JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 264
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has been classified: "Famous photo of Vietnamese child, burned by
napalm." "AP photo of a young girl, running naked from fire became
famous."4 Kim tends to be characterized as a child, the incarnation of
innocence, and as such stands for the injustices of war. The photograph
almost immediately moves into a circuit ofreproduction-the circulation
of the image-that becomes independent of its subject. A comment about
the photograph by the writer Studs Terkel in a magazine surveying the
"photos of the century" in 1999 makes the translation explicitly: "This is
the metaphor for one of the crowning obscenities of our century. The kid
in that plane that dropped the bomb probably didn't see this little girl, did
not know it hit her or destroyed the world in which she lived. This is what
terrorism is all about. The impersonal aspect of it" (80).5 (Terkel here
makes the connection to terrorism specifically through the girl before
September 11; he will also do so after September 11 as well: "Unless we
learn what it is to be that bombed child-whether it be in Vietnam or
Iraq-we learn nothing.")
The potential for turning the image of Kim into a story about the
horrors of war was exploited early on. The original television reporting
took place on June 8, 1972 on the nightly news. On CBS, commentator
Roger Mudd showed the filmed footage of Kim running down the road
along with other children and relatives, accompanied by South Vietnam-
ese soldiers. The dropping of napalm bombs is presented as accidental,
and Mudd comments that "many were burned horribly." He stumbles
over the word "visibility," as he observes that "visibility was poor, the
weather bad" by way of explaining how the bombers could have missed
their target.6 The South Vietnamese army was trying to drive the Commu-
nists out of villages along the road where they were thought to be hiding
out. The story was reported routinely as part of continued coverage of the
war, the first televised war in history.7 Kim is not singled out in this initial
broadcast: "Some stripped bare," Mudd says (when only Kim was naked),
"only to find the napalm still burning on their backs." In the lower right
hand corner ofthe screen is the daily report on American war casualties-
eleven, that day.
Two months later, again on the nightly news, Dan Rather picks up the
trail of Kim Phuc through the photograph. He recalls the accident and its
injuries, evoking the photograph (though not identifying the photogra-
pher, whose prize will come the following year). "An AP photographer,
who saw the mishap, took this now famous but still tragic picture of a
young girl horribly burned, running naked." In Rather's update, a white
circle is drawn around Kim, selecting, literally targeting, the girl from
Here’s what’s next.
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/10/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .