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Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Lyndon B Johnson

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: Lyndon B Johnson was the 36th American President who served in office from November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969. One of the important events during his presidency was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Definition and Summary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
Summary and definition:
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred on August 2, 1964 when the American destroyer USS Maddox came under attack by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats. A second incident occured on 4 August 1964, when radar and sonar images indicated an attack on the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed on August 7, 1964 by nearly a unanimous vote in Congress  President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Joint Resolution for the Maintenance of Peace and Security in Southeast Asia, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, on August 10, 1964, giving President Lyndon Johnson a free hand to escalate the war in Vietnam.

Where is the Gulf of Tonkin? The Gulf of Tonkin is situated in the South China Sea bounded by China to the north east, Hainan Island to the east and north Vietnam to the west.

What was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident? The first Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred on August 2, 1964 when the American destroyer USS Maddox, sailing in North Vietnamese waters, was attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats. US destroyers resumed patrol on August 3 and a second incident occured on 4 August 1964, when radar and sonar images indicated an attack on the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy.

Where was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution? The incident was the basis for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives on August 7, 1964. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Johnson the authority to commit major American forces to the Vietnam war.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: On August 10, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Joint Resolution for the Maintenance of Peace and Security in Southeast Asia, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Facts about Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

History: The Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975) was fought between the Communist government of North Vietnam, who were supported by the Chinese, and the armies of South Vietnam, who were supported by the USA.

History: The Vietnam War was waged during the Cold War between the US and the Soviets President Johnson was a strong anti-communist and supporter of the Domino Theory.  Johnson believed that the prevention of a communist victory in South Vietnam was vital to the defence of the United States. In a famous quote in early 1964 Johnson said "If we quit Vietnam, tomorrow we'll be fighting in Hawaii and next week we'll have to fight in San Francisco."

History: President Johnson was convinced that action in South Vietnam alone would never win the war. His Chiefs of Staff wanted to take a more forceful approach to the Vietnam conflict and to send in US troops to bolster the South Vietnam Army. Johnson agreed , but was unwilling to risk political damage by escalating bombing raids in North Vietnam that would increase civilian casualties.

History: President Johnson decided that a better strategy would be to bomb selected targets such as military bases and fuel depots.

History: Johnson therefore gave his support to ‘Operation Plan 34B’ which involved a reconnaissance program during which the ‘USS Maddox’ destroyer was sent in to the Gulf of Tonkin on a intelligence-gathering mission to examine North Vietnamese naval defences. The Gulf of Tonkin is situated in the South China Sea to the west of North Vietnam.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: US destroyers, including the USS Maddox, were sent into North Vietnamese waters around the Gulf of Tonkin to obtain information on the North Vietnamese naval defences. These missions were called DESOTO patrols in which the U.S. Navy destroyers were equipped with a mobile 'van' of signals intelligence equipment used for intelligence collection in hostile waters.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: On August 2, 1964 when the American destroyer USS Maddox, under the command of Commander H. L. Ogier, was attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The USS Maddox returned fire. These were the first shots fired in anger by the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War. The USS Maddox sunk one torpedo boat and called for assistance.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: The USS Turner Joy, under the command of Commander Robert C. Barnhart, responded to the call, as did four F-8 Crusaders flying from the aircraft carrier, the USS Ticonderoga

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: By the time the USS Turner Joy reached the Maddox, the surviving North Vietnamese torpedo boats had fled.

The Incident: On August 3, 1964, the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy the were ordered out of the Gulf of Tonkin, under the operational control of Captain John J. Herrick.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: The USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy returned to the Gulf of Tonkin the next day, on August 4, 1964, to continue the DESOTO patrols and to "show the flag" in international waters off the coast of North Vietnam. What happened next has been in dispute ever since.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: On the night of August 4, 1964 the Maddox and the Turner Joy both spotted, via radar and sonar, what appeared to be small, high-speed surface craft approaching, although at extreme range. As a precautionary measure, the two destroyers called the aircraft carriers, the USS Ticonderoga and the USS Constellation, for air support.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident: The USS Maddox, the USS Turner Joy believed they were under torpedo attack and fired at the suspected, distant, hostile craft, although no actual visual sightings of the North Vietnamese torpedo boats were made. President Johnson gave orders for U.S. bombers to retaliate for the North Vietnamese torpedo attack

Captain John J. Herrick sent a message that raised doubts about the August 4 incident which said, "Review of action makes reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather reports and over-eager sonar men may have accounted for many reports. No actual sightings by "Maddox". Suggest complete evaluation before further action."

President Johnson had the excuse he had been waiting for, and ignoring Captain Herrick's second message, gave orders for U.S. bombers to retaliate for the 'deliberate' North Vietnamese torpedo attack. Johnson ordered the bombing of four North Vietnamese torpedo boat bases and an oil-storage depot which had been planned three months previously.

President Johnson therefore chose to ignore the doubts raised about the August 4 incident and in his address to the American people on August 4, 1964, the president stated, "...The initial attack on the destroyer 'Maddox, on August 2, was repeated today by a number of hostile vessels attacking two U.S. destroyers with torpedoes. The destroyers and supporting aircraft acted at once on the orders I gave after the initial act of aggression..."

Whether or not the North Vietnamese attacked the two ships during the second incident on August 4, 1964 remains a mystery and is a continuing subject of debate.

The official U.S. stance on the Gulf of Tonkin incident was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" against the U.S. destroyer Maddox on a "routine patrol" in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, and that North Vietnamese Patrol Torpedo boats (PT boats) followed up with a "deliberate attack" on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: On 5 August 1964, President Johnson asked Congress to pass a resolution supporting his action. The incident was the basis for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which was unanimously passed 416 - 0 by the House of Representatives on August 7, 1964.

The Tonkin Gulf Resolution was approved by a vote of 88-2 in the Senate. The only two dissenting Senators were Wayne Morse (Democrat-Oregon) and Ernest Gruening (Democrat-Alaska).

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Joint Resolution for the Maintenance of Peace and Security in Southeast Asia, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, on August 10, 1964. It gave him a free hand to escalate the war in Vietnam, and the unlimited power he sought to wage war in Southeast Asia..

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: The Resolution authorized the President to take all necessary measures against Vietnam and the communist National Liberation Front (NLF) in South Vietnam (the Vietcong)

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution also authorized the president, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of "conventional'' military force in Southeast Asia and provided the legal foundation for increased American involvement in the Vietnam War.

In March 1965 ‘Operation Rolling Thunder’ began and the first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam. By the end of the year 200,000 US troops had joined the conflict and by 1966, 400,000 US troops were in Vietnam.

As a result of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution President Johnson, and later President Nixon, relied on the decree as the legal basis for their aggressive military policies in Vietnam.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution became the subject of great political controversy in the course of the undeclared military conflict that followed. Anti-war protests grew and resulted in the American people becoming divided into two camps over the Vietnam War. Those who wanted the US to stay and fight were called the Hawks and those who wanted the us to withdraw  became known as the Doves.

Towards the end of Vietnam War, Congress decided to place limits on the President's authority to unilaterally wage war. On November 7, 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution requiring the President to consult with Congress before making any decisions that engaged the United States military in hostilities.

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