I'm well over 60. I'm speaking as what would have been a liberal small-town southerner pseudo-hippie who moved to the big city, but I mostly felt the war was necessary. I would like to pretend I was otherwise, but that's the way it was.
Much of what you say is true, but ....
However I do not believe the photo was that big a deal at the time. We already had plenty.
And it certainly had no effect on the USA's role in the war because we had already withdrawn almost all our troops when the photo was taken.
At that time, 1972, the USA had about 25,000 troops in-country compared to the NVA and ARVN armies of well over a million each.
This picture, and some others of a similar nature, tore down this world view of the just, clean war, where only the bad guys kill women and children, and no US bomb ever hurts anyone but the baddies that want to establish a Commie dictatorship everywhere on the planet.
Well, no. That's just not true.
The vast majority of people simply did not have any version of that opinion by 1972. I personally had not met anyone that ignorant back then, but I have to grant that such a person may have existed. Do you really think that generation was that stupid? Where do you think the millions of protesters came from?
For example, the My Lai massacre had already happened four years before. That was in 1968 although it didn't get in the news until the next year. It was widely and continually reported. Everyone knew. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
It is an excellent photo for historical purposes because it does show how war so strongly impacts the civilian population in a way that piles of corpses cannot.
However it is usually presented in a way that implies this was done by the USA, but the soldiers in the background are Vietnamese, and the pilot that dropped the napalm was Vietnamese, and the photographer was Vietnamese. At some point the Vietnamese people should get some blame for that war.
Also, I had many friends who did go to Vietnam and many of those went into combat.
Almost all of them were fine with the war other than the fact that being in combat is an unpleasant experience. It seems like they thought fighting communism is a good cause even if the leadership was screwing it up. I dunno about other areas of the country but in the south the soldiers were generally well respected.