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Napalm Girl: Finding Hope After Tragedy (Kim Phuc ep. 192)

Kim Phuc

John O’Leary welcomes Kim Phuc, the girl from one of the most iconic photographs, to the Live Inspired Podcast.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of nine-year-old Kim Phuc running away from her village, naked and severely burned is one of the most iconic images of all time.

Today, we are joined by Kim to hear the story behind the photo. Taken just months before the US pulled out of the Vietnam War, the image captures the catastrophic effect the war was having on civilians.

Kim, also known as “Napalm girl,” shares what she has learned on her journey from tragedy to triumph and what it means for us.

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  • Growing up, the Vietnam War seemed far away from Kim’s carefree + joyful life in the village of Trảng Bàng.
  • June 8, 1972: Kim watched as the planes flew overhead, dropping napalm bombs. Instantly, her clothes burned off + her left arm caught fire. She knew she’d no longer be “normal” and be viewed differently.
  • As they were running from their burning village, a solider gave Kim water to drink + poured water over her skin.
  • Three days after the bombing, her parents found her in the morgue of the hospital.
  • Uncle Ut: Nick Ut is the photographer that captured the iconic photo + took Kim her to a nearby hospital.
  • Kim spent 14 months in the hospital receiving 17 surgical procedures.
  • The compassion and readiness of the doctors and nurses that treated Kim inspired her.
  • While in medical school, the Vietnamese government arranged for journalists around the world to interview her which interrupted her studies leading her to have to drop out.
  • The Girl in the Picture: While in the hospital, Kim was unaware the photograph existed. When she finally saw it, she was embarrassed that someone took her photo, naked and in agony.
    • Later in life, the picture evoked emotion, motivating Kim to help children that are suffering.
    • Finding peace: Kim has now learned to accept the picture + use it to promote peace.
  • At 19 years old, Kim dealt with hatred, bitterness, pain, loss, negativity + hopelessness which was harder than dealing with the physical pain caused by napalm.
  • Seeking purpose: Kim’s physical suffering motivated her to find a purpose in religion.
  • “Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.”
  • “Naplam is very powerful but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn to live with true love, hope + forgiveness.”
  • “And if that little girl in the picture can find love, hope, and forgiveness. Then ask yourself, can you?”

If you enjoyed hearing about Kim Phuc’s story, you’ll love my conversation with Carlotta Walls LaNier. As the youngest member of the “Little Rock Nine”, Carlotta shares about her historic role in school integration + how she’s been an inspirational leader for so many. Listen to Carlotta on ep. 56.

Thank you to our Live Inspired community member + friend Marianne K. for recommending Kim Phuc as a guest for the Live Inspired Podcast. Share your guest recommendations with us at podcast@johnolearyinspires.com.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? The Bible.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? A princess!

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? My Bible.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? My Lord.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Love His love.

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? You love everything, but when you have God’s love you will have everything.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? We cannot change history, but with love, we can heal the future.


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