The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution


The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress on Aug. 7, 1964, was the pretext and the legal cover needed by Pres. Lyndon Johnson for the Vietnam War. Prior to that, the U.S. presence was in an “advisory” capacity, invited there by the South Vietnamese government to halt incursions by the Communist government of North Vietnam. The alleged Aug. 4 attack on U.S. Navy destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy by North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats, was cited by Pres. Johnson in a speech to the American people on Aug. 6, and Congress voted near unanimously on the resolution the next day (which passed 416-0 in the House, 88-2 in the Senate). Citing this alleged attack by the North Vietnamese, the resolution “approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the U.S. and to prevent further aggression.”

There had been U.S. casualties before August 1964. According to the National Archives, 416 American soldiers had been killed through December 1964. However, the overwhelming number of soldiers killed and wounded—in mind and body—occurred after that date, not to mention the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of civilians killed or maimed by U.S. bombs, napalm and defoliants. By the time John White wrote his letter to the New Haven Register, more than 20,000 American soldiers had been killed.

Had the war stopped then, nearly 38,000 lives could have been spared, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of wounded, permanently disabled or mentally damaged.


The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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