Lair of the Beasts: A Vietnamese Monster (Mania.com)
Date: Saturday, August 11, 2012
In July 2009, the construction began of a truly massive bridge over the Han River, home to the South Vietnam city of Da Nang. With a planned overall length of more than 2,200 feet and a width of 123 feet, it will, when finally completed in late 2012 or early 2013, comprise of six-lanes to allow for extensive traffic to flow to and from the city of Da Nang and its growing, international airport.
Its name is to be the Dragon River Bridge, and it will even be fashioned in the shape of one of the legendary, fire-breathing, Godzilla-sized reptilians of ancient mythology. The name of the bridge is certainly a most apt one, since the water of the Han River is some say the domain of a Vietnamese equivalent of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster.
Admittedly, sightings of the creature of the river are scarce, but they do exist. And, they span a number of years, too, thus making the possibility that the beast is a real one – rather than one of mythological proportions – all the more likely.
Both cases, rather surprisingly, come not from the files of respected monster-hunters and cryptozoologists, as one might reasonably expect to be the case, but from the now-declassified archives of none other than the U.S. Army!
Titled “Sea Serpent” sighting at Han River, the two-page document in question tells an extraordinary story. On the morning of September 17, 1965, several Marine Corps personnel, along with two personnel from the 311th Air Commando Squadron of the 315th Air Command Group, were flying by helicopter from Da Nang Air Base – today, the Da Nang International Airport – when, while crossing the Han River at low level, they caught sight of something incredible and almost primeval in the waters below.
It was, they all later told an interviewing officer – who, one strongly suspects, must have been wholly bemused by the strange affair - a huge, serpentine creature, easily eighty feet in length. Bright yellow in color, it was swimming at a relatively slow rate of speed, and very near the surface, along the flowing waters of the river.
Could the creature have been nothing stranger than a large snake, the length of which the team had exaggerated, albeit innocently, in their state of excitement and amazement?
No, not according to the eye-witnesses: they claimed that the creature possessed four large flippers that, as a result of the striking color of the creature, could easily be seen against the background of the dark water. And they were flippers that, along with a powerful, flicking tail, appeared to be pushing the creature along as it swam the length of the Han River.
The files also reveal that, given none of the men thought to take even a solitary, priceless photograph of the beast in the half a minute or so that it was in view before quickly vanishing below the waves, some degree of discussion was given amongst superior officers to the possibility that the whole thing was nothing more than a good-natured hoax.
Each and every one of the men was absolutely adamant that it most certainly was not a hoax, but they did concede that all thoughts of photographing the creature were eclipsed by the shocking sight of seeing such an immense animal in the first place.
And, after all, how many of us can accurately predict the way in which we might react when confronted by such a beast of the deep? Perhaps, far more than a few of us might forget all about the camera in our pocket when faced with an eighty-foot-long monster only mere feet below us.
While the story was of some interest to the military, since it involved several of their very own – and highly-trained - personnel, it obviously had no bearing upon national security, and so the matter was simply and quickly forgotten about and became nothing more than a very curious and little known aside in the history of the Vietnam War.
But, there is one more thing that needs to be mentioned: the author of the document included a very brief footnote stating that institutional memory on-base revealed an extremely similar creature – even down to the pronounced yellow coloring - had been seen, also in the Han River, in the late summer of 1962, shortly after U.S. military personnel were assigned to the base to help monitor the activities of the Viet Cong.
Perhaps, when looking for the truth about strange creatures, we should start asking the military!
Nick Redfern’s The World’s Weirdest Places will be published by New Page Books in September.