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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

The Infamous Rock Apes Of Vietnam

In our last post, we examined just a few of the strange encounters reported by American servicemen during the course of the Vietnam War. These included giant snakes, lizard-like creatures and sea serpents . Now, in this post, we will look into even more mysterious incidents. These include Vietnam's most infamous cryptid: The Rock Ape.

Attack of the USS Maddox

On the afternoon of August 2nd, 1964, a US destroyer named the USS Maddox was monitoring radio transmissions in the Gulf of Tonkin, when she was apparently approached by three North Vietnamese patrol boats. Unable to outrun her pursuers, the American ship fired a warning shot, which immediately prompted the Vietnamese craft to attack. During the next few minutes, the ships exchanged fire before the patrol craft were driven off by US aircraft, which had been scrambled to support the destroyer.

This incident would be a key factor in America's decision to intervene in the ongoing Vietnamese conflict, leading to a decade-long war that would cost the lives of nearly 60,000 US troops. During the incident, the Maddox sustained only minor damage, and within 48 hours, she had resumed her patrol, now accompanied by a second destroyer, the USS Turner Joy.

But on the evening of the 4th of August, lookouts on both vessels claimed that they were catching glimpses of dark shapes, apparently shadowing their progress. Almost immediately, sonar operators on the American warships reported multiple approaching contacts which they believed to be torpedoes fired by enemy patrol boats. For the next four hours, the two destroyers performed a series of evasive maneuvers, firing both their guns and depth charges out into the surrounding darkness.

In their official reports, the commanders of both vessels claimed to have successfully evaded a series of torpedo strikes, destroying several Vietnamese patrol boats in retaliation. But the North Vietnamese government were quick to dismiss reports of the incident, claiming that all their craft were accounted for, and the Americans had simply been firing at shadows.

In the years following the end of the war, several Sailors who had served on the USS Maddox revealed that in reality, no Vietnamese craft had been seen at any point during the second engagement.

The two US ships had expended over 650 shells between them on what in essence came down to shadows and radar contacts. But it was the testimony of one of the Maddox's sonar operators that would be the most intriguing. He reported that what the Americans believed to be torpedoes did not behave like any weapon in existence at that time or, indeed, conceived since the conflict. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the witness explained that the targets on his sonar screen would shoot towards the ship at great speed, only to then turn away.

Sometimes, these contacts would travel in twos or threes and other times on their own. They would hurdle at the destroyer, then suddenly veer away at a right angle, or descend beneath the ship and float in the water just below it, before turning off again in random directions. At no point were the ship's countermeasures able to stop or destroy any of the objects. When asked what he thought these unknown underwater contacts were, the sonar operator said that he believed them to be organic in nature. The manner in which they varied their speed and changed direction would be impossible for any machine of the time, and their propensity to pair up or travel in groups suggested they were sentient.

These enigmatic underwater enemies behaved with a degree of intelligence beyond that of any known species, actively avoiding American ordinance, and venturing right up to the hull of the US Destroyer to inspect it. Many of the sailors involved in the second Gulf of Tonkin incident believe that what they encountered was not of human origin, and that the incident was covered up by their government for unknown reasons.

The Mysterious 'Fog' Incident

An equally mysterious encounter would take place four years later during the onset of what would become known as the Tet Offensive. This was a protracted series of coordinated ambushes and attacks by North Vietnamese forces on their neighbors, along with the American military forces which were also stationed there. At the time, an airman named Robert L Pollock was serving as Loadmaster aboard a C-130 aircraft, attached to the 834th Air Division. His crew have been ordered to carry out a supply run from the Da Nang air field, out to a facility in Camh Ranh Bay. This was a regular assignment which usually lasted around 45 minutes.

Towards the end of the journey, Pollock had been seated alone in the cargo hold, completing the paperwork for their cargo, when he had detected a sudden movement over by the rear door. As he strained his eyes to see what this could be, he suddenly saw a swirling mass of gray mist materializing inside the hold. The Mist continued to grow in density and then began to gravitate slowly towards the center of the space, rotating around a central axis.

Assuming it must be the result of some malfunction, Pollock quickly called for one of the engineers to come and join him, watching on with growing unease as the mist began to expand outwards, gradually filling half of the entire compartment. By now he had been joined by the engineer, and the two men observed as the strange entity moved around inside the aircraft's interior, seeming to examine its surroundings with wispy tendrils. They were subsequently joined by the pilot and navigator, who had set the aircraft on autopilot and all four men stood watching in wonder as the mist hung in the air before them.

Stepping forward, one of the Airmen inserted his hand into the swirling mass and then gasped as his appendage seem to disappear entirely. Withdrawing it, he stated that he could not feel any change in temperature or density of the mist. It was like it was not even there. Eventually, summoning up the courage, Pollock stepped into the fog, and was met with complete darkness.

Once inside, he made directly for the rear of the compartment, but was only able to navigate by feeling his way around. Answering the calls from his colleagues, he pushed on through the inky blackness to the rear of the plane, and then back again, emerging to join the other three men. He told them he had not smelled or tasted anything within the mass, nor had his breathing been restricted, and that no light seemed able to penetrate the swirling mist. Gradually, an overwhelming sense of unease began to creep over the airmen, as they grew concerned that the entity before them may expand further and enter the cockpit.

Pollock described staring with dread at the dense fog before him, feeling certain that there was some sense of intelligence behind it. Then, almost as quickly as it had formed, the mist began to rotate anti-clockwise. It gradually shrunk, and then descended through the deck of the hold, as if it was exiting the aircraft through the floor. It soon disappeared, leaving the four disconcerted American airman with no trace that it had ever been there.

The rest of the mission continued without incident, and upon arriving at its destination, the transport plane was subjected to a close inspection, which found nothing that might have caused any smoky emissions inside the hold. Pollock remains convinced that what he saw was more than simply a strange mist, but something sentient and inquisitive.

Encountering the Rock Apes Of Vietnam

From every corner of the globe, there are stories of humanoid creatures covered in thick fur, which seem to dwell at the peripheries of human civilization. These entities are often equated to the animal they most closely resemble, such as wolf or dog men, but the overwhelming majority seems simian in appearance, described by those who encounter them as sasquatch or Ape Men.

In the Far East, these creatures are known as the Batutut or Forest people and are believed to inhabit the wilderness around Laos and Northern Borneo. In ancient writings, they are described as being 7 feet tall, covered in black or brown fur and savage in nature, slaughtering unwitting travelers they might encounter and feasting upon their livers. During the Vietnam War, at locations throughout the conflict, there were multiple reports of encounters between GI'S and these Forest People, often resulting in fatal consequences.

As word of their existence began to spread amongst the occupying American forces, the soldiers nicknamed them "Rock Apes", in reference to their propensity to use boulders and stones to defend themselves.

One encounter described by a former Marine named Steve Williams, centered around a Special Forces Unit, which had been dropped into a thick patch of jungle during the summer of 1968 in order to carry out a Black Ops assignment. Having completed their covert insertion, the team had established a perimeter around the position, setting up a series of tripwires linked to claymores and landmines.

During their first evening, the men were awoken by an explosion nearby and immediately grabbed their weapons. Cautiously making their way through the undergrowth, they found the remains of a strange creature, apparently killed as a result of having blundered into one of the team's traps.

Williams described 'the Beast' as being roughly eight feet tall with its bottom half utterly mutilated by the explosion which had ended its life. It was covered in a thick hide, except on the head where its fur was much lighter. Its eyes were sunk back into the head, close to the brow line, and it possessed a muscular torso with long and powerful limbs.

But by far the most traumatizing aspect of the dead creature was the overpowering smell which was issuing forth from it, so bad that the soldiers would later refer to it as the "Stench monkey". The team withdrew, returning to their hind sight and for the rest of the evening reported hearing what sounded like, anguished howls and sobs, coming from the direction of the dead animal's remains. Assuming this may have been the entity's mate, they slowly packed up their gear and then trekked into the jungle, listening as the howls faded behind them.

The following year, a small group of infantrymen conducting a nighttime trek through the jungle were surprised by an enemy ambush, forcing them onto the defensive. As the Americans desperately returned fire at the Vietnamese forces which had now surrounded them, there was a sudden disturbance in the nearby bush, and a giant humanoid erupted from the thick undergrowth. The young American troops watched on in bewilderment as a fur-covered figure ran headlong at the Vietnamese positions, roaring in anger as it did so.

The enemy fire immediately slackened off, and the infantrymen listened in wonder as the cries and yells of the enemy soldiers now retreated from them, receding into the darkness. They remained in position, rifles pointed nervously into the jungle until the first slivers of daylight appeared, at which point they began to tentatively push forward again. As they did so, they encountered numerous bodies, all badly wounded and mutilated. Some appeared to have been torn apart with teeth, others the result of brute strength, but few were fully intact.

Horrified by what they had discovered, the sergeant in charge of the patrol had immediately ordered them to turn around and head back the way they had come, away from the massacre. When members of the patrol later recounted the story in hushed tones to other soldiers from their unit, they soon found that several had also experienced similar encounters but had not related them for fear of ridicule.

Attack of the Rock Apes

Perhaps the most amazing story involving the Rock Apes took place in 1966 at a site designated as Hill 868, which was situated in the central Quang Nam province. A Marine Recon Force had occupied a patch of high ground at the location to use as a base of operations, only for one of their patrols to report what they believed to be a large enemy force advancing on their position. As their Captain had given orders for the unit to prepare for an attack, a patrol he had dispatched only moments earlier came running back from the treeline, claiming they've been ambushed by a group of giant ape-like creatures and not Vietnamese soldiers.

Barely had this information sunk in, when a series of large rocks and boulders were suddenly thrown from the jungle, falling just short of the American positions. There were a series of loud cries and howls from the jungle and then countless giant figures came running out of the trees snarling and howling. The Marines later estimated that there were over a hundred attackers and they immediately opened fire with every weapon they had available. Despite countless creatures falling to a wave of heavy machine gun and mortar fire, several reached the American positions and a savage hand-to-hand fight erupted, with the Marines stabbing and slashing at these humanoids with their bayonets.

Eventually, the creatures were driven away, picking up the bodies of their fallen as they fled. None of the Marines had been killed, but several had to be airlifted out of the FOB for urgent medical treatment as a result of the attack. The Americans would dub the incident 'The Battle of Dong Den' and Hill 868 would be the scene of a further two more engagements with the creatures before they were apparently driven away for good.

The majority of rock ape encounters were far less spectacular than those rumored to have taken place at Hill 868, and have largely been dismissed as a result of the soldiers involved suffering from anxiety or fatigue. There are several species of monkey native to Vietnam, one of which is the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. These primates are noted for having an utter lack of fear or nervousness around humans, and for being very territorial. They also have a distinctive cry, which has been described as similar to that of a dog barking, and whilst their stature falls far short of the eight foot tall entities described during the encounters, skeptics believe there is an easy answer for such a discrepancy.

The use of illegal drugs such as cannabis and LSD was rife among US troops, who were desperate to find coping mechanisms for the slaughter they now found themselves in. These mind-altering substances, when combined with unfamiliar surroundings, especially at night, could easily fool a young and nervous soldier into imagining a Sasquatch-like monster pursuing him through the jungle. And yet, the majority of these encounters involved multiple witnesses, with plaster-casts of footprints even being recovered from some of the locations where engagements took place. Surely, not hundreds of American troops stationed at different points throughout the country, simply misunderstood or imagined what they were seeing.


The encounters we have examined are all similar in that there is no simple or rational explanation for what took place. It is true that the mental state of those involved may have influenced their perception of proceedings. But the fact that none of these creatures were witnessed by lone participants only seems to strengthen their credibility.

Throughout most of human conflict, there have been reports of strange entities and encounters. Are these monsters drawn to the heat of battle or simply discovered as the participants push their way to previously unexplored territories? Hopefully, as the technology used to pursue warfare continues to evolve and improve, we may one day have our answer.


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