Vietnam War photo of napalm-struck girl most powerful image in 50 years

By Linh Do   October 18, 2019 | 05:50 pm PT
Vietnam War photo of napalm-struck girl most powerful image in 50 years
“The Terror of War” photo of Nick Ut.
A naked girl and other children fleeing a Vietnam War napalm strike is the most powerful news image of the last 50 years.

In a poll conducted by American TV channel History among British audiences, Vietnamese American photographer Nick Ut’s award winning "The Terror of War" picture topped the list of photographs that changed the world. It won 37 percent of the votes.

The photograph, shot on June 8, 1972, went on to win both the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and the World Press Photo of the Year in 1973. It caught 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc and other terrified children running down a road near Trang Bang District in the southeastern province of Tay Ninh after a South Vietnamese plane dropped napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians.

The U.S. dropped almost 400,000 tons of napalm bombs between 1963 and 1973. It is estimated that 60 percent of the Vietnamese people hit by napalm suffered fifth-degree burns, meaning the burn went down to the bone.

The Associated Press photographer took the shot after Phuc had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. Other children present at the scene were Phuc’s two younger brothers and two cousins. After taking the shot, Nick Ut, who was 21 at the time, took the children to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, saving the girl’s life.

Second on the History channel’s list with 35 percent of the votes was Turkish journalist Nilüfer Demir’s 2015 picture of 3-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi's lifeless body being washed up on a beach in Turkey. Aylan's family had left Bodrum in Turkey on September 2, 2015, hoping to get to the Greek island of Kos but their small boat capsized on the way.

Other powerful images include photos of Nelson Mandela being freed after 20 years in prison in 1990, Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969, Prince Charles kissing Diana after their wedding in 1981, and the moment American President Ronald Reagan was shot, also in 1981.

The poll was carried out by History channel to mark the launching of a new series titled "Photos That Changed the World." As much as 96 percent of the polled audiences believed that journalists should show a shocking image, if it changes the world or the way we think about the world.

The History channel’s 6-episode series will be aired from October 21.

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