The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was originally presented as a pair of battles initiated by North Vietnamese gunboats without provocation against two U.S. destroyers, that took place in August of 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin. Accounts and details regarding the incident remain unreconciled; the official account is countered by claims that the attack was mere political stagecraft.
On July 31, 1964, the American destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731) began a reconnaissance mission in the Gulf of Tonkin. The official purpose of the mission was to obtain information about North Vietnamese coastal defense forces. Other similar U.S. ships were involved in supporting South Vietnamese commando raids on the North Vietnamese coast during the same period.
On August 2, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats, mistaking the Maddox for a South Vietnamese vessel, launched a torpedo and machine gun attack on it. Responding immediately to the attack, the Maddox, with the help of air support from the nearby carrier Ticonderoga, destroyed one of the attacking boats and damaged the other two. The Maddox, suffering only superficial damage by a single machine gun bullet, retired to South Vietnamese waters where she was joined by the C. Turner Joy.
On August 4, a new DESOTO patrol to North Vietnam coast was launched by Maddox and the C. Turner Joy. The latter got radar signals that they believed to be another attack by the North Vietnamese. For some two hours the ships fired on radar targets and maneuvered vigorously amid electronic and visual reports of torpedoes. It is highly unlikely that any North Vietnamese forces were actually in the area during this gunfight. Captain John J. Herrick even admitted that it was nothing more than an “overeager sonarman” who “was hearing ship’s own propeller beat.” Also in 1995, General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander-in-chief of North Vietnamese forces at the time, disavowed any involvement with the August 4 incident, though he did confirm the August 2 attack.
According to the official description, increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War came in 1964, with a program of covert South Vietnamese operations, designed to impose “progressively escalating pressure” upon the North, and initiated on a small and essentially ineffective scale in February. The active U.S. role in the few covert operations that were carried out was limited essentially to planning, equipping, and training of the South Vietnamese forces involved, but U.S. responsibility for the launching and conduct of these activities was unequivocal and carried with it an implicit symbolic and psychological intensification of the U.S. commitment.
Noam Chomsky, among others, disputes the above sequence of events, contending that active military US involvement actually began as early as 1961 (with operations beginning in 1962) and that the August 4 incident was in fact a fabrication, crafted by the Johnson administration so the U.S. could claim, for the benefit of the American public, that the North Vietnamese bore full guilt for starting open hostilities. Though information obtained well after the fact indicates that there was actually no North Vietnamese attack that night, U.S. authorities say they were convinced at the time that an attack had taken place, and reacted by sending planes from the carriers Ticonderoga and Constellation to hit North Vietnamese torpedo boat bases and fuel facilities.
Regarding claims that the attacks on the US were unprovoked, veterans of US Navy SEAL teams say that US-trained South Vietnamese commandos were active in the area on the days of the attacks. Deployed from Da Nang in Norwegian-built fast patrol boats, the Lien Doc Nguoi Nhia, LDNN, (soldiers that fight under the sea), made attacks in the Gulf area on both of the nights in question.
On July 31, LDNN in “Nastys” (the name commandos give to the fast attack boats) attacked a radio transmitter on the island of Hon Nieu. On Aug. 3, they used an 88mm mortar to attack a radar site at Cape Vinh Son. The North Vietnamese responded by attacking hostile ships visible in the area. While US officials were less than honest about the full extent of hostilities that led to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, critical claims that a naval commander fired weapons solely to create an international incident tend to overlook circumstances and opportunistic responses that suggest a less intentional motivation.
Daniel Ellsberg, who was on duty in the Pentagon that night receiving messages from the ship, reports that the ships were on a secret mission, codenamed DeSoto Patrols, inside North Vietnamese territorial waters. Their purpose was to provoke the North Vietnamese into turning on their coastal defense radar so they could be plotted. This constitutes an act of war by the United States against North Vietnam.
Gulf of Tonkin Incident
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, or the USS Maddox Incident, are the names given to two incidents, one disputed, involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. On August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox, while performing a DESOTO patrol, was enɡɑɡed by three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Squadron. A sea battle resulted, in which the Maddox expended over 280 3″ and 5″ shells, and which involved the strafing from four USN F-8 Crusader jet fighter bombers. One US aircraft was damaged, one 14.5mm round hit the destroyer, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats were damaged, and four North Vietnamese sailors were killed and six were wounded; there were no U.S. casualties.
The second Tonkin Gulf incident was originally claimed by the U.S. National Security Agency to have occurred on August 4, 1964, as another sea battle, but instead may have involved “Tonkin Ghosts”, and not actual NVN torpedo boat attacks.
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What was the Gulf of Tonkin incident?
I hope people don’t read too much into this incident. I used to be in the Navy and communications errors like this happen from time to time. I remember one time my ship almost accidentally oƿє-ṅєd fire on a British small boat. We were conducting exercises (war games) and we weren’t on the same page.We thought the drill was taking place later in the day and were not expecting a simulated attack. The ship and it’s crew got sent to battle stations and we were very close to opening fire. Here is what is scary. If that were to happen between US and Britain, both sides would probably be able to agree it was a mistake and the responsible parties would be reprimanded, it would have been tragic but that would have been the end. Imagine if a mistake like that were to take place with US and Iran? I think a lot of people would rush to judgment and want to start World War 3 over it. Remember the amount of coverage the detained British sailors received in the media? I heard commentators calling for large scale action, and it turned out in a matter of weeks those sailors were freed.
US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of SE Asia, were attacked by vietnam group. US responded by attacking the Vietcong.
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some people needs a bomb to go off under their вυŧŧ to understand there is a valid threat. It is sad that so many are so uninformed about the world as to believe everything that happens is staged.