The Vietnam ConflictAn Academic Information Portal For Education and Research

                                -- Guest Lecture --
                                    Michael Kelley:
                                    The Rock Apes

 John Swensson: 
I received an inquiry last week from some folks who were using the 
 wonderful Pamela Sharp Research Portal at

 I am looking for any information regarding a type of monkey or
 ape the troops called "Rock Apes" The Rock Apes were known for 
 hurling stones or other debris including grenades back at troops. 
 Are you familiar with any stories regarding these?

 Never having heard of these, I forwarded the inquiry to Mr. Mike Kelley in
 Sacto, great artist and writer who knows most everything. His response was so 
 interesting I decided to send it to you. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  
 Thank You, Mike

 Subject: Re: Question. Re Rock Apes
 Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2000 

 We ran into them frequently and I have a friend whose Recon position on Dong
 Den was overrun one night by hundreds of them.

 The 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 3 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?

 M-60 Mike

 Michael Kelley
 D Co 1st/502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Div 69/70

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