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"Rock Apes" in Vietnam


Gooks in the Canopy Any good combat tested 11B can appreciate the experience and the attributes of 2LT's. 3rd Platoon, B 1/61, had a LT who was mission oriented and aggressive. His name was 2LT Wxxx. He was a good junior officer but had the difficult task of leading three to six months Viet Nam veterans, 18 to 20 years old, who knew everything about everything and nothing about mortality. We accepted the new LT with reservation and caution that was typical of a line unit. He was given the respect worthy of a 2LT but nothing more. One bright a sunny afternoon in March, 1969, while doing a daylight screening operations in the vicinity of Camp Eagle, he decided to pull a platoon ambush on a trail junction in a area we had not patrolled. The platoon sergeant, SSG Morris, who was the best platoon sergeant in the 5th Infantry Division, tried to persuade the LT to do something different. However, the LT full of piss & vinegar, directed we go forth and do good. We humped about 9 or 10 clicks in triple canopy to a trail junction he had picked out on a map. Just about the time it was getting dark, the point made contact. The fire was heavy. In a split second we thought we had engaged a superior force and began to withdraw back the way we came. It seemed the gooks were on our ass and we continue until it was dark. 3rd platoon settled on a small hill and began to dig fighting positions and prepare for the worst. I remember being scared shitless and waiting for the worst to happen. Suddenly, things were hitting everyone, sticks, rocks and what ever. Everyone thought the gooks were probing us and trying to fix and locate our positions. Me and everyone else in the platoon, except SSG Morris, stayed up all night scared, fingers and hands on weapons waiting for what came next. The light of the morning came filtering through the jungle to reveal the enemy was a bunch of rock apes who had the ass because we were in their AO. Needless to say, we lost the pissing contest and gave up the space in a "New York Second". LT Wxxx learned a valuable lesson that day: "YOUR PLATOON SERGEANT MIGHT KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO!" Danny L Mathers

Letter #25 28 Dec 68 Hi everybody!!! How was everybody's Christmas? I bet mom and dad are sure glad another Christmas is gone. I just got back from patrol. Patrols in the mountains are real bad. We didn't have any contact so it was like walking all around the Blue Hills. I got the postcard you sent me. It sure makes me homesick. I also got my first Playboy. The January edition is real good. You mentioned about money. I told you; you can borrow it anytime you want. I think you're doing just great with the money. You don't mind if I put in a little order for a package, do ya? Well, here goes. I'd like some canned fruit, shak'n pudding, malted milk balls, two more cans of booze, 12 funny books, some damn good paperbacks, and etc. Thanks. My hair has grown a lot, and it hasn't been cut since November 1st; so I'm starting to blend in with the rest of the gang. I haven't washed in 23 days, so you can probably imagine what I smell like. Plus my trousers split up the seam 10 days ago, so when ya sit down you get invaded by ants. Other than that, I'm OK. Last night we got attacked by two monkeys. The monkeys over here throw rocks. They are called Rock Apes. They are big enough that if you fall asleep on watch, you'll be carried away by them. It happened to a friend of mine. Well, got to go. Love, Paul PS I'm up for Lance Corporal

Looking back: The post card... My family use to send me postcards from home. I can still remember one of Paragon Park which was an amusement park with a great roller coaster ride. The postcard was an aerial view of the roller coaster with Nantasket Beach behind it. Playboy... My family gave me a subscription to Playboy magazine while I was in Vietnam. My trousers... I remember our trousers always seemed to be split in the seam or worn in the knees or ass or had a broken zipper. Ants, particularly red ants, seemed to love to get inside our trousers and bite the hell out of us. Personal appearance and personal hygiene were beyond the wildest imagination of anyone back "in the world." I use to say to myself and my buddies in Vietnam, "If only our mothers could see us now." The rock apes... The rock ape story was just that, a story. There may have been rock apes in Vietnam, but I never saw any. I think the stories were a way of trying to scare us into staying awake at night while we were on watch. Paul O'Connell 1996

From This jet crashed on Monkey Mountain sometime in 67 or early 68. It was off the aircraft carrier USS. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31). From what I heard at that time, it was shot down and the pilot ejected. We we're told to stay away from it because it had live ammo on it, which made no sense....

UPDATE 7/21/98, I JUST RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL Hey! This was great. I was stationed there my first tour from August 1966 to Oct. 1967. Boom Boom rock was all brown...the Marine Corps green was a nice new touch since I was there. As for the plane crash it was 1967...I was there. It sounded like a 500 pound bomb when it hit. The pilot we were told was killed. He wasn't shot down, just didn't have correct altitude to make it over the top. Also, there was live ammo alright...but by the next morning when our Marines got there to recover the pilot's body, all the goodies were gone. (electronics, ammo (I think it was carrying rockets or a couple of bombs). The innocent wood cutters and charcoal makers weren't so innocent after all...the plane had been stripped like it had sat too long on the streets of New York. We had plenty of rock apes up there throwing rocks and at night we thought they were grenades. And there was the occasional tiger that showed up at night to scare the day lights out of us more than the gooks.

Keith Burd

Credit to Brad LaGrange for the above...