Fortean Feature: Soldiers Encounter the ‘Rock Ape’
Written by wolverat on March 22, 2020
Young American men stationed in Indo-China during the Vietnam War encountered various hairy hominids, which they referred to as the ‘Rock Ape’
APE STORY LINGERS
CAM RANH BAY, Viet-nam – With binoculars and sonar, people probe Loch Ness for its monster, expeditions search the Himalayas for the abominable snowman, and the guards at the depot here keep a watch for Powell’s Ape.
It has been nearly three years since the monster was almost seen by a bleary-eyed guard. Detecting movement on the perimeter, the guard fired and the beast fled. When morning came the area was examined and a footprint and trail of blood were found.
The footprint was neither human nor ape. A picture was taken of the track but no one could decide who or what had made it. It wasn’t long before Capt. Powell, then a depot company commander, found his name associated with the monster.
All that remains now is a small photograph on the ammunition area’s orderly room wall. Perhaps the legend of Powell’s Ape is all there ever was, but the guards at the ammunition area here still have something to think about besides Charlie. – ‘Army Reporter,’ 27 Apr. 1970
We’re all familiar with stories of Bigfoot and Sasquatch sightings and even the tales of the Yeti of the snow-covered mountains of Tibet. Now it’s time to introduce you to the Vietnamese version of Bigfoot.
They were taking a breather. The six-man patrol from the 101st Airborne Division’s LRRPs was set up in a protective wagon-wheel position–heads facing outward, feet pointed toward the center –as secure a formation as the terrain would allow. And it wasn’t allowing much.
The behind-the-lines patrol had taken them into a remote and difficult stretch of mountainous jungle in the Central Highlands. The terrain was rugged and steep, and at night, the LRRPs had to wedge themselves between trees to keep from slipping or sliding downhill.
Wiping the sweat from their eyes and leaning against their heavy rucksacks, the tired LRRPs tended to loosen straps or realign equipment as they rested–all the while watching and listening to the jungle around them.
On quiet guard, the six soldiers were facing out against the wall of green-and-brown underbrush, guarding against any Viet Cong who might have tracked them or who might happen upon them by chance.
The combined weight of their rucksacks, weapons, and LBE–the load-bearing equipment harness that held their web gear–was one hundred pounds or so, and climbing the steep hills with that kind of load took some doing. So the break was a momentary but necessary respite.
Gary Linderer was thinking that the surrounding jungle was quiet and deceptively peaceful. The forest noises–the occasional rustling of the wind through the trees, the grunts of an animal in the distance, and the sound of birds–could easily lull a soldier into a false sense of serenity even though the war was very much around them. However, if anything was out of the ordinary, there was no indication. That is, until the small trees and underbrush just fifteen yards uphill began to shake violently.
Linderer’s attention and the frenzied focus of the other team members turned to the commotion. On guard, the LRRPs brought up their weapons and waited. Linderer was the closest team member to the hubbub, his heart was jumping in his chest as he watched and waited for the intruder.
While he was ready for a VC soldier, he wasn’t ready for the face that peered through the underbrush. If it was a Viet Cong soldier, then it was a damn ugly one! An oblong head framed the hair-covered face. Dark, deep-set eyes lay beneath a prominent brow, and they did nothing to complement the heavy jowls and angry mouth. As it stepped into a small clearing, Linderer could see that matted reddish-brown hair ran down the creature’s neck and covered most of its body. Whatever it was, it stood at least five feet tall, had broad shoulders, long thick muscular arms, and a heavy torso. It walked upright. In the small clearing, it stopped and studied the Americans.
“What the hell is that?” someone called out from behind Linderer.
“It’s a rock ape,” said another team member. Another team member disagreed. “No, it ain’t,” he said. “I’ve seen rock apes, and that sure as hell isn’t a rock ape!” “It’s an orangutan, isn’t it?” Linderer asked while the others kept their eyes glued on the strange creature. “Well, if it is, then he can’t read a map. There are no orangutans in Vietnam.”
The apelike creature soon lost interest in the six LRRPs, turned back the way it had come, and easily climbed back up the steep rise. “It’s an ape of some kind,” one of the LRRPs said. “It has to be.” But then, maybe it wasn’t.
In the Central Highlands region of Vietnam in the remote province of Kontum where the country bumps up against Cambodia and Laos, there is mounting evidence of the existence of strange, humanlike creatures the locals call the nguoi rung –“The people of the forest.” Bigfoot.
While the montagnards and other tribal peoples have believed that the nonhuman species have inhabited the region for centuries, scientists now say there may be something more to the folktale and legend.
Toward the end of the American war in Vietnam, numerous sightings by Viet Cong and NVA soldiers of apelike creatures walking upright became so overwhelming that the North Vietnamese party secretariat ordered scientists into the region to investigate the nguoi rung while the war was still going on.
In 1974, as the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong pushed south to overrun the country, Professor Vo Quy of the Vietnam National University was sent into the region to conduct an investigation.
Vo Quy discovered a nguoi rung footprint on the forest floor and made a cast of the impression, which was analyzed and studied by Vietnamese academics. It was wider than a human footprint and too big for an ape. The unusual find added credence to the folktale. It also set off debate in the scientific arena. Other expeditions were mounted but yielded few results. Chance sightings of the nguoi rung continued, ranging from small creatures to larger ones. Eyewitnesses had differences of opinion as to the exact color of the creatures’ body hair. Like those sighted earlier, these latest nguoi rung walked upright and were described as having human characteristics.
In 1982, Professor Tran Hong Viet became the second scientist to discover nguoi rung footprints, and while scientists debated the actual existence of such creatures, many of the critics’ arguments went up in smoke when zoologist John MacKinnon and a team of scientists discovered three previously unknown mammals in the Vu Quang Mountain rain forest in 1992.
The discovery of the new mammals demonstrated that the remote regions might well hold other new discoveries, including clues that might solve the riddle of Vietnam’s Bigfoot.
Ironically, it was MacKinnon who, in 1969, came across manlike footprints in the jungles of Borneo, ascribed by locals to the Batutut. MacKinnon wrote that “the toes of the creature looked quite human…’ and that the tracks would have been about the right size for the Asiatic black bear. However, the only bear known in Borneo is the sun bear, which is considerably smaller.
To this day, the controversy continues even as international teams of scientists scour the remote mountain jungles looking for what the local villagers say have always been there. – Excerpt from “Strange but True Stories of the Vietnam War –
Kregg P. J. Jorgenson
“It was 1969; I was on patrol one evening, just before dark in the North Two Corp in North Vietnam. We were returning to the hill, when we encountered hostile fire, the squad was caught off guard so we used what cover was available. The fight had been going on for only a few minutes when movement caught my eye. Through the thick vegetation I saw what I thought was a large man breaking cover from behind my left side. As the thing ran past me I realized it wasn’t a man, and was not really sure of what I was seeing. The thing was about 7 feet tall and had an enormous build, though not completely covered with hair, the thing had reddish brown hair covering a good portion of its body. It had covered about 30 yards very quickly passing within just yards of my position, when it got hit in the crossfire. The thing stumbled once or twice but never fell. All of a sudden the enemy broke and ran, one even left his weapon behind, they were yelling something, but none of us ever knew what it was they were yelling.”
“We slowly regrouped and made sure no one was wounded and discussed what we thought we had seen. As it was getting dark and there were hostiles in the area, we decided to get back to the hill. That night we heard several howls sounding very similar to the ones that you have recorded, coming from all over the place. Some sounded like they were just outside of the hooch and others sounded more than a mile away. There were all kinds of sounds from whines to growls to sounds that sounded like barks. Needless to say no one slept very well that night.”
“The next morning, all of us that were on that patrol, decided to try to track this thing. It took a lot of talking to get Tops to let us go looking for it, but after hearing the same story from the whole squad he decided to let us have a chance to bring it back. We returned to the area and found a blood trail, leading into the jungle. We trailed it for quite some time when we found the body of an enemy soldier that had been almost entirely torn apart. We do not know exactly what happened, but I have a good notion to what may have happened. We basically ran out of the area back to our hill.”
“The rest of the time we were in Vietnam, I never heard the sounds or saw anything like it again. The talk of what we had seen spread very quickly, and some of the locals called it a name that I can neither pronounce or remember, but the translation if I recall was ‘Stench Monkey’ or ‘Foul Monkey’, something like that. I can’t remember for sure. What I do know is that it bothered me so much that I transferred from there, to a job on a helicopter so that I wouldn’t have to be in the jungle anymore.”
“After returning home to Alabama when my tour had ended, I occasionally heard sounds that reminded me so much of that encounter. It had been years since I left Alabama and moved to west central Illinois. I seldom thought of that day in Vietnam or the things I heard and saw. The recording is exactly what I had heard over there, I could close my eyes and still hear the howl in Vietnam. Regrettably I have mixed feelings about discovering your website, relieved that someone else may now know what I went through, frightened that I that there may be something in the area of where I now live.”
“I realize that you are interested in pursuing this creature or one like it, but let me warn you from someone who has seen what it is capable of first hand. Don’t.” – stancourtney.com
“While at an army military police school, my brother in-law, Craig Miles of Boise, Idaho, met a Vietnam veteran that recalled a low altitude Special Forces drop in the interior during 1967-68. It was the middle of the night; there were no villages for 15 miles.”
“For a period of three nights they heard choking and gurgling noises. On the fourth day they found the upper half of a decomposing bigfoot-like creature. It had been blown in half by something……not them. This was apparently not the noise they had heard …a mate possibly? This was the speculation that was circulating.”
“They could see into the body cavity…spine, lungs, and such. All was crawling with bugs. There was shorter hair on the huge head. The eyes sunk back an inch and a half from the brow line. It had long arms. Very large and long fingers. One hand was still wrapped around a branch.”
“He didn’t say what color it was, but did mention that it had a flat nose. If the creature had it’s legs, the estimated height was around 8 ft tall…there was no sign of the lower half of the body. They were able to see the teeth. All flat, well formed molars, except the canines, which were longer and pointed. Seemed adapted to living in the forest with long arms and fingers, or perhaps just builds night nests like gorillas sometimes do.” – Steve Williams
“The matter of wild people or feral humans seems to be a reoccuring phenomenon in southeast Asia. Once while in the Marines I showed a Vietnamese colleague a reference in Mark Hall’s hominid book to a term used for wildmen in Vietnam. He was surprised to see the word in print and explained that growing up in his village a wild man and woman were once captured from the jungle after they’d been stealing food (chickens, I think it was). Either they were killed or kept in cage prisons; something unfortunate in either case. They were people, he explained, and not something ape-like by any means. But they were very dirty and had long ragged hair and I think he said they couldn’t talk. He seemed to suggest that while this was a rare occurence such incidents would be heard of from time to time.” – Nick Sucik – Homin Investigator
“We ran into them frequently and I have a friend whose Recon position on Dong Den was overrun one night by hundreds of them. They made a noise that sounded just like a dog barking. In fact, you’d swear it was a dog.”
“One time on a ridge of Nui Mo Tau, about 15 km S of Hue, about eight of them came walking up a trail and surprised a squad of our platoon while it was stopped for lunch. All hell broke loose because they looked very much like NVA soldiers in khaki (same height, size and color) as they came around a bend in the trail about 10 meters from the unsuspecting GI’s.”
“I was with the other two squads of the platoon eating our lunch on the far side of a clearing about 50 meters wide that separated the two elements. The trails wound up the ridge and then through the clearing.”
“All of a sudden and without any warning, the lone squad opened up with every thing they had…M-16’s, M-79’s and hand grenades. I grabbed about 300 rounds of gun ammo and my M-60, then ran across the clearing with the platoon Sgt. (everyone else stayed home!) to the cover of a huge, toppled tree that was lying on the far side and close to the point of contact. The Sgt. and I looked at one another, nodded and then came up over the top ready to blast away but what we saw instead blew us away!”
“The firing had been non-stop and we fully expected to engage a sizeable enemy force, but instead, we found ourselves looking at our men, some seated, some standing, some kneeling, and firing at these ghostly images swooshing around in brush and trees (some off the ground by that point) in all directions. All except one was light brown to reddish brown in color, and about 5 1/2 four feet tall. One dark, almost black, male remained fighting to protect the others retreat and he was flying through the branches and rushing the men with his teeth bared. He was one very brave animal, I’ll tell you that.”
“Then, as if someone had snapped their fingers, they all just seemed to disappear. Zip, the male turned and flashed into the trees and was out of site in a second.”
“This may sound very strange to you, but although I had no or little concern about killing the enemy, the killing of innocent animals turned my stomach and could enrage me if done without being a necessity. But I searched the site and but found not a drop of blood, which totally amazed me given the amount of firing that had gone on. I wonder to this day if the men were shooting just to scare the Rock Apes away or whether they were really just poor marksman!”
“The men who’d suffered the surprise looked a bit worse for wear, and I’m sure a few had to wash their shorts out as a result of the unwelcome visit. It really scared the crap out of them, I kid you not!”
“We, on the other hand, did suffer one casualty. A trooper had an eardrum blown out by the muzzle blast of the first shot fired because the trooper who first saw the apes just picked up his M-16 and fired without saying a word, and the muzzle was right next to this poor fellow’s ear when he did.”
“Apart from that, I have all the same questions your student does and would love to hear just exactly what sort of apes they were?” – Michael Kelley – D Co 1st/502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Div 69/70
Lt. Alan Szpila of Cumberland. R. I., spotted footprints while piloting a 101st Airborne Division helicopter. ‘I have been looking at footprints from the air for quite a while now and I noticed the exceptional size (of these) immediately. I landed to get a closer look and sure enough. these tracks were about 18 inches long and eight inches wide.’ Someone suggested that they were made by Ho Chi Minh sandals. which are made of car tires. ‘They were embedded deeply, indicating a heavy wearer. The stride of whatever made them was about four feet,’ he said. Warrant Officer Darryl Santella of Long Beach, Calif., saw the footprints at the same time as Szpila and estimated that, if made by a man, he must have been about eight feet tall.” – Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans
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