AP’s legendary ‘Napalm Girl’ photographer Nick Ut to retire

Published 10:23 am Monday, March 13, 2017

LOS ANGELES — It would seem all but impossible to sum up one of the most distinguished careers in photojournalism in only four words, but that’s just what Nick Ut does when he says, “From hell to Hollywood.”

And the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, who is retiring this month after 51 years with The Associated Press, has the pictures to prove it, the most famous being a stunning black-and-white image from the Vietnam War that’s come to be known simply as “Napalm Girl.”

It’s the photo of a terrified child running naked down a country road, her body literally burning from the napalm bombs dropped on her village just moments before Ut captured the iconic image.

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“That photograph illustrated dramatically what had become a regular occurrence in Vietnam over the years — napalm on distant villages, civilians killed and scared by the war, pictures we’d rarely had in the past,” said Peter Arnett, a distinguished network news war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner himself. “This picture revealed the kind of details that were an integral part of what the war had been about, which made it so significant and important to be published.”

Ut was only 21 when he took that photo on June 8, 1972, then set his camera aside to rush 9-year-old Kim Phuc to a hospital, where doctors saved her life. He would go on to take tens of thousands more over the next 44 years, including images of practically every A-list celebrity who walked a Hollywood red carpet or entered a courtroom on the wrong side of the law.