10 Iconic Photographs That Captured the World’s Imagination


'The Terror of War'

children fleeing napalm, Vietnam
Children run along Highway 1 after an accidental napalm attack on Trang Bang, 26 miles southwest of Saigon, by South Vietnamese government aircraft. The photo was taken by Vietnamese-American photographer Nick Ut. Bettmann/Getty Images

On June 8, 1972, the South Vietnamese air force accidentally dropped a load of napalm — explosive jellied gasoline — on a group of people fleeing a village named Trang Bang, which had been occupied by the North Vietnamese. The pilot who dropped the incendiary weapon mistook the group as enemy troops deploying from the village. He was wrong. Very wrong.

Instead, the weapon struck friendly soldiers and civilians. In the chaos, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured a picture of Vietnamese children screaming and running for their lives [source: Time].

In the center of that picture was Phan Thi Kim Phuc, a naked 9-year-old girl, shrieking both from terror and the pain of enduring severe burns to her back. Ut didn't merely stand by. Instead, he jumped into the fray, poured water on her burns and helped Phan Thi to a local hospital, where doctors expected her to die [source: Harris].

Despite the long odds, she survived her injuries (and the rest of the war) and went on to immigrate to Canada with her husband and have two children of her own. She now runs a foundation to help child victims of war [source: Tong]. The picture of her worst moments survived, too, and went on to win the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.