18 May 2010

Kim

June 8th 1972. Napalm has been dropped on the sleepy agricultural village of Trang Bang, recently occupied by North Vietnamese fighters. On the edge of the village, a small media corps is gathered. They watch in horror as villagers, including children, run along the road, fleeing this horror that has come to visit them. One of them is a nine year old girl called Kim Phuc. She is naked and her back has been napalmed.

In the media corps there's a British TV reporter - Christopher Wain, his ITV cameraman and a Vietnamese photographer who likes to be called Nick Ut. In a moment, Ut snaps perhaps the most iconic wartime picture ever taken. There are no words in it but the picture speaks volumes. It reminds the world that war touches the innocent and that it is wrong and that it is no solution. Reaction to this photograph in the west helped to hasten the end of the disastrous Vietnam War. Only blind or mentally impaired people wouldn't recognise this image:-
Kim Phuc was whisked away to a military hospital and came close to death. The medical staff gave her no chance but Christopher Wain took it upon himself to represent her and to push for the best possible treatment. In so doing he saved her life.

Incredibly, Kim, an illiterate peasant's daughter, later trained to be a doctor and now resides near Toronto, Canada with her husband and two sons. It seems that that photograph was the bane of her life for many years. Like an unwanted stalker, it followed her everywhere but gradually she came to realise that this unwelcome fame was something she could use to benefit other child victims of war and she formed the Kim Phuc Foundation for that purpose.

Nick Ut made his home in Los Angeles becoming a celebrated news photographer. Chris Wain recently met up with Kim again having previously declined an opportunity to be reunited with her on "The Oprah Winfrey Show". He said, "Despite everything that has happened to her and all that she has endured, she has become a very impressive woman."

4 comments:

  1. This is so humbling. Thanks for posting this. (Inane words, I know, but I wanted to acknowledge that I read this post without trying to conjure words that don't do justice.)

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  2. No matter how often I see this photo it always comes as a shock. The screams of those children echo down the years.

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  3. And yet in all these years nothing has really changed, has it?

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  4. SAINT FARIDA I'm pleased the story touched you as it touched me - enough to post about it.
    LYNDA Sometimes good things come out of tragedies and that photo and the film taken at the same time still emphasise the futility and stupidity of war.
    JAN BLAWAT Perhaps you are right. Children still get scarred, maimed or killed in conflicts. Whatever possesses a man to hack off a child's hands?

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