Pastor Admits Lying About Vietnam Bombing

WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) -- One of the most famous photos from the Vietnam war shows a 9-year-old girl running down a road, screaming in pain as napalm burns away her clothing. This year that girl, Kim Phuc, was speaking at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when she met Pastor John Plummer, who said he was the man who ordered the attack. In an emotional meeting after her speech, she forgave him.

It was a great story -- but it wasn't true. In a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun, Plummer acknowledged that he lied.

Plummer, the 50-year-old pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in Purcellville, Virginia, originally told Phuc that he was the pilot who dropped the bomb, and in June he told Ted Koppel of "Nightline" that he had "ordered" the raid on the village of Trang Bang. In an October story for Guideposts, Plummer referred to "the attack I had called," and in a cable television documentary he said, "Every time I saw that picture I said, 'I did that. I'm responsible."

In fact, the pilot of the plane that dropped napalm on Trang Bang on Juen 8, 1972, was South Vietnamese, and Plummer's former superiors say he didn't have the authority to order attacks.

Plummer said he never meant to deceive anyone, and claimed he was simply caught up in the emotion at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the day Phuc spoke.

(Post date: January 12, 1998)