Famous ‘Napalm Girl’ from defining Vietnam War photo visits South Florida for last treatment

June marks 50 years since famous photo was taken

Kim Phuc Phan Thi was in South Florida receiving her final reconstructive laser treatment for the wounds she suffered give decades ago.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – It’s perhaps one of the most recognizable images from the Vietnam War and one that turned public sentiment against America’s involvement.

The 1972 photo that captivated the country was that of a nine-year-old girl running naked after a napalm attack, showing the world the ugly reality of the conflict in Vietnam. That girl was Kim Phuc Phan Thi.

Phuc, now 59, was in South Florida Tuesday receiving her final reconstructive laser treatment for the wounds she suffered five decades ago.

Dermatologist Dr. Jill Waibel provided the treatment pro bono at her southwest Miami-Dade office.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Phuc said. “50 years later, I still needed help.”

Waibel is known for pioneering laser treatments used to help wounded veterans and burn and trauma victims like Phuc.

“The main reason she sought treatment was the pain,” Waibel said. “She was a nine out of 10 (on the pain scale).”

“I’m so excited,” Phuc said before her treatment.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographer Nick Ut is also in the Miami area, marking the 50th anniversary of the photo he took that changed American society’s perception of the war and its true cost. He joined Phuc at Waibel’s office.

“I’ll always remember that picture,” Ut said.

Waibel said it was an honor to treat Phuc.

“One of the first things I learned from patients like Kim is they’re survivors, they’re not victims,” she said. “Kim’s even more special. Her picture, that Nick took, changed the world.”

About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.