Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What do you say to a naked lady?

In 1970, the late Allen Funt produced a film called What do you say to a naked lady? When it was first released, the Motion Picture Association of America rated the movie “X”, due to the fact that it dealt with people’s reactions to nudity in unusual situations.

The actress in the movie was far from the most famous naked lady of the last 40 years, but that statement is also true for the late Linda Lovelace, star of a movie called “Deep Throat”.

THE most famous naked lady of the last 40 years was actually a 9 year old Vietnamese girl named Phan Thi Kim Phuc, who is more commonly known by the abbreviated name of Kim Phuc. Since the family name is actually Phan, and her given name is really Phuc, I’ll simply call her “Kim” to keep the story more,um,family friendly.

On June 8, 1972, the South Vietnamese Air Force, under the direction of the United States Air Force, dropped napalm on Kim’s village of Trang Bang, which was under attack from, and occupied by, North Vietnamese forces. Several villagers, and two of Kim’s cousins, were killed by the attack.

Associate Press photographer Nick Ut captured a shot of Kim running down the road totally naked, and crying in anguish. Immediately afterward, he took Kim and the other children to a hospital in Saigon. Although Kim survived the attack, she suffered extensive burns on her back, and was not expected to live. After a 14 month hospital stay, and 17 surgical operations, she returned home.

Mr. Ut ultimately was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the picture, and it was also the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972. Although support for the war in Vietnam had been diminishing for a number of years, the publication of the picture of Kim running down the road in obvious pain helped to bring an end to one of America’s most divisive wars less than three years later.

U.S involvement in wars in Vietnam actually goes back to 1950, when the conflict was called the French-Indochina War. The first Americans to die in the country (2 Air Force pilots) died in 1954, but the earliest date shown on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is July 8, 1959

Through the Eisenhower and Kennedy terms of office, the number of military advisers gradually increased, but the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 (which later turned out to be fraudulent) provided the excuse for the “troop surges” during the Johnson administration, which were called“troop escalations” in 1965.

Inevitably, the war became a film, and the first one released about the war was Apocalypse Now, which came out in 1979.

The most famous scene in the film was the one in which Robert Duvall (Corporal Kilgore) is giving a speech to his men, which you can watch on the clip below:

it smells like victory

A more graphic illustration of what napalm is capable of can be found in the middle portion of the original movie trailer (roughly 1:58 to 2:00 minutes)

Apocalypse Now trailer

Napalm, which is essentially jellied gasoline, was first used in June of 1944.

When ignited, it burns at approximately 2200 degrees Fahrenheit.

To paraphrase Colonel Kurtz a little, imagine being a small girl on the ground watching flaming liquid falling on your home, and then feeling it landing on your body.

“The horror” can’t possibly even come close to what she must have felt.

Kim eventually recovered from her injuries, and was given permission by the government to move to Cuba in 1986 in order to continue with her education,

While in Cuba, she met a young Vietnamese man named Bui Huy Toan. They soon fell in love, and were married in 1992.

When they were on their honeymoon, their plane stopped in Canada for refueling. Kim and her new husband decided to get off the plane and ask for political asylum, which was granted to them.

In 1996, she gave a speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and she met Reverend John Plummer, the man responsible for coordinating the attack on her village with the South Vietnamese Air Force.

She publicly forgave him, and that act of forgiveness was captured on film by Canadian Shelley Saywell.

In spite of the fact that former classmates, neighbors, and relatives have their names etched in to the polished black granite, and my name is on Panel 56W – line 17, the Memorial is a place of healing, and of forgiveness.

Since we are a democracy, we are all responsible, to a degree, for the actions of our government.

For that reason, if I ever have occasion to the meet the most famous naked lady of the last 40 years, this is what I would say to her:

“I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.”


  1. Since Harry Truman has recently regained popularity, I wonder what it was he said to Ho Chi Min that turned him against the U.S.

    Also note the map of Southeast Asia in this week's Economist

    See how close the Chinese Island of Hainan is to Vietnam, and how much territorial water China claims now. Getting back to the original reason for the war, to keep safe the shipping lanes (i.e., U.S. economic interests in natural resources).

  2. Dave:

    It's hard to know what Harry said to Ho (although it's possible that he may actually have said "Hi, Ho"), but he certainly wasn't a man to mince words.

    I did a quick check on Wikipedia, and was surprised to see that the spy plane incident occurred on Denise's birthday in 2001. I also had forgotten about the letter of two sorries.

    At one point in history, China considered Korea to be part of its territory, which explains why they had such a strong interest in the Korean War.

    When the U.S. first got involved in Vietnam in 1959, the McCarthy era was just starting, and there was a genuine fear of both Red China and Russia> We'll probably never know the real reason for the massive escalation in troops that started in 1965, but the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution provided the legal justification for the escalation.