam War by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut. Here is the story behind the unforgettable photograph and the people involved.

The Napalm Attack

On June 8, 1972, the village of Trang Bang near Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) was hit by an accidental napalm attack by Republic of Vietnam Air Force planes, who were targeting enemy forces. Napalm is a highly flammable sticky incendiary gel used in bombs and flamethrowers. The attack was part of the South Vietnamese army’s effort to drive out Viet Cong forces during the Vietnam War.

As plumes of fire and smoke engulfed the village, terrified villagers ran for their lives. Among them were a group of young children who had ripped off their burning clothes. Nine-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc was photographed running completely naked, her arms stretched out with an anguished look on her face. Images of the children’s suffering were quickly transmitted around the world, causing outrage at the horrors of war.

Nick Ut – The Photographer

AP photographer Nick Ut (Huỳnh Công Út) was only 21 years old when he took the iconic Napalm Girl photograph. He was nearby in Trang Bang that day covering the Vietnam War with Le Van, an AP reporter.

As soon as the napalm strike occurred and he saw Kim Phúc with the other running children, he started snapping a series of photos. The Napalm Girl image was one of those photos, which he quickly transmitted back to the AP foreign office in Saigon.

Ut later recalled photographing the terrified children fleeing from the fire and smoke:

“The kids saw me and ran over to me. It all happened within 15 or 20 seconds at most. They were screaming. Two of them died right away, right in front of me. My clothes were soaked with their blood and flesh. I kept taking pictures.”

Ut’s photograph was transmitted to AP’s New York headquarters and appeared in newspapers worldwide the next day, delivering the impact of the Vietnam War into the living rooms of millions of readers. Ut was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography the following year in 1973.

Kim Phúc – The ‘Napalm Girl’

The naked 9-year-old girl at the center of Ut’s photo was Phan Thị Kim Phúc. In the chaos after the blast, she had ripped off her burning clothing and ran screaming in anguish, her body severely burned by the napalm. She had third degree burns over 30% of her body.

Ut helped Kim Phúc and the other wounded children right after taking the photo. He poured water over her wounds and drove her and others to the hospital for treatment. She was later transferred to a hospital in Saigon where she endured 14 months of painful operations and skin grafts.

The girl later identified in the famous photo came to be known to many simply as “napalm girl”. After the war, Kim Phúc moved to Cuba to study and spent years recovering emotionally as well as physically from the trauma of the attack.

She eventually sought political asylum in Canada and started a foundation to aid child war victims. She continues to speak out as an advocate for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation between former wartime enemies.

Historical Impact

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by Nick Ut is considered one of the most memorable and impactful images from the entire Vietnam War. The horrific imagery of innocent children being harmed crystallized many people’s previously ambivalent feelings into outright opposition to the war.

Here is a summary of the photo’s significance:

  • Demonstrated the terrible suffering of civilians, including women and children, during the Vietnam War
  • Contributed to mounting pressure worldwide to end the war
  • Further increased the anti-war sentiment in the United States
  • Exemplified the chaos and tragedies of modern warfare

The photo of Kim Phúc and the other fleeing children became one of the most unforgettable and impactful images of the entire 20th century. It remains an iconic reminder of the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Later Contact Between Photographer and ‘Napalm Girl’

After Kim Phúc’s identity became known from the famous photograph, Nick Ut maintained contact with her and her family over the years. They met during a trip back to Vietnam together in 1989.

In 1997, Ut attended Phúc’s wedding in Canada when she married Bui Huy Toan. She had come to consider the photographer part of her extended family.

On the 40th anniversary of the napalm strike in 2012, Kim Phúc and Nick Ut reunited for a historic meeting in the former location of the village where the iconic photo was taken so long ago.

Despite years of pain and horror from the napalm attack, Phúc forgave the American pilots who carried it out. She continues her advocacy for peace and reconciliation alongside Nick Ut, the man who took the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of her that June day four decades ago.

The Napalm Girl Photo Today

The raw and disturbing ‘Napalm Girl’ photo is still considered one of the most unforgettable and impactful images of the Vietnam War over 50 years later. Some key facts:

  • Has become one of the most iconic photos of all time documenting the horrors of warfare
  • One of the only photos from the Vietnam War to capture worldwide attention so significantly
  • Remains a defining image representing civilian suffering during wartime
  • Is featured in history books, museums, documentaries and more relating to the Vietnam War era

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph serves as a continual reminder to people all over the world of the terrible costs of war borne by innocent civilians.


Nick Ut’s ‘Napalm Girl’ photo captured the unforgettable image of 9-year-old Kim Phúc fleeing in pain after a napalm attack on her village during the Vietnam War. The Pulitzer Prize-winning shot by AP photographer Nick Ut reinforced the anti-war views of people around the world by providing a haunting look at the suffering of civilians during warfare.

Despite the horrors of that day, Kim Phúc was able to recover, start a new life, and befriend the man who took the iconic photograph of her and other terrified children. Over 50 years later, the raw image continues to exemplify the anguish and human tragedies of war.

Person Role
Nick Ut Associated Press photographer who took the iconic ‘Napalm Girl’ photo
Kim Phúc 9-year-old girl pictured running and screaming after a napalm attack