All that follows is but my opinion based on photographic, video and written evidence that has accumulated over the years.
Below the fold is a 1:31 video that could be described as the “making of the Famous Photo, that of Phan Thị Kim Phúc running down a road after a napalm attack on her village. Please be advised that both the photograph and video are of a naked child. This is uncomfortable for all of us, but it is such a well-known photo that we feel at ease in running it here with a mere warning. If that troubles you, please read no further.
The photo is fake. But what is most interesting is that Kim Phúc is still busy today describing her wounds and suffering. She was a hired actress that day, part of a large production that put together the photo. She and photographer Nick Ut, who in my opinion did not shoot the photo (since it appears to be paste-up), are still on the CIA payroll talking about the non-events of that day.
Anyway, here is the iconic fake photo:
Now watch the video. It is short.
Several things about the video don’t wash:
- Kim Phúc is not in any pain. She is calm, and is being comforted, given water, covered, as if between takes. A girl suffering burns would be agitated, angry, crying, needing comfort, wanting her mother. None of that is apparent.
- The children are not distraught, but rather looking around for instructions.
- Kim Phúc’s “wounds” are obviously latex. Given that, it is easy to see to that the baby being carried at the end of the above clip is also covered with latex. Shown to the left here is an admitted Hollywood special effect simulating charred skin. It looks very much to me like that covering the child and shown to the right.
- Napalm is meant to kill, and kill quickly. The Dow boys formulated it to adhere to skin so that even jumping in water will not save a person. On contact the temperature is 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature would not result in peeling skin, but rather instantaneous death, instant evaporation of body moisture and a charred corpse hardly recognizable.
- The soldier taking the photos of the “napalm” bomb dropping is waiting for it, expecting it, and once it is there goes about photographing it with purpose. It is as if he is on duty, and was assigned the task of catching the bombing event on camera.
- The planes dropping the bombs on that community are not B52s. For reference* at the end of this post is a video of a B52 in action. They are not even close. What we see is more like smaller aircraft widely used during World War II, perhaps surplus from that war. B52s were used to drop napalm in Vietnam. None are apparent.
- Ergo we don’t know what they dropped, perhaps just incendiaries or smoke bombs used in combat to provide cover for advancing troops. Nothing about it necessarily says “napalm” to me.
- We don’t know where it was filmed. Of course we are told it is a place called “Trang Bang, District, and of course such a place exists, but this incident could have been filmed in Thailand, South Korea, even California, places under total US military control at that time, where there would be no danger of interruption of a photo shoot.
- Notice at the very end, in the distance, a crowd is watching the action. I suspect these are spectators and film crew personnel used for setup, special effects, script and everything else that when in to the making of Napalm Girl: The Famous Photo.
I have watched Phan Thị Kim Phúc now in several productions, including a long interview with Jane Pauley on CBS Sunday Morning. Pauley, if she has any journalistic creds at all, is going to want to see the wounds. (Unless she’s an actress too.) Instead, she does what all American journalists on assignment do – follows the script. There is no rigorous questioning, no incredulity about the possibility of survival of a napalm attack. Instead, Kim Phúc is allowed to tell her story without challenge, basic Propaganda 101.
I have seen quite a few photos of the wounds, some shown below:
Lower left looks like a man’s arm. But set that aside – in none of these photos do we see her face. That’s a basic studio trick, power of suggestion, to assume that since we are talking with Kim Phúc, photos shown will be of Kim Phúc. I am not convinced.
Here is a screen grab of Kim Phúc from the video Vietnam War’s ‘Napalm Girl Receives Laser Treatment 40 Years Later.
The arm, the same one supposedly shown in the photos above, looks quite normal to me.
Here is Kim Phúc in the opening video above, the “making of” video:
Notice how the outer layer of prosthetic skin is peeling off, revealing not a bloody second skin layer as we see when we scrape ourselves, but normal skin underneath.
This leaves me to deal with one troubling photo, where Kim Phúc’s face and back are both shown at once:
I took this photo to Photoshop to monkey with contrast, as the line across the neck appears to me to be an effect to hide pasting of her head atop another body. I applied the same effects to the entire photo, and not just parts of it. Here is what I got:
I raised the contrast on this photo, and look what happened – her back lit up, but not her head. Each is subject to different lighting. I can think of no reason for such odd lighting that highlights her back and excludes her head other than … the back and the head are a blending of two separate photographs. In fact, what we see is the line where they pasted her head on someone else’s body.
If is my studied opinion that Phan Thi Kim Phúc is an actress on long-term assignment. The Famous Photo was seen to have above-average propaganda value, and so became a lifetime assignment for her. She was not burned that day, and is not scarred now.
So let’s go back and examine the original Famous Photo:
We have five children and seven soldiers. We can see from the ‘making of’ video above, that a large crew was on duty, so we most likely have several shots of the kids running down the highway, or numerous ‘takes.’Notice how even though one child in the photo is in obvious and horrible pain and agony, no soldier is even looking her way. It may be that soldiers become war-weary and lose empathy, but all seven? It seems unlikely. It is possible that this photo was shot with the soldiers in it, the children added later in the Langley dark room. That is my guess.
We can see soldiers wandering around in one of the shots:
They are, however, heading towards the supposed napalm incident, and not away as shown in the Famous Photo. The kids are headed away. These are, I gather, the soldiers seen in the photo, but I cannot be certain. They are too far away from the kids to have been used in the photo, but no other soldiers are apparent in the video except those holding cameras.
It is wet and overcast that day, so that while we occasionally catch a reflection on water, as seen above, there are no shadows cast. None of the soldiers or kids in the Famous Photo cast a shadow or reflection. It is the perfect setting for their task that day – to get good photos of the participants for later pasting onto the backdrop photo taken by the soldier at .37 in the video. Shadows can make photo fakery a very difficult task.
The entire Famous Photo is, in my opinion, a paste-up, a complete fake.
Why? While doing this photo fakery, they were also faking Hanoi Jane’s visit to North Vietnam. It appears they wanted to enrage the home population, both for AND against the conflict. It appears they wanted us agitated, at each others’ throat. That is an apt way to describe this photo: Agitation propaganda.
Regular propaganda is patient, and is applied steadily over years, decades, generations. Agitprop wants immediate results. It appears the Langley wanted a stirred up population at home, and they wanted it now.
One final note: President Nixon commented to H.R.Haldeman, “I’m wondering if that was fixed” after seeing the photograph.
*Video of a real B52 in action: