The late Paul Harvey had a feature on the radio called “The Rest of the Story” in which he would tell familiar stories of well-known people and events or commonplace tales of ordinary people–and then tell “the rest of the story”, the part that not many people know or the part that gives the true story an ironic twist. I’ve been reading a lot of unusual stories with unexpected endings myself lately, and I decided to share a few of them with you here at Semicolon.
On June 8, 1972 nine year old Kim Phuc was with her family in her village of Trang Bang near the Cambodian border in South Vietnam when a South Vietnamese pilot mistakenly dropped napalm near the outskirts of the village. Photographer Nick Ut took a picture of the resulting scene, and the photo won the Pulitzer Prize and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year in 1972. It is not a exaggeration to say that this photo of children attacked by America’s own allies in an already unpopular war helped influence American opinion against the war in Vietnam to such an extent that the Americans left Vietnam less than a year after the photo was taken.
Mr. Ut took little Kim Phuc to a hospital where she received extensive treatment for her burns, and she survived and grew to adulthood in what became the Communist state of Vietnam. She was recruited by the Vietnamese government as a propaganda tool, the “napalm girl” who survived American and South Vietnamese wartime savagery. But it is the book that she discovered when she was a second year medical student in Saigon and what she did as a result of that discovery that make the rest of the story of Kim Phuc so intriguing and inspiring.
The Girl in the Picture by Denise Chong.