Phuc, Kim (c. 1963—)

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Phuc, Kim (c. 1963—)

One of the most enduring symbols of the tragedy of the Vietnam War . Name variations: Phan Thi Kim Phuc. Born around 1963; attended college in Cuba; married in 1992; children: two.

In 1972, as the Vietnam War raged, nine-year-old Kim Phuc's village near Trang Bang was bombed with napalm. With her clothes burned off her body by the napalm, she ran naked from her village, her arms outstretched, screaming in agony. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of her at that moment, taken by photojournalist Nick Ut before he hurried her to a hospital, is perhaps the best-known image of the Vietnam War, and is considered symbolic of the horrors suffered by innocent bystanders during that lengthy and controversial conflict.

Kim Phuc required extensive surgery for her injuries and continued to receive treatment for the scars and burns covering much of her body well into adulthood. The Communist government of Vietnam used Phuc as a tool of propaganda, though it eventually allowed her to study in Cuba. After marrying a fellow student there, in 1992 she sought political asylum in Canada, where she and her husband settled in Toronto and had two children. In 1996, Phuc appeared at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.—her first visit to the site—and laid a wreath at the memorial. She spoke to the 2,000 spectators of hope and forgiveness, but, in keeping with the enduring controversy that surrounds the war, news of her appearance sparked renewed argument in America about whether the United States military or the Vietnam Air Force was responsible for the bombing of her village. In 1997, Phuc founded the Kim Foundation to assist noncombatants victimized by war. That same year, she was named a Goodwill Ambassador for a Culture of Peace by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


The Baltimore Sun. December 14, 1997.

The Day [New London, CT]. November 12, 1996, pp. A1, A4.

suggested reading:

Chong, Denise. The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War. NY: Viking, 2000.

Howard Gofstein , freelance writer, Oak Park, Michigan