Just after noon on June 8, 1972, a South Vietnamese Skyraider dropped napalm on Trang Bang, a village 25 miles northwest of Saigon. The payload, meant to hit occupying North Vietnamese forces, struck civilians instead, many of whom then rushed down the highway toward 21-year-old Associated Press photographer Nick Ut. His photo of nine-year-old Kim Phuc, naked and screaming as smoke filled the sky, galvanized international opinion against the war. The shot, which almost went unpublished because of the child’s nudity, helped Ut become the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize for photography at the time.
In 1975, Ut escaped Saigon for a camp in San Diego with only a couple of cameras. “I was a refugee,” he says. “At the camp, I always had my camera.” He’s worked for the AP for decades, and now returns annually to Vietnam. This spring, to celebrate Liberation Day and the release of AP’s new book Vietnam: The Real War, Ut visited the former Saigon for the festivities, including a military parade. Ut, who has a historian’s breadth of knowledge and as keen a photographic eye as ever, shared these photos of his trip.