Phan Thi Kim Phuc

This is the story of a changed life, as told to Power to Change Ministries.

Born: Trang Bang, South Vietnam, 1963

It is a photograph that few are likely to forget. A little girl, her clothes seared from her body by a Napalm bomb, runs screaming from her burning village. Her arms are outstretched in terror and pain.

For many, this photograph – which would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for AP photographer Nick Ut – epitomized the tragedy of the Vietnam war. The village of Trang Bang was damaged on June 8, 1972 during an ariel attack on suspected Viet Cong locations. Many were killed and a little girl’s life was changed forever.

Though terribly burned, that little girl did survive. Nick Ut placed her in a vehicle and rushed her to the hospital. Kim endured fourteen months of painful rehabilitation for the third degree burns over more than half her body.

As an adult, Kim would be forced to abandon medical school following renewed international interest in the “symbol of the people’s war.” After an appeal to the head of the Vietnamese government, she was allowed to leave the country to resume her studies. Kim met her future husband while studying in Cuba, and was, by this time, determined to defect to the West. On their honeymoon in 1992, the couple disembarked during plane refueling in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada and defected.

Settled in a new country with a young family, Kim’s story continues. While there have been confusion and disagreement about the bombing–who ordered it, where it actually took place, what the target was–the fact that Kim became another innocent victim of war is unchangeable. Now, she uses her notoriety to speak for peace. In November 1997, Kim was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Earlier in 1997, she founded the Kim Foundation in Chicago, to help innocent victims of war.

What is perhaps most stunning about Kim Phuc is the peace that radiates from her in person. She is not angry. She is not bitter against her government or anyone else involved in the war. In fact, Kim’s greatest passion is healing. In 1996, she travelled to the United States to meet Nick Ut and the doctors who had operated on her in Saigon. On Veteran’s Day that same year, Kim spoke at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, DC. Her message expressed the need for healing and reconciliation for all those who’d been involved in the war.

What makes this possible? Perhaps a better question is “Who makes this possible?” And the answer is God.

Kim’s gentle spirit and quiet determination are products of her relationship with a loving Heavenly Father. Kim discovered a God who could empathize with her pain, and who could heal it. Her body bears the scars of a brutal childhood experience, but her spirit is whole.

Do you bear scars that you think can never be healed? He’s waiting to prove you wrong.

Won’t you consider asking God into your life today? Just pray simply:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life and make me the kind of person You want me to be. Amen.”

For more of Kim’s story:

8 Responses to “Phan Thi Kim Phuc”

  • Daniel Brown says:

    Praise the Lord you found him and trusted Him as your Saviour. He will use you mightily for your personal testimony of faith. May God bless and keep you. Love in Christ

  • Aliuaka Peralta says:

    My name is Aliuska, you may not remember me, but we studied
    In Cuba the same year in the faculty for foreign languages, I went to Russia after that.
    We meet again at Havana airport on one of vacations back to Cuba.
    I have been looking for, since I found out that you were living in Toronto, where I used to live.
    We use to stay next door to each other in the faculty, and spend vietnams new year together.
    Hope to heir from you.

  • wesb says:

    Samuel, I appreciate your sensitivity for the people of Viet Nam and the many children and other innocent victims who have suffered as a result of that war. I have some military experience as well and I saw the horrors of war in Kuwait and Somalia. God has seen many more horrors of war than you and I have throughout history. He has also seen many other horrors, including the horror of lack of forgiveness and what that can do to people on both sides of that equation. His desire is that people would come to him to be healed of all the horrors of this life, which includes our lack of forgiveness for others, and any other sins that we may be hanging on to and justifying, thinking that hanging on to them has logic and value. Thankfully, he reveals to us that hanging on to those sins has no logic and no value. The only thing that I have ever found that is a logical answer to the horrors of this world, and the horrors within my own personality and my own personal history, is to do what Kim Phuc did and turn it all over to God for his healing. When we invite him to be our commanding officer from now on, he is the perfect leader who has never made a mistake. He also promised to transform our lives by what he called “renewing our minds”. His army is the only army in the world that treats his enemies and his friends the same way – he loves them, forgives them, and transforms them – if they become his volunteers. The only question for us that remains is – do we want to remain part of the old world that is stuck doing the “same old – same old” or do we want to become part of his new world – a world of transformed people? Are you ready to sign-up? You can find one of his recruiting centres here –

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    Thanks for your comment Samuel! Having personally met Kim I can say that she is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Her example of forgiveness was a powerful testimony to the work of God in her life and the importance of reconciliation. I pray that some day you too will be able to experience that forgiveness in your own heart.

  • Samuel Freeman says:

    I am a Viet Nam veteran who served in Tay Ninh Province for a short while during my tour. I do not believe I ever was in Trang Bang, but I saw many children like Kim. Some, like her, had suffered horrible wounds–lost arms, legs, blind, severe burns. It broke my heart to see them. To Kim, I wish to say I am sorry, more sorry than words or tears can express, for what we did to the people of Viet Nam, for what happened to you, and to so many children. It amazes me how Kim and the Viet Namese people can be so forgiving. And I am thankful for that. As for me, I believe there is a God; and I pray not for my forgiveness, but for justice for those responsible for our invading Viet Nam. I saw too many bodies on the ground to forgive.

  • Alfred says:

    Hi to Dan and Shawn,
    God knows where you are, what you need and how to heal wounds!
    Is it not just marvelous how God not only restores a person, but also allows a multitude of others to be blessed through her as well!
    Jesus said in Luke 7:47 “…But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” I think this is a parallel to “whoever has suffered much and survived, will be thankful accordingly”. So, to come through the hurt that Phan Thi Kim Phuc suffered as a child (physically in her body, and emotionally in loss of her family), has made her thankful indeed! Yes, she loves much! I am also thrilled that she is now working for PEACE on earth! That is a thing which would not be possible without the PRINCE OF PEACE guiding and empowering her.
    God has called each one of us to work in some special way, to build His Kingdom. HE may not have anyone but me, chosen to be a friend to or to minister to some lonely hurting individual; so it behooves me to follow the leading of the Spirit! I need to be Spirit led, to bring hope and Peace to some soul, as my God-given assignment.
    Phan Thi Kim Phuc is doing her part; Am I doing mine?
    Blessings to all who read this.

  • Dan Dempsey says:

    I have always known Of this picture of the little girl running down the street. Now here 40 years have passed and I’am blessed to read about how God has brought you through life. You are so very blessed, Thank You Jesus

  • Shawn says:

    I am 47yrs old and I remember this image from when I was younger. I, too, have unbearable scars but they are emotional and mental. I have been at peace with my childhood most of my life but there are times when things come up and I have to settle the issue whether I will be better and not bitter. It is my Lord and Savior who enables me to do this. I have recently been struggling once again and God placed this article in my life on this day in order to speak to me. Thank you.

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