War is hell. The United States of America's invasion of Vietnam was a special brand of hell. Fighting was brutal and merciless. US soldiers and Viet Cong both resorted to acts of violence that do not bear repeating. It seems that under the auspices of war, humans seek victory by any means.
Several strange tales have emerged from the jungles of Vietnam. Weirdest of all might be the time a pack of Bigfoot-like creatures attacked a US patrol. These creatures earned the name of “Rock-Apes” due to their preferred method of attack, throwing rocks. This is the story of the Batatut.
Wartime Encounters – Not the Vietcong
As the legend goes, a unit of six men from the 101st Airborne Division were resting in the jungle. Their patrol was made difficult by the terrain and the oppressive heat that hung thick in the air.
Suddenly the trees at the top of a nearby hill started shaking. Assuming that it was a Viet Cong ambush, the soldiers sprang to action. Their anxiety turned to confusion when an elongated head popped out from behind a tree.
The creature that emerged from the jungle was around 5 feet (1.52 m) tall. It was covered in red fur save for its face, palms, knees, and the soles of its feet. The ape-thing opened its huge mouth and screamed at the soldiers. Dark eyes, set deep in its face, filled with rage.
The thing was jacked, and stood comfortably on two feet, like a person. After watching the soldiers for a while, the creature disappeared back into the jungle from whence it came.
Confused more than frightened, the soldiers debated the identity of the creature they had just seen. Some thought it was an orangutan. Others were quick to point out that Orangutans weren't native to Vietnam.
This account first surfaced in the book, Very Crazy G.I.! Strange but True Stories of the Vietnam War, by Kregg P. Jorgenson.
Another account, attributed to the diary of Robert Baird, tells of another strange encounter. In 1968 Baird's unit was stationed at a camp, when strange noises broke the relative silence of the night.
The soldiers were unable to identify the sounds as wildlife or the enemy. One soldier, nicknamed 'Poncho', went to investigate the sounds. He walked up to the communications bunker, which was located atop a hill.
Finding nothing, Poncho made his way back down to his troop. The other soldiers saw Poncho stop, peer at something in the woods, and let off several panicked shots from his rifle.
Poncho raced back to camp. He was visibly freaked out, which made sense when his compatriots heard his account.
According to Poncho, he noticed a bush on his way back that hadn't been there when he first passed. Leaning in to check it out, the bush unfolded and grunted at him.
During a patrol in 1969, American soldiers were caught off guard by the enemy. They were pinned down by suppressive fire. Desperately pressing themselves into the mud to avoid leaden death.
One of the soldiers saw a figure break out of the undergrowth. At first, he assumed it was a very tall and muscular enemy soldier. He soon realized that the fur-covered humanoid wasn't human at all.
The beast ran into the crossfire, getting hit by several bullets. Disturbingly, the creature stumbled, but didn't go down.
The witness then heard the Viet Cong yelling something to one another before fleeing in panic. His troop investigated the area where the enemy had been lying in wait, and found that one enemy had left his weapon behind as he fled from the beast.
Later, as the Americans made camp, they heard inhuman howls, whines, barks, and growls from the surrounding jungle. The next morning they went to investigate the strangeness.
They found an enemy soldier torn limb from limb. Terror took over and they fled back to base. One witness reportedly said:
“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 of the 101st Airborne reported an encounter with hundreds of the Rock Apes. His platoon was having lunch in a clearing when a group of 8 Rock Apes came sauntering out of the jungle.
The soldiers assumed that it was the enemy, so they lit the jungle up with everything they had. Assault rifles, grenade launchers, and a litany of swearing poured into the trees.
Kelley, who was at the far end of the clearing, grabbed his gun and rushed to cover with his platoon sergeant. They peered over the top o the fallen tree behind which they took shelter, ready to engage a large enemy force.
To their surprise, they saw hundreds of 5 foot tall creatures flitting between the trees. One large male rushed straight at the soldiers, fangs bared. According to Kelley the Rock Apes barked like dogs the whole time.
When the ape men finally fled, the soldiers explored the decimated foliage. They assumed that they would find bodies littered all over the scene, but none were found. Not even blood remained.
Michael Kelley commented:
“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!”
Similar reports flooded in. There was definitely something strange in the jungles of Vietnam.
Following the end of American aggression in 1973, the Vietnamese government launched several official searches for evidence of the Rock Apes.
Professor Vo Quy from the Vietnam National University was sent on an expedition to find definitive proof of the Batutut (Rock Ape). His team never saw one of the enigmatic beasts, but they did find human-like footprints.
They made every Bigfoot researcher's pride and joy, plaster casts of humanoid footprints. While the footprints were too big to be a known species of ape, they were too wide to be human. Which makes one wonder what they consider the upper limit for human foot-width.
Dr. John Mckinnon studied Vietnam's fauna for decades. He discovered many species of large mammal that were previously unclassified. According to his book In Search of the Red Ape, 1978, he found similar footprints. The tracks he found had human-like toes and were around the size of an Asiatic Black Bear.
When he asked locals about the tracks and rumors, they told him about the Batutut. This human-like ape is said to stand around 5 feet (1.52 m) tall, with matted red fur covering most of its body. They have an aggressive nature, and are known to have no fear of humans.
To this day, no definitive proof has been found for the existence of the Vietnamese Rock Ape, or Batutut.