Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 20 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions
home iconNews
line break icon

Do You Know What Happened To The Little Girl In This Famous Photo?


Vietnamese-Canadian Phan Thi Kim Phuc delivers her speech before her June 8, 1972 Pulitzer-Prize-winning photograph during the Vietnam war, during a lecture meeting in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture on April 13, 2013. Kim Phuc met with some 300 spectators in her first visit to Japan. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS

Aleteia - published on 02/06/15 - updated on 06/08/17

The testimony of a little girl from Saigon that became a symbol of war's horrors and a call to love

On June 8, 1972, a plane bombed the village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam, after the pilot mistook a group of civilians for enemy troops. The bombs contained Napalm, a highly flammable substance which killed and badly burned the people on the ground.

The famous black and white photo of children fleeing the burning village won the Pulitzer Prize and was chosen as the "World Press Photo of the Year"in 1972. It became the symbol of the horrors of the Vietnam war, and of every war’s cruelty to children and civilians.

The main figure in the photo is a 9-year-old girl running naked and desperate down the street after her clothes caught fire. Her name is Kim Phuc Phan Thi, and at the time she was participating with her family in a religious ceremony at a pagoda.

Recently Kim Phuc Phan Thi was interviewed on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the bombing. She said that after the photos were taken she collapsed to the ground and was rescued by photographer Nick Ut who brought her to the hospital. She was hospitalized for 14 months and underwent 17 surgeries.

I wanted to die that day, together with my family,” she said. “It was hard for me to carry all that hatred, that anger." 

Despite the deep scars left on her body, she studied medicine and in her second year of university in Saigon she discovered the New Testament in the university library. She started reading. Thereafter she committed herself to following Jesus Christ and realized that God had a plan for her life. In 1997, together with her husband who is also Vietnamese, Kim Phuc Phan Thi founded the first International Kim Foundation in the United States, with the aim of providing medical and psychological assistance to children who are victims of war. The project spread and other centers were set up.

Her conversion to Christianity has especially given her the power and strength to forgive. Today Kim Phuc Phan Thi is 50 years old. She lives near Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two sons, Thomas and Stephen. She has dedicated her life to promoting peace by providing medical and psychological support to victims of the war in Uganda, East Timor, Romania, Tajikistan, Kenya, Ghana and Afghanistan. 

"Forgiveness freed me from hatred," she wrote in her biography, entitled The Girl in the Picture. "I still have many scars on my body and severe pain on most days, but my heart is purified. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness and love are much stronger. There would be no more war if everyone were to learn to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness.

"If the little girl in the photo could do it, ask yourself, Can I?"


Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.