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Vietnam’s “Napalm Girl” Comes to America for Laser Treatments

On June 8, 1972, Nick Ut of the Associated Press photographed the napalm bombing of a Vietnamese village. 9-year old Kim Phuc, hit by the caustic gel, stripped her clothes off and fled in terror. Her expression of pain and horror became an iconic image of the Vietnam War.

Phuc grew up and traveled to Cuba. While her plane stopped for refueling in Canada, she defected. She later became a Canadian citizen and served as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace.

Now 52, Phuc has never fully recovered from the horrendous damage that napalm did to her body more than four decades ago. She recently traveled to Miami to visit a high-end dermatology clinic that can heal many of the scars that cover her body. The AP reports:

Late last month, Phuc, 52, began a series of laser treatments that her doctor, Jill Waibel of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute, says will smooth and soften the pale, thick scar tissue that ripples from her left hand up her arm, up her neck to her hairline and down almost all of her back.

Even more important to Phuc, Waibel says the treatments also will relieve the deep aches and pains that plague her to this day.

For this story, the AP assigned a photographer that Phuc already knew: Nick Ut, the man who first photographed her in 1972 and rescued her:

Ut remembers the girl screaming in Vietnamese, "Too hot! Too hot!" He put her in the AP van where she crouched on the floor, her burnt skin raw and peeling off her body as she sobbed, "I think I'm dying, too hot, too hot, I'm dying."

He took her to a hospital. Only then did he return to the Saigon bureau to file his photographs, including the one of Phuc on fire that would win the Pulitzer Prize.


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