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Iconic Photo Of Vietnam War Reason For Madison Speech

May 21, 2019

There is one picture—more than any other–which sums up the brutality, insanity, and waste of lives during the period of the Vietnam War. As a youngster this photo made me shudder as the ones being caught in the camera lens were only a few years younger than I was when first seeing it.  It was an image unlike any other I had seen in my youth.

Terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phúc, center, run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after a South Vietnamese aerial napalm attack on June 8, 1972. Phúc ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Phúc, who lost an eye; Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phúc; Phúc; and Phúc’s cousins, Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division.  

It was reported this week that the young, naked napalm girl in that news photo will speak in Madison next month with the man who photographed her in 1972.  Kim Phúc, 56, will speak at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., on June 8 at 5:30 p.m. The photographer, Nick Ut, will also be there to speak about his Pulitzer-prize photo.

Phúc, who now lives in Toronto, was photographed at age 9 fleeing a napalm bombing that left her severely burned. Ut, who retired in 2017 after a 51-year career with The Associated Press, shot the photo on June 8, 1972. He was 20 at the time he snapped the camera which history has long remembered.

As a reader of history, and one always trying to better understand the whys of history, I will be looking forward to hearing the words from those on both sides of the camera lens which made for this photo.  Being most interested in journalism, and having a deep respect for those who cover the stories no matter where they take place, I will be honored to be in the same room with Ut.

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