Nfld. & Labrador

Woman from famed Vietnam photo has emotional meeting in Newfoundland

The woman who was captured in a photograph that came to define the Vietnam War had an emotional reunion in Newfoundland with the immigration officer who let her into Canada.

The woman who was captured in a photograph that came to define the Vietnam War had an emotional reunion in Newfoundland with the immigration officer who let her into Canada.

Kim Phuc embraces Murray Osmond, the immigration officer who processed her claim for political asylum in 1992. (CBC)

Kim Phuc was just nine-years-old when she was photographed running naked and screaming on a road near Saigon in 1972, her skin burning from the napalm bombs dropped on her village.

The picture is credited for shaping the public's perception of the war worldwide.

Twenty years after the photograph was taken, Phuc sought political asylum in Canada, defecting to the country as she and her husband flew home from their honeymoon in Moscow.

Their airplane stopped to refuel in Gander, N.L. and Phuc and her husband asked to stay behind.

Phuc had been living and studying in Cuba at the time, relocating there after being pulled from her school in Vietnam to appear in what are widely described as government propaganda films.

On Wednesday, Phuc, who now lives in Toronto, flew back to Gander for the first time and met once more with Murray Osmond, the immigration officer who first handled her case in 1992.

He greeted her Wednesday as she emerged from her airplane.

Phuc said she remembers him well and was so thankful to have the opportunity to live in Canada.

"I'll just never forget it," she said.

Osmond said he in turn will never forget helping a woman who came to signify so much during the war.

"This will be a highlight of my career for sure," he said. "It's just a nice feeling to know that you were part of a process that was able to help."

Tells her story to audience in Gander

After the reunion with Osmond, Phuc, who now runs a foundation in support of children around the world, delivered a speech to an audience at a hotel in Gander, describing the moment Associated Press photographer Nick Ut snapped the famous picture, which eventually won him a Pulitzer Prize.

"He won a Pulitzer Prize and he had already won my heart," Phuc told the audience. "When he put down his camera, he rushed me to the nearest hospital. Uncle Ut saved my life."

Phuc spent 14 months in a Saigon hospital recovering from third-degree burns covering half her body.

Over the next 10 years, Phuc said the communist government subjected her to endless media interviews, supervised her daily, and forced her to quit school to appear in propaganda films.

She moved to Cuba to attend school in 1986.