Gulf of Tonkin Incident

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident began on August 2, 1964, when an American ship, the USS Maddox, was performing a radar sweep of the North Vietnamese coast. The destroyer was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo patrol boats* and the nearby USS Ticonderoga carrier quickly sent out aircraft to help defend the Maddox. The U.S. planes were able to destroy one of the boats while severely damaging the others. Later that night, the ships detected swiftly approaching vessels and fired into the night sky.

USS Maddox

After President Lyndon B. Johnson was apprised of the incident, he brought together a special session of Congress, and on August 4, an air strike was approved. The following day, strategic North Vietnamese targets were taken out, and on August 7, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The resolution gave the president authority to use any means necessary to resolve the situation in neighboring Vietnam. The first massive infusion of troops arrived in Vietnam in March of 1965 and the United States' involvement in Vietnam lasted until 1975.


*Some observers contend that the incident is not historically accurate.

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