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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Rock apes of Vietnam

Many Vietnam Vets came home from their service telling tales of this aggressive and prolific being.

When I saw the title of the paranormal show this spring that stated they were featuring the Rock Apes, I was impressed. Finally, something new.

Well, no. Despite all the first person stories, all the printed tales, and all the information that could have been featured, it turned into a rehash of the Minnesota Iceman. And one of Hansen's many versions of the story of how he obtained the specimen. YAWN.

Don't get me wrong. The stories surrounding the Minnesota Iceman are intriguing and open up all sorts of lines of inquiry. And I like Loren Coleman. But I cannot agree with him that the Minnesota Iceman is a Rock Ape shot and killed in Vietnam.  But that's for another post. Maybe. Back to the Rock Apes.

The Rock Apes are described as being bipedal, hairy ape-like creatures.  We have also heard of them called by other names : Ujit, Batutut, Nguoi Rung, "Jungle People".  They are further described as being around 6 ft. tall, stout and very muscular with protruding stomachs. Rock Apes are said to be covered in hair ranging from brown to black in color. The knees, soles of the feet, and their hands and face are bare.

Bold and aggressive, they are noted for traveling in troops and known for attacking humans. They are said to be most active at dusk and during the night. The accounts given mention only adults; not much reference given for family groups or young ones.


A six man unit from the 101st Airborne Division was hiking through the mountainous jungle terrain. They took a rest period; all of them on alert for the presence of Viet Cong. As they sat there, about 15 yards uphill, some of the men noticed some trees begin to shake violently. Believing it to be Viet Cong, they prepped their weapons, keeping watch on the trees.

A being with an oblong head with a face covered in reddish hair peeked out from the brush. He had a huge mouth and dark, deep set eyes. He stepped out from the brush. The reddish hair extended down the muscular body. Standing about 5 foot tall, he seemed to be looking the men over. Thinking that the being was probably a rather large orangutan, the men took no action. Then someone commented that there were no orangutans in Vietnam. As they argued that point, the being seemed to lose interest in them and walked off into the jungle.

Not all encounters were this benign.

In 1968, Robert Baird told of an encounter in 1968. His unit had begun hearing strange noises coming from the outer perimeter of their camp late at night. A Corporal "Poncho" went out to investigate. Everything seemed to be well, until he began to make his way back. The others saw him suddenly let off several short bursts of fire from his weapon. He then hurried back to the camp, looking "unsettled".

That was when the unit's Lieutenant came on the radio demanding to know who had fired and at what. Poncho explained to him that while he was walking back into the camp, he noticed a bush that had not been in that location on his way out. He leaned down to take a closer look and the "bush" then "snorted" at him. He panicked, firing his weapon.

Said Baird : "What he had encountered was the ubiquitous Rock Ape of Vietnam. I would come to learn that they were nearly everywhere, and quite fearless. That is what we had heard near the wire that night."

Here is a short interview with Sgt. Thomas M. Jacobs shown on the Discovery Channel.

In 1969 a patrol was caught off guard by enemy fire, causing everyone to scramble for cover. The witness telling this story, told how he was lying quietly, trying to avoid getting shot. Suddenly a figure came out of the thick vegetation. He watched it approach, thinking it was a large man. But as it ran past him, he realized it was no man. The being was about 7 foot tall and built huge. It was mostly covered with reddish hair and it moved extremely quickly.

As the figure ran, it got caught in the crossfire, getting hit by some bullets. It stumbled, but kept going. The Viet Cong suddenly began yelling at each other and the patrol could hear them running away. Some even dropped their weapons, leaving them behind. The Americans regrouped and continued to make their way towards a more secure area. That night, they heard "strange animalistic noises" : whines, barks, howls and grunts.

The next day, several members of the patrol were given permission to go and investigate the area they had come across the Viet Cong. During their search, they came upon one of the Viet Cong who looked as if he had been torn apart.

Said one of those men: "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."

Michael Kelley, D Co 1st/502d Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division, talked of there being hundreds of them. [Rock Apes].

In 1969, while the men were having lunch, 8 of the creatures came walking up a trail on the Nui Mo Tau ridge. Thinking it was a party of Viet Cong, the surprised men opened fire - M-16s, M-19s and grenade launchers. 

Kelley was at the far end and took cover with those further away, to access where the attack was coming from. Emerging from cover to engage the enemy, they found the others appeared to be firing at "ghostly images" moving quickly through the bushes and trees all around them.

These beings were around 5 1/2 foot tall, covered in hair ranging from light brown to a reddish brown. One was almost black in color. He was a particularly aggressive male, rushing at the men through the underbrush, snarling with bared teeth. All of the creatures were making dog barking types of sounds.

The creatures all disappeared into the jungle. Afterwards, the area was searched. There was no trace of the strange beings -- no bodies, not even fur or blood.

Kelley : ". . . I searched the site and . . .  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."


Hill 868 is located in the Quang Nam Province. It is said to be so full of Rock Apes that it was called "Monkey Mountain". This is the alleged site of a battle between the Marines and a large group of Rock Apes in 1966.

Reported movement in the brush was radioed in. It was suspected to be a large force of Viet Cong headed towards them. The Captain instructed the Marines to stay in place, do not fire, do not give away their position.

The patrol reported back that it was not Viet Cong approaching, but a large group of "hairy, bipedal humanoids" surrounding them. The Captain again commanded them not to fire. They were instructed to throw rocks at the creatures to frighten them away. Instead of running, the Rock Apes hurled rocks back with "great force". They were screeching and growling, just flinging rocks. It was estimated that there were "hundreds of them". Despite this attack and impending threat, they were still told not to shoot but to use their bayonets instead.

Shortly after that command, the Captain began to hear screeching and screams of pain from both Marines and Rock Apes over the radio with the frantic message : "We're going hand to hand!"

Before much time passed, the "hill erupted in a roar of gunfire, screams and screeching."

The men that the Captain sent to investigate found the area littered with injured men and allegedly bloodied bodies of several Rock Apes. There were no Marine deaths but several were so seriously injured, they had to be evacuated by helicopter.

This alleged battle became known as the "Battle of Dong Den".

In 1968 members of Mike Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marines often found physical evidence of Rock Apes : droppings, tufts of hair, footprints. They constantly heard the barks and other cries at night from these beings. Rock Apes would occasionally throw rocks at them from the jungle : "throwing like girls, but with velocity". Some men were seriously injured by the rocks.

Steve Canyon reported that there was a unit of Marines out in the jungle on Hill 868 night testing a new muzzle flash and noise suppressor for their weapons.

As they were setting up they noticed a Rock Ape glaring at them from the undergrowth, unafraid of the men. It watched them for a few moments then let out a sound like a dog bark. One man threw a rock to try to chase it away. The rock hit it. The Rock Ape picked up a rock and threw it at them. That was when the men noticed there were more Rock Apes gathering. There was around 20 of them. The creatures all began screeching, howling and throwing rocks. The men did not open fire, but opted to quickly retreat. When asked why they didn't shoot, Canyon replied :

"I dunno. Didn't seem right. But those Apes started to come at us and we ran as fast as we could and we didn't stop until we were out of the jungle".

In 1974 a North Vietnam scientific expedition was formed to find solid evidence of the Rock Apes. Professor Vo Quy from the Vietnam National University led the expedition. They did not sight any of the creatures. They did find tracks in remote parts of the jungle, which they casted. The prints were wider than human prints and were too big to be that of an ape.

Other expeditions, including one led by North Vietnamese General Hoang Minh Thou, were all unsuccessful.

Dr. John MacKinnon claimed to find tracks that he believed to be hominid in origin in 1970. The locals told him the tracks came from the Batutut. The prints had human looking toes, but were around the size of an Asiatic black bear. However, the bear is not native to Vietnam.

In his 1978 book, "In Search of the Red Ape", MacKinnon recounted how he never did find definitive proof of the Rock Ape's existence. However, he did discover several new species of large mammals in 1992 in the Vu Quang Mountain rain forest. This demonstrated that the region was more than capable of hiding large new species from sight.

The April 27, 1970 edition of the "Army Reporter" told of a guard who fired at some movement along the camp perimeter. In the morning, they found strange footprints that were "neither human nor ape". Also found was blood on the forest floor. Photos were taken of this evidence and the creature was called "Powell's Ape" after the depot company Commander, Captain Powell.

Professor Tran Hong Viet of the Pedagogic University of Hanoi discovered some strange footprints in 1982. He cast them and the photos were published in the Japanese Fortean Magazine : "Fortean News of the World". The prints measured 11.02 inches x 6.3 inches.

The story of Lt. Alan Szpila from Cumberland, Rhode Island is told in Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans book "On the Track of Unknown Animals".

While Szpila was on helicopter patrol for the 101st Airborne Division, he saw some strange, huge footprints below.

Said Szpila : "I had been looking at footprints from the air for quite a while 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. They were embedded deeply, indicating a heavy wearer. The stride of whatever made them was about four feet." He estimated it's size at 8 foot tall.

Steve Williams claimed that a veteran told him that a Special Forces group came upon the upper torso of a "decomposing bigfoot-like creature" during 1967-68, For three nights they had been hearing a "low gurgling sound". Since the body had been dead for quite awhile, they theorized that the sound they had been hearing may have been it's mate mourning.

Williams : ". . . 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. He [the original source of the tale] 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."

Graeme Webster wrong a letter to the NY Times which was printed on April 18, 2018. In it he told of being assaulted by a large number of Rock Apes. This took place at the western end of the DMZ at a place called "The Rockpile" in 1967. Members of the Fourth Marine Regiment fought back against the Rock Apes. There were allegedly bodies of the creatures that were included in the body count of the sitrep briefing.

The story was similar to the story of the Battle of Dong Den [Hill 868] recounted earlier in this post.

No one knows exactly what happened to these bodies, or any of the others. Or any of the other collected 'evidence'. There were also reported to be some "live captures". One report claimed that two of them were captured by tribesmen near Dak Lak Province in 1971. No one knows what happened to them or if anyone even looked into it.

Some say these creatures are really : 1) Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey, or 2) Dollman's Snub-nosed Monkey. The problem with these suggestions are difference in sizes and that the monkeys have tails, are not bipedal and are active in the daytime, not night.

Tonkin snub nosed monkey

However, the best explanation is 3) : Drug induced hallucinations. Which is an insult to the men who served there. And fails to explain the natives and Viet Cong who also reported seeing the Rock Apes.

An unnamed G.I. gave this description of the Rock Ape : "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."

Some "hallucination". Not.


"I'll spark the thought; what you do with it is up to you."

And as I wind up my post, I see listed a source I forgot to look at. There is much more detail and more interviews and discussion of theories of what the Rock Apes might be. Well worth the read.



This Post By TCC Team Member Nancy Marietta. Nancy has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and cryptids. Nancy is also a published author and her book, The Price of war, has been met with great reviews.

Sources include : In Search of . . . [TV series]
Mysteriousuniverse.org, "Very Crazy G.I. - Strange but True Stories of the Vietnam War" by Kregg P.J. Jorgenson
Personal diary kept by Robert Baird,"In Search of the Red Ape" by Dr. John McKinnon [1978]
"Army Reporter", April 27, 1970,"Fortean News of the World" [Japan edition]
"On the Track of Unknown Animals" by Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans
NY Times, April 18, 2018 [letters],exemplore.com,Wikipedia,YouTube,bigfootencounters.com
,Bing images
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