What happened at the Gulf of Tonkin?

1 Answer
Jul 29, 2016

A naval skirmish which accelerated American involvement in Vietnam.


In 1964, President Johnson reported to Congress that American ships had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin by North Vietnamese vessels for no reason. Congress gave Johnson the authority through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to take all steps necessary in response.

This. in effect gave Johnson a carte blanche to escalate American military involvement in Vietnam without prior Congressional approval, specifically the support of the Senate to declare war. Therefore the Americans never declared war on Vietnam.

It was subsequently revealed that there had been one skirmish but not two as the Johnson administration claimed. Moreover the American ship in question the Maddox had been involved in clandestine and illegal attacks on North Vietnamese islands. This also was not revealed.