A war victim honors those who saved her

The woman in this photo below owes her life to the man she’s smiling with.

Her name is Kim Phuc. His name is Nick Ut. Forty years ago last week, something horrible happened. Ut then a photographer for the Associated Press captured it on film, and it is the iconic image of the Vietnam War.

In a terrible mistake, the South Vietnamese air force, thinking it was attacking a Viet Cong outpost, dropped a load of napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The girl in the photo is 9 years old. She is naked because the napalm melted off her clothes. It did horrible things to her skin. The video is here. It is extremely graphic.

The girl is Kim Phuc. The boy on the left is her younger brother. He lost an eye.

The following is from the AP.

Ut, who was 21 at the time, heard Phuc’s screams as she ran down the road to escape her burning village, and snapped the photo that became famous around the world.

The Vietnamese photographer then drove the badly burned child to a small hospital, where he was told she was too far gone to help. He flashed his American press badge, demanded that doctors treat the girl and left assured that she would not be forgotten.

… Ut said he cried when he saw her running. He said if he didn’t help and she died he would have killed himself. …

A few of days after the image shocked the world, a number of British journalists including Christopher Wain, a correspondent for the British Independent Television Network who had given Phuc water from his canteen and drizzled it down her burning back at the scene, fought to have her transferred to the American-run hospital. It was the only facility in Saigon equipped to deal with her severe injuries.

“When we found in her in the British hospital it was in very un-sterile conditions,” Wain said Friday. “I asked one of the nurses how she was and the nurse looked at her and said, ‘Oh, she’ll die maybe tomorrow or maybe next day.’ It was obvious it was very urgent.”

Martha Arsenault, a nurse who cared for her at the American hospital, said when Phuc got to the American hospital nobody thought she’d make it.

“Everybody, the doctors, they all thought she wouldn’t because she was just so burnt,” she said.

But she did survive because the photojournalist got involved. As she says above, if he hadn’t been there, she would have died.

Nick Ut won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo. Kim Phuc now lives in Toronto. She is a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Last week, she honored those who saved her at an anniversary dinner in Toronto. She said: “I’m so grateful he was there. … He helped me and rushed me to the nearest hospital. He saved my life. He’s my hero.”

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