Fleeing to the jungle during the Vietnam War, a father & son survived there for 41 years

Paul Pinkerton

After more than 40 years an elderly father and son were ‘rescued’ from the Vietnamese jungle, having spent 41 years – almost his entire life – with virtually no contact with other humans.

In the midst of the Vietnam War, after a bomb destroyed his family home and killed his wife and two of his sons, a desperate father grabbed his infant boy and fled into the jungle and that’s where they stayed – 41 years later in 2013 they returned to a modern world.

The Viet Nam News, an English news service, reported that locals from the Tra Xinh Commune in Tay Tra District spotted the two in the jungle and reported it to the police and authorities. Scroll down for video

They were found in a remote part of the jungle living in a hut that they had built themselves. The father, Ho Van Thanh, 82, was too weak to walk and some men had to carry him out of the jungle in a  hammock.

rSpears, knives and tools made and used by the father and son. Credit: baoquangngai.vnFirst investigations found Thanh had fled into the jungle bringing his son Ho Van Loan, then around one year old, during a panicking night in 1971 in the Vietnam War, when his house was bombed, killing his wife and two older sons. They used dry bark to make pants, though officials found Thanh has carefully kept a little red coat of his son and his soldier’s trousers in the corner of their hut.

They had gone back to old ways of living, they made their own tools like knives, axes and arrows for hunting.

“They still feel frightened despite being taken to an isolated area,” Le Van Vuong, vice chairman of Tra Xinh Commune, told DTI News, another English Vietnamese outlet. “People who just come to stare at them bothered them the most. They do not know how to speak the Kinh people’s language. They just know a few words of Cor ethnic minority people’s language and use body language to express themselves.”

“My uncle doesn’t understand much of what is said to him, and he doesn’t want to eat or even drink water,” nephew Ho Ven Bien told the Australian Associated Press. He said he was aware of his uncle’s disappearance long ago but did not expect he was alive.

Vessels used in the jungle to cook and to collect food. Credit: baoquangngai.vn
Vessels used in the jungle to cook and to collect food. Credit: baoquangngai.vn

A fire was almost always kept lit and they made a variety of tools, cutlery and cooking utensils from items scattered across the jungle, including the steel from dropped bombs. “Kitchenware, like pans, pots and plates, were made during the first few years from the aluminium they found in a broken-down American helicopter. They never ate with their hands, but had improvised chopsticks made of bamboo. They had about 20 pieces of kitchen ware and today they are still conserved in the village.”

Home made comb of the 'jungle people'. Credit: baoquangngai.vn
Home made comb of the ‘jungle people’. Credit: baoquangngai.vnana


ibtimes reports:  They spoke in a limited dialect belonging to an ethnic minority from the area of Cor. Lang can count to 10, but said there was no reason to go any higher: “I asked him how he explained to his father that he had caught 15 bats and he answered that he said ‘a lot’ or ‘more than 10’. The same applies to writing: Lang didn’t know how to represent the numeric symbols. It has to be taken into account that the food and water were never a problem for them so to know the quantity was trivial.”

Over the last two decades, intensive deforestation pushed them higher and higher. Eventually, they could go no further – they believed the summit of the mountain was haunted – so became boxed in. Encounters with other people became increasingly inevitable, and it was at this point Lang’s brother heard of their existence and began visiting the pair.


jack-beckett is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival