Woman in iconic Vietnam war photo preaches peace in Minneapolis

Kim Phuc Phan Thi is a wife, mother, Canadian citizen and UN Ambassador For Peace these days. But 45 years ago, she was the Napalm Girl, whose haunting image helped change the course of the Vietnam War.

Phan Thi knows first-hand about the horrors of war. But now she is turning her pain and suffering into a path to peace.

"I don't believe in war. I work for peace and joys and the people who need them," Phan Thi said during a recent visit to Minneapolis.

Phan Thi was just 9 years old when Associated Press photographer Nick UT took the photo during a napalm attack on her village in Vietnam in 1972.

She and her brother and cousins had been hiding in a temple when a bomb forced them and other villagers to run down a nearby road.

"I heard 'pop, pop, pop,' then I saw the fire everywhere. Then I saw the fire all over my left arm, and I used my right hand and I just wiped it off. All my clothes burned off by the fire," Phan Thi said.

Phan Thi was burned on over 65 percent of her body and stayed in the hospital for 14 months, enduring 17 surgeries.

Meanwhile, the photo of the Napalm Girl became one of the most iconic images of the Vietnam War and helped turn the tide of public opinion against the conflict, but the picture almost didn't see the light of day.

"The AP in New York, they said the picture showed a lot of nudity, but when the editor from the AP - from the office in Vietnam - said it’s not about that, it’s about the real story caught in the atrocity of the Vietnam war," Phan Thi said.

At first, Phan Thi admits she wasn't a fan of all the attention the Pulitzer Prize winning picture received.

But after having children of her own, Phan Thi said it led her to her life's mission, promoting peace, faith and, most of all, forgiveness to a world in desperate need of more.

"If the little girl in the picture - the Napalm Girl - can do it, everyone can do it too," Phan Thi said.

Phan Thi came to Minneapolis to share her story with students and the public at the Blake School today.

She also recently released a memoir titled "Fire Road" about her incredible life and started her own foundation to help other child victims of war.