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An Image Everyone Has Seen

A short piece about the iconic photograph taken during the Vietnam War.

It is an image that everyone has seen, but the last thing Americans at home wanted to see. A naked child, her clothes burnt off from the napalm, along with others screaming in the foreground, soldiers following idly behind, uninterested. This was the infamous Vietnam War, funded by the average joe and conceived from the fear of the red menace. The image was the turning point in the war. Its striking subject matter brought awareness to even the most ignorant American. The war had turned sour.

How would the soldiers and officers have felt knowing that they were responsible for the deaths of many innocent civilians? The children in the photo are not menacing or threatening. They don’t carry guns or knives yet they paid a heavy price. Conflict cannot distinguish between right and wrong, a mistake often made by humans as well. Conflict can, however, show the true nature of the people in it, exposing their flaws or highlighting their strengths. The soldiers in the picture don’t seem to care at all for the situation at hand, and especially not for the distraught children. It’s almost as if it were a training drill to them.

There is always a reason for conflict, even if it is not entirely clear, or if it is extremely flawed. Such is the case in this situation. It was simply a defence of the homeland, taken place in another country, because of an irrational fear. This is one of the reasons why the image really took hold. Its emotive imagery and down-to-the-point message drastically opposed what the public was being fed by the American government and became a symbol of the anti-war movements. It successfully contributed to the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War, and may have saved countless lives.

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