The Nguoi Rung
..a GI's Story and more 'rock ape' stories...
by Kregg P. J. Jorgenson
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." Big Foot.
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
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 --Very Crazy G.I." (Page 33 -36)
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?
D Co 1st/502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Div 69/70
(...they can't be stump-tailed macaques if they (the apes) over-ran a recon position at night !! Monkeys & apes nest at night - usually high up in trees because of the tiger population in that part of the world... etc ....)
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