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What happened to… Napalm girl

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, 'The Terror of War,' which is commonly referred to as 'Napalm Girl.'.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, 'The Terror of War,' which is commonly referred to as 'Napalm Girl.'. Nick Ut/Associated Press

On this episode of Global News podcast What happened to…? Erica Vella takes a closer look at the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, The Terror of War, which is commonly referred to as ‘Napalm Girl‘. She speaks with Kim Phuc, the young girl in the photo and learns about her miraculous survival.

Fifty years ago, Kim Phuc Phan Thi’s life seemed simple; she lived with her family in the village of Trảng Bàng in Vietnam.

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The country was in the middle of a war, but she said as a nine-year-old child, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

“The sound of war was just not real to me. It was far, far, far away,” she said.

“For me, I just enjoyed everything.”

Everything would change in June 1972 when several napalm bombs fell on her once peaceful village.

Phuc has vivid memories of the day.

“I saw the airplane was so, so fast (and) so loud … and I stood right there. I didn’t run. Then I turned my head and looked up and I saw the airplane and I saw four bombs landing,” she said.

“Suddenly there was fire everywhere around me and my clothes were burned off by the fire.”

In excruciating pain, Phuc began to run down the main highway in her village and at that time, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut snapped a picture of the nine-year-old girl.

Read more: Ontario woman who was known as ‘napalm girl’ helping Ukrainians settle in Canada

After Ut took the photo, he rushed to help Phuc, who was badly burned. The photographer brought her to a local hospital to be treated.

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Staff at the hospital initially turned Phuc away and told them to go to Saigon to be treated but Ut demanded someone care for the young girl.

Read more: Facebook reinstates iconic ‘napalm girl’ photo after being accused of censorship

“He said, ‘She’s dying and if you don’t take her in and if I take her to Saigon, she would die,'” she said, and in that moment, Ut showed his press pass.

“He said that if you don’t take her in, tomorrow there will be a big article on the front of the newspaper and that is so bad for their reputation. That’s why they finally took me.”

On this episode of What happened to…? Erica Vella speaks to Phuc about the days and weeks following the attack and learns more about her miraculous recovery. She also speaks with experts about the Vietnam War and finds out what happened the day the napalm bombs fell from the sky.

Contact:

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

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