Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Napalm Attack

with 46 comments

I have already covered this event before, and Nick Ut’s photo I posted back then was the definitive photo of the event. However, I just recently came across other photos in the series and became instantly intrigued. Although they were not seen in the most famous photo, there are other photographers in the background trying to take the picture (one of them was David Burnett, who missed the famous scene because he was changing his film).

The photographers were of course to cover the Battle of Trang Bang. The first photo, in all its hazy demonic fire, showed the moment when napalm bombs were fired. The second photo was the shot. The third photo was taken moments after, as you can see by the distance from the billboards on the right. The crying girl had stopped crying; two children running together had sort of split up and veered to the left while the little kid at the back was now wayback, having either stopped running or turned back. The runners either overtook the photographers, or the photgraphers arrived from the righthand side, where there is a big commotion.

In the last photo, there was ITN reporter Christopher Wain who captured the scene on video.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 17, 2010 at 8:20 am

Posted in Contact Sheets, Politics, Society, War

Tagged with ,

46 Responses

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  1. No, the sequence is reversed.
    The 1st picture is taken before the “iconic” one: the boy in the foreground and a naked girl are farther away from photographer. Another girl, one wearing long dark pants, in the 1st picture stands extending her hand to her little brother behind, obviously yelling to him to hurry up – and in the 2nd “iconic” picture he complied, and she’s holding his hand. The fifth child, a small boy in white shirt is way behind the group in the 1st picture – he’s standing next to a soldier in the background, in direct line of vision extending to the boy with outstretched hands and appears to be looking at the soldier, not at the photographer.
    The group of adults contains 2 photographers and one film operator – the guy in white. I don’t think the camera looks like a photo camera – it’s a film one. And don’t forget 4th member of the media – the photographer who took the picture.

    The story of Mr. Ut snapping the picture and then giving the girl water seems false, too. If he was alone on the road, and the girl was running towards him – the story would be plausible. But there are at least 10 other adults on the road! And running girl and the rest of the children passed them – why not one of them gave her the requisite water?
    Also, there is a suspisioulsy empty road behind both groups -the children and the soldiers+journos: what, nobody else from the village run from the bombs? They ALL perished? This is highly unlikely – I’ve seen a lot of WWII photos documenting similar event (people running under bombardment from planes) – and it’s always a mixed bunch of ages, genders, and state of their “undress”; where are adult villagers? Where are teenagers, old grannies and gramps? What – all selectively killed by the bombs to leave 5 children under the age of 10, one naked?

    Btw, you are incorrect when you say Nixon accused the photographer of staging the photo. By your own link to CNN, the article says ” Nixon privately wondered whether a famous photograph of a Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack had been staged”. Maybe he should have ordered formal investigation.
    The “iconic” photo appears to be an “iconic” piece of propaganda.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 12:01 pm

  2. Wow, I try to get away from my own prejudices when I look at something different that may contradict them. Apparently, not all of us do.

    Etat do you not believe the town was napalmed? Do you not believe the chidren were terified? Do you not believe the little girl was badly burned?

    What do you think is fake about that photo?

    lawguy

    June 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm

  3. Before I answer, *lawguy, I would like to know – did you find flaws in my reasoning? Which of the pictures you think was taken first and why (list your observations, please, as I did). What do you think about the absence of adult villagers? What do you think about presence of 4 media members , none of whom was revealed in the “iconic” photo? Do you find the story about Mr.Ut giving water to a girl plausible?

    When examining pictures that purport to ignite public outrage out of propaganda motives it is useful to examine then first.
    This is not a question of “beliefs”. Or maybe it is with you (I rather think it IS a case with you), but I prefer to exercise critical thinking.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm

  4. Use the large white sign in the background as the reference point, and you will clearly see that the first photo in the sequence is the one in which the girl is crying, and the second photo in sequence is the one in which the girl is not crying.

    Peter

    June 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm

  5. ETat, would you please state your point in a concise manner? I’ve read your posts, and you’re clearly suggesting that the photo was staged–is there some larger point you’re asserting, or do you just have a personal grudge against Nick Ut?

    MadMolecule

    June 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

  6. That’s what I thought at first, too, Peter. Than I paid attention and saw two white road signs in the second photo, and only one – in the 1st. One in the background of the 2nd photo is the one in the 1st photo.

    Look also at the shrubbery, on both sides of the road. The second photo shows the same formations as in first but in the foreground.

    The more I look at them, the more fishy they seem to me. Notice one of the soldiers in the first picture is carrying something bulky, like a pouch, on his shoulder? Would he bother if he was running for his life, as soldiers appear to be in the 2nd photo?

    Oh, another interesting detail: in the 2nd picture look at the soldier passing the photographer on the far right (the guy in white shirt and dark vest): the soldier walks in the opposite direction, to the supposed explosion!

    And another detail: in the second picture look at the soldier on the right margin: he appears to be winding up his camera. And that’s a South-Vietnamese soldier who had just witnessed an attack on South-Vietnamese village! He makes no attempt to help the crying children.

    Overall, look at the quality of these two pictures. The 1st one is in focus, sharp on contrast, you can see everything clearly – and note that adults in the picture are not running; they either walk or stand still. While in the second there is appears to be general confusion: all people present are running, focus is soft and the picture is washed-out, as is taken on the run and is incidental.

    Can you say “Dan Rather School of Document Fraud”?

    Unfortunately, there were no bloggers in June 1972, to fisk the story.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm

  7. Etat, the tuft of shrubbery on the left side of the road is about the same proportion away from the camera in both the first photo and second photo. The reason why you can not see the second sign in the second photo is further confirmation as to the distance between the camera and the signs.

    Peter

    June 17, 2010 at 3:20 pm

  8. Etat: Ergo… what? Vietnam didn’t happen? Villages weren’t firebombed? Napalm doesn’t burn?

    MadMolecule

    June 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

  9. Mad Molecule,
    you are not interested in examining the pictures before making a conclusion were they staged or not?
    I made my observations – do you agree with them?

    Or you like to receive ready-made conclusions “in concise manner”?

    To your last question: I never heard of Mr. Ut before this post.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm

  10. I just saw your second comment, MM.

    You seem to be in a hurry. Don’t let me retain you from your Very Important Business.

    And maybe, on your way, if you have time, look at the link to CNN article our host so helpfully provided: it contains information that the bombing was accidental, it was a mistake made by South Vietnamese military on South Vietnamese village.
    Now, that may be a fact, or may be not – it looks like nobody checked the facts or assertions.
    To me the photos appear to be “fixed”, as Nixon’s aid told him. I’m not saying “staged”, but “fixed” in some way.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm

  11. ETat: I’m not disagreeing with you. Frankly, I have no opinion on whether the photo was staged or not, and moreover I don’t particularly care.

    You’ve been asked three times what your point is, and you’ve refused to answer, though people have answered your questions. I’ll ask once more, and if you refuse again I’ll assume you’re just a troll.

    What is your point?

    MadMolecule

    June 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm

  12. Peter,
    -no, the proportion of shrubbery is not the same. That I’m sure of – I’m used to drawing architectural perspective; I have an eye for these things – and they can be measured quite accurately, with a scale and a ruler.
    -but you CAN see the second sigh in the 2nd photo! That was point. It’s a proof that 2nd photo is taken later, after the company on the picture have moved further alone the road.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    • okay, seriously – why dont you get the fuck off the computer and get a job? Do you have any purpose in life other than sitting on your ass all day nitpicking horrible photos to death on the net and arguing over everything? NO ONE CARES what you have to say. Step back and look at the people responding to you – they all seem to agree that your presence on this blog is not wanted. GET A JOB LOSER!!!

      ripley

      July 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm

  13. MM: “people”?
    I didn’t ask questions, and no people ‘answered” them.

    You seem to think I’m obligated to answer your demands (“you have been asked three times”). You can ask me even more times, dear – but if your reading comprehension skills are so low you can process my answers, what difference will it make if I continue expand on them?

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm

  14. Also, MM, for someone who “don’t particularly care” you sound too irate and demanding.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

  15. Of course you’re not “obligated” to answer.

    But you seem to be trying to make a point without actually coming out and saying it, and I have no patience for passive-aggressive insinuations. Say what you mean, or don’t say anything.

    Adios, troll.

    MadMolecule

    June 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

  16. [...] 17, 2010 by ETat …and the dubious story behind [...]

  17. MM, I happen to think if there is a troll it’s you.
    Off you go.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 4:13 pm

  18. Vietnam napalm strike: the myth of Kim Phuc

    “Again this Veterans Day, at least one network aired a documentary on the story. It is a heart-wrenching photo, and is published with a heart-wrenching story, but if a picture speaks a thousand words, most of the words associated with this photo are misleading. What is not true, is the story itself. It is a misrepresentation that has become a myth, that is repeated each Veterans Day.”

    http://www.warbirdforum.com/vphoto.htm

    vanderleun

    June 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm

  19. ” I don’t think the camera looks like a photo camera – it’s a film one. ”

    That is correct. There is film footage of this incident.

    vanderleun

    June 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  20. The footage, including the giving of the water, is here:

    vanderleun

    June 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm

  21. Cant say for sure if it was a staged photo or not, photo’s only tell one moment in time and can often lie about context without knowing what exactly was going on. The new photo can help us determine the context, but we will never know for sure if the original photo was staged or not.

    I do find this fascinating!

    Chris

    June 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm

  22. Thank you, vanderleun. That clears it up.
    I can always count on you for making sense of “progressive” messes, lies and obfuscations!

    T

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 4:43 pm

  23. Look at the video, Chris. Nothing, NOTHING, “staged” about it.

    For a long analysis and reaction to this photo, a very thoughtful one, see:

    A mind is a difficult thing to change: (Part 7B: the Vietnam photos revisited)

    http://neoneocon.com/2008/01/16/a-mind-is-a-difficult-thing-to-change-part-7b-the-vietnam-photos-revisited/

    vanderleun

    June 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

  24. Just for emphasis and so the point is not missed, the statement, “we will never know for sure if the original photo was staged or not.” is quite simply wrong.

    vanderleun

    June 17, 2010 at 4:48 pm

  25. I remember these series of posts Neo wrote, but not this picture – only the 1st one in her post (the one you linked to), where a guy is getting shot.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm

  26. …oh, and about the photo itself: after looking at the two side by side I tend to think the one that became “iconic” was, in fact, fixed – to make it more dramatic, exclude references to media crew that was present there, and to convey an impression that it was taken “on the run”, out of focus, and that Vietnamese children are paid no attention to by soldiers – or even that they are being chased by the soldiers. While in reality the bombing was a mistake and children are given help by those soldiers on the road.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm

  27. A couple of thoughts, I remember that time clearly and I remember being surprised to find out it was the Vietnamese who were bombing and not us, but that was information put out almost immediately and to be honest I didn’t believe it at first.

    I also remember the video, which I saw on the nightly news at some point, so what was done to and for the kids was out there, in pretty close to real time.

    The town was bombed the kid was burned, I do not think that most people thought that the kid was burned on purpose. So I’m not sure what Etat’s point was (is?). From the video it is pretty clear that the still photo is accurate, or at least it seems so to me. So what am I missing here?

    If Etat is claiming that the United States is not responsible because the Vietnamese AF did the bombing and that the soldiers felt bad, ok. I understand that point of view, although I do not agree with it, but then let’s get it out in the open shall we.

    lawguy

    June 17, 2010 at 7:06 pm

  28. I have relayed my thoughts plenty – but *lawguy still haven’t answered my questions.

    United States is not responsible because the Vietnamese AF did the bombing and that the soldiers felt bad, ok. I understand that point of view, although I do not agree with it
    Tell us, why don’t you? Do you have preconceived notions of who might be responsible while pay no heed to witness’ testimony? What kind of law you practice? Do you hate of US Government no matter what it does and hold it responsible for actions of others? Are you a communist?

    Have you clicked on the link provided by vanderleun?

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 7:41 pm

  29. Common, *lawguy -let’s get it out in the open, shall we?

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm

  30. Look sonny boy I was over there from 1967 to 1968 so fuck off.

    We are responsible because we prevented free and open elections after Dien Bien Phu and chose to fight a 9 year war instead of allowing a real vote by those in the south. So yes we are responsible for all the death and destruction that happened over there from then at the very least. There would have been no war but for us and yes I did my little bit and I am forever ashamed of it.

    No I am not a communist, I would never be that conservative.

    lawguy

    June 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

  31. War is not a pretty thing.

    There is a point of light in all this though, that being the fact that the girl in the photo is alive and well and living in Canada.

    Her name is Kim Phuc (Phan Thi Kim Phuc). Do a search on her name and her story is all over the place. She is also an amazing person with real memory of the event and a very strong history of living her life caring for the children of wars. I could find no evidence of her laying blame on anyone for what happened.

    http://www.kimfoundation.com/

    The site for her foundation.

    Eric

    June 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm

  32. Eric,
    and there is a reason why she haven’t. If you go to the link provided by vanderleun, you’ll see why.

    This “feel good” message of peace and forgiveness plays well to the American willingness to forgive and forget, and it justifies and soothes the collective conscience of those who were against American involvement in that war. It appears to be a politically sound strategy, which has resulted in Ms. Kim Phuc being appointed an ambassador of goodwill for UNESCO, and the formation of a foundation to solicit money on her behalf. One might do well to ask for the rest of the story, before sending a check of gratitude for her forgiveness. Ms. Kim’s statements may be lovely, but must be viewed with the realization that while she is free to insinuate anything she pleases about the countries which give her refuge and support, she cannot freely criticize the Communist government of her former homeland. Although a political refugee in Canada, her relatives still live in Viet Nam.

    Because of that, Ms. Kim and the Kim Foundation cannot place blame for the misplaced bombs on the Communists, who assaulted the village, and used civilians for cover. Nor would the Communists donate money, for they care little about this kind of forgiveness. It is imprudent to offer to forgive the government of South Viet Nam, whose air force conducted the strike, because that government no longer exists, and cannot contribute anything for the forgiveness. Only the people of the Western Democracies, and the US most of all, are in a position to feel enough gratitude for this unselfish “forgiveness”, because of public perceptions of the myth surrounding this story, to respond with their donations and support. According to the producers of one documentary, the donations flow in each time the story is aired.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 8:44 pm

  33. *lawguy,

    You are the one who fucked up, not the Army and not the American Government, and not America.
    I’m telling you this as someone who grew up in USSR and know all about Soviet backing of that war, of all the propaganda smokescreen that covered SU’ military involvment.

    It was not South vs. North Vietnam, it was USA against communist expansion into Asia. And US won that war militarily; if not for you, useful idiots (or worse), Vietnamese would had peace in 1972, ended the Civil War, reunited the country and now would be another South Korea – they have all the ingenuity, intelligence and perseverance.

    Because of you, people like Kerry and Fonda millions were dead, in Cambodia and Laos. Because of irresponsible cowardly people like you North Korea is what it is now.

    You knew the evidence come out in 1972 that the bombings were done by mistake by South Vietnamese, but your hated your own side so much, you rather overlook these facts, “don’t believe it” and continue blame your own country, supporting the myth.

    Shame on you.

    ETat

    June 17, 2010 at 8:59 pm

  34. This ETat character knows… damn near everything! What’s more, they are never wrong. Perhaps not a troll, but banal nonetheless.

    JustJoe

    June 18, 2010 at 9:46 am

  35. justjoe character: do you want to add something of substance or you just like spitting around?

    ETat

    June 18, 2010 at 12:17 pm

  36. Photographing the event were Associated Press photographer Nick Út (Also known as Huynh Cong Út), ITN news crew including Christopher Wain and cameraman great Alan Downes. Also there was NBC cameraman Le Phuc Dinh who filmed Kim running towards the reporters.

    ed

    June 25, 2010 at 6:49 am

  37. Etat: I have a Ph.d in International Studies and worked for the government in various capacities through the years. After reading post after post after post of yours, I can safely conclude that you are extremely ignorant, biased and insipid. You like to think you know what you are talking about, but you are simply a cyber bully. Tis a pity the only gratification you seem to get out of life is exposing your intellectual shortcomings for all the world to see. Do all of us a favor and shut the fuck up with your banal and insipid rantings.

    ripley

    July 24, 2010 at 1:31 am

    • dear International Studies, calling someone ignorant, biased and insipid doesn’t make them so. you should put forward some sort of argument. didn’t they teach you that in Academia?

      what is banal and insipid about what he said? enlighten us, doctor!

      hello

      July 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm

  38. [...] But then, surprisingly, someone else responded: [...]

  39. I’m calling shenanigans on “hello.” This commenter sounds very much like an Etat sockpuppet.

    Doc Washboard

    July 24, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    • a lot of people sound the same to me but i don’t call them by the names of different articles of clothing.

      hello

      July 25, 2010 at 10:47 am

  40. There must be quite a few people like myself who cannot stand it here for a very long time, because those pictures are terrible.

    Forgetting is bad but necessary at least intermittently.

    cantueso

    August 17, 2010 at 8:00 am

  41. Etat, you suck the prize donkey cock. How you can point your crusty cyber-finger at anyone else and shout “Propaganda, Propaganda!!!” like some 3rd grade sore loser-tattle tale-momma’s boy after you claim to have “grown up in USSR” is just extremely laughable. Do you not think maybe, just maybe you might have marinated in some propaganda yourself for a little too long??? And how you can go on and on about the minutia of a photo and who was where when and which road sign came first when there are children and babies with fucking flesh burned and falling off of their bodies like so much overcooked poultry on a spit is just disgusting and absolutely filthy. May you die a slow and agonizingly painful death you brainless swine. And Nixon was an admitted liar, thief and represent just about everything that is wrong and awful about the good ol’ U.S. of A. (united states of assholes)

    phuchead

    August 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

  42. […] See on iconicphotos.wordpress.com […]


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