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Forty years later, photographer reflects on missing the ‘napalm girl’ image

David Burnett — who was loading his camera when fellow photographer Nick Ut captured the famous “napalm girl” image in Vietnam in 1972 — reflects on missing that moment.
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David Burnett, then a 25-year-old photojournalist, captured this image of the aftermath of the napalm attack at Trang Bang in Vietnam in summer 1972. “It was real life, unfolding at the pace of life,” he writes. David Burnett / Contact Press Images

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Children run in the aftermath of the attack in this image by Burnett. David Burnett / Contact Press Images

A woman holds a child in this image by Burnett. “After Trang Bang, my sense of being ’photographer ready’ was more acute; the instinct has served me well in dozens of stories since,” Burnett writes. David Burnett / Contact Press Images

In an article for the Washington Post photojournalist David Burnett, who was with Napal Girl photographer Nick Ut when he took the photo, describes how he missed the opportunity because he was busy loading more film:

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An American F-105 warplane is shot down and the pilot ejects and opens his parachute in this photo taken by North Vietnamese photograper Mai Nam on September 1966 near Vinh Phuc, north of Hanoi. This photo is one of the most recognized images taken by a North Vietnamese photographer during the war. The pilot of the aircraft was taken hostage and held in a Hanoi prison from 1966 to 1973.

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Nov 4, 1965. Chaplain John McNamara administers the last rites to photographer Dickey Chapelle in South Vietnam. She became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam and the first American female reporter to be killed in action. She was given a full marine burial. Photo by Henri Huet who was later also killed in action in Vietnam.

A photographer on Maxwell Street, 1970. Photograph by James Newberry~♛

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