WARSAW – UNESCO goodwill ambassador and hero of one of the most famous photographs depicting the horrors of war, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, arrived in Warsaw aboard a Comlux B787 aircraft in unusual and moving anti-war graphics.
The special ‘No War’ graphic appeared on a B787-8 Dreamliner Boeing (P4-787) belonging to Comlux Aruba, a subsidiary of Comlux Aviation.
The plane was taking a group of refugees from Ukraine from Poland to the city of Regina in Canada.
This is another flight organized jointly by humanitarian organizations and the Canadian government, who together want to help Ukrainians start a new life after they were forced to flee their homes following Russian aggression.
A famous photo from Vietnam
The photo from Phan Thi Kim Phuc was taken almost exactly 50 years ago (8 June 1972), during the Vietnam War, and shows a group of Vietnamese children fleeing from the village of Trảng Bàng.
The eye-catching naked girl in the center of the frame is actually Phan Thi Kim Phuc – also known more widely as ‘Napalm Girl’.
Phan Thi Kim Phuc, 9 years old at the time, was severely burned by discharged napalm, which burned her clothes and left numerous mutilations on her body, which took another half-century to heal and was only possible thanks to significant medical advances.
I turned my head and saw planes and four bombs falling. Suddenly, fire erupted and my clothes burned. At that moment I saw no one around me, only the fire. I still remember what I thought – ‘Oh my God, I’ve been burned, I’m going to be ugly and people will see me differentlysaid Phan Thi Kim Phuc, recalling the dramatic moment. Her words are quoted by the New York Post.
Here it is worth mentioning that the author of the photo Huynh Cong Ut (known as Nick Ut) received the Pulitzer Prize for this photograph, and the photo itself has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Vietnam War.
After gaining asylum in Canada, Phan Thi Kim Phuc became involved in efforts to promote peace and provide medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war.
The controversy around famous photography
Audio tapes of President Richard Nixon, in conversation with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman in 1972, reveal that Nixon mused, “I’m wondering if that was fixed”, after seeing the photograph.
After the release of this tape, Ut commented, “Even though it has become one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century, President Nixon once doubted the authenticity of my photograph when he saw it in the papers on 12 June 1972.
The picture for me and unquestionably for many others could not have been more real. The photo was as authentic as the Vietnam War itself.
The horror of the Vietnam War recorded by me did not have to be fixed. That terrified little girl is still alive today and has become an eloquent testimony to the authenticity of that photo.
That moment thirty years ago will be one Kim Phúc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives.
After 50 years, the ‘Napalm Girl’ has completed her treatment
Half a century has passed since the dramatic moment captured by Nick Ut. “Napalm Girl” is now 59 years old, and on 28 June this year, she underwent her last laser treatment to cure her burned skin.
The procedure was carried out by Dr. Jill Waibel of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute in the United States.
Phan Thi Kim Phuc and Nick Ut have kept in touch for 50 years. They talk to each other almost every week. The photographer accompanied his long-time friend for a recent treatment.
Phan Thi Kim Phuc recovered, although the treatment was a very long process. She lived in Vietnam until 1992, after which she and her husband moved to Canada. She still lives there today. She is a UNESCO goodwill ambassador.
Now, 50 years later, I am no longer a victim of war, I am not a ‘Napalm Girl’. I am a friend, a helper, a grandmother. I am a survivor crying out for peacesaid Phan Thi Kim Phuc.