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  • Ngasha Beck
    Want to send this story to another AOL member? Click on the heart at the top of this window. Photographer Revisits Vietnam Scene By RICHARD PYLE .c The
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2000
      Want to send this story to another AOL member? Click on the heart at the top
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      Photographer Revisits Vietnam Scene

      .c The Associated Press

      TRANG BANG, Vietnam (AP) - A lot has changed around this fork in the road
      since the day in 1972 when napalm exploded next to the Cao Dai temple and Phan
      Thi Kim Phuc fled, blistered and screaming, into photographic history.

      The highway has been widened, the temple is larger and has a fresh coat of
      yellow paint. Kim Phuc's brother, Phan Thanh Tam - the one with his mouth in a
      crescent of agony in the famed photo that encapsulated the war's horrors - is
      now 41 and has a paunch. He runs an open-air coffee shack on the very spot
      where a South Vietnamese bomb hit on June 8, 1972.

      Tam says he still has nightmares about the incident, in which two children,
      ages 1 and 4, were killed and 20 other people were injured, including Tam and
      his sister.

      But he was all smiles Tuesday when Associated Press photographer Huynh Cong
      ``Nick'' Ut returned to the village of Trang Bang, 25 miles northwest of Ho
      Chi Minh City, for a visit.

      Ut, 21 at the time, was one of several journalists covering a battle at Trang
      Bang when he took the picture of 9-year-old Kim Phuc that won a Pulitzer
      Prize, news photography's highest honor.

      On Tuesday, he walked down the blacktop highway to the spot where he stood,
      cameras ready, on that day 28 years ago.

      Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops had invaded the small district town
      overnight and thrown a roadblock across the highway to Tay Ninh. All morning
      the rice paddies echoed with mortar and small arms fire as South Vietnamese
      soldiers tried to drive them out.

      About noon came the airstrikes.

      ``First an A-37 dropped a bomb behind the temple where some people were
      hiding, and a cloud of black smoke rose up. Then a Skyraider dove in and let
      go a napalm bomb,'' Ut recalled.

      His long lens caught the slender canister tumbling, the huge blast of liquid
      fire across the highway in front of the temple. Two minutes later, people
      materialized out of the smoke, fleeing down the road away from the stricken

      ``The girl was running, with her arms out. She was crying, `Nong qua! Nong
      qua!' (Too hot! Too hot!). She had torn off all her clothes,'' Ut said. ``When
      I saw she was burned, I dropped my camera beside the road. I knew I had a good
      picture. I got her into our van and took her and the family to the Cu Chi

      The picture, and that act of mercy, established a bond between Ut and Kim
      Phuc, who was successfully treated for her burns in West Germany, later
      studied and married in Cuba, and in 1992 defected to the West. She now lives
      in Toronto.

      Ut, still an AP photographer and now based in Los Angeles, often visits her
      and her family in Toronto. Back in Vietnam to cover the 25th anniversary of
      the end of the ``American war'' on April 30, he also made a sojourn back to
      Trang Bang.

      ``I always feel very sad when I come back here - I feel sad for Kim Phuc, her
      family and the other people who got hurt,'' he said.

      Tam's earnings from the small roadside restaurant are so meager that he
      recently had to disconnect his phone, relying on letters to keep in touch with
      his sister in Canada. But he continues to draw a kind of pride from the
      tragedy of 1972.

      ``Many people come here to hear the story,'' Tam said, holding up a
      Spanish-language magazine spread of Ut's pictures, and thumbing into his
      wallet for the business cards of recent journalist-visitors - People magazine,
      the Toronto Star, some Japanese media.

      ``When I think about the war,'' he added, speaking through an interpreter. ``I
      think about Kim Phuc, and about the picture.''

      EDITOR'S NOTE: Richard Pyle covered the Indochina war for five years for The
      Associated Press and was Saigon bureau chief from 1970-73.

      AP-NY-04-26-00 0129EDT

      Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news
      report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed
      without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active
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      My task is to comfort the tormented;
      torment those too comfortable;
      learn what I know, and to teach what I cannot learn.
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