Term Paper: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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¶ … Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

On August 2, 1964, the American destroyer Maddox, on guard off the coast of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, was assaulted by a number of North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The assault took place only hours after South Vietnamese raiders attacked two marks on the North Vietnamese coast as part of a U.S. program of adjusted secret force against the North that was identified as Operations Plan (OPLAN)-34A. This was the start of a sequence of actions that is known as the Tonkin Gulf incident (LBJ Tapes on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 2003).

The Maddox was in fact on an intelligence assignment off the northern coast, moving with a convoy of additional communications and electronics gear together with an accompaniment of specialists from the Naval Security Group, a naval accompaniment to the National Security Agency. Their mission was to capture North Vietnamese communications. The ship was in international waters when it was assaulted, but had been within territorial waters owned by North Vietnam at the time that Hanoi's torpedo boats were sent out. Vietnamese powers that be have since revealed that the reaction was planned by local leaders. The Maddox did not anticipate any assault, as the mission leader had been told in Taiwan beforehand that there would be none, but they were totally ignorant of the irritation to North Vietnam that had taken place at the same time in the form of the OPLAN-34A strikes. The North Vietnamese torpedo boats' communications were captured, as well as the instructions sending them out, and the vessels were noticed as they moved toward the U.S. warship. In the resulting skirmish two of the three boats were sunk and the third badly harmed, with no victims to the Maddox. The battle in the Tonkin Gulf took place in the afternoon local time, which was just before dawn in Washington, and by early morning in the capital there was a rush to figure out what to do about the circumstances (LBJ Tapes on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 2003).

The Tonkin Gulf resolution was a Congressional declaration that was passed in 1964 that sanctioned military action in Southeast Asia. President Johnson and his consultants chose instant air assaults on North Vietnam in retribution. He also requested Congress for an authorization for future military acts. Congress approved a resolution put together by the management approving all required events to fend off assaults against U.S. forces and all things essential for the protection of U.S. allies in Southeast Asia. Even though there was discrepancy in Congress over the accurate connotation of the Tonkin Gulf resolution, Presidents Johnson and Nixon utilized it to validate later military feats in Southeast Asia. The declaration was rescinded by Congress in 1970. Retired Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap, in a 1995 meeting with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, unconditionally denied that the North Vietnamese had assaulted the U.S. destroyers, and in 2001 it was exposed that President Johnson, in a documented discussion with McNamara several weeks after approval of the declaration, had articulated uncertainty that the assault ever took place (Tonkin Gulf resolution, 2010).

The details of the proceedings of early August 1964, as accounted by the Johnson administration, were vital to advancing the legislative power President Johnson wanted, which came in the appearance of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. At the time and for some time later, the United States government took the point that it had done nothing to incite a naval meeting in the Tonkin Gulf between North Vietnamese and U.S. warships. The Johnson government also sustained that it had acted with command, declined to reply to an initial North Vietnamese assault on August 2, 1964, and reacting only after North Vietnam made a subsequent naval attack two nights later. Both of these declarations ended up being deceptive. In reality the United States at the time was undergoing an agenda of secret naval commando assaults against North Vietnam and had been occupied in this attempt ever since its endorsement by Johnson in January 1964. A new count to the declassified documentation is the aptitude approximation included in the briefing book, which was released in 1964. This estimated again that the United States decisively aimed OPLAN 34-a to force North Vietnam, to the scope of trying to expect Hanoi's response. It incorrectly determined that North Vietnam, while taking defensive actions, might decrease the level of the revolution for the instant. In fact Hanoi determined in its place to entrust its usual army forces to the combating in South Vietnam (Prados, 2004).

Soon after taking office after the death of President Kennedy, President Johnson became troubled about South Vietnam's capability to fend off the Communist Viet Cong guerillas that were working in the nation. Looking to pursue the recognized strategy of suppression, Johnson and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, began increasing military aid to South Vietnam. In an endeavor to augment force on North Vietnam, numerous Norwegian-built quick patrol boats (PTF's) were secretly bought and shifted to South Vietnam (Hickman, 2010).

These PTF's were staffed with South Vietnamese crews and carried out a sequence of coastal assaults against targets in North Vietnam as part of Operation 34A. Initially begun by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1961, 34A was an extremely confidential agenda of secret operations against North Vietnam. Following a number of early letdowns, it was shifted to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group in 1964, at which time its focus moved to maritime operations. Additionally, the U.S. Navy was told to conduct Desoto patrols off North Vietnam (Hickman, 2010).

A long ranking agenda, the Desoto patrols comprised American warships sailing in international waters to accomplish electronic surveillance processes. These kinds of patrols had formerly been carried out off the coasts of the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea. While 34A and the Desoto patrols were self-governing processes, the latter benefited from the augmented signals traffic produced by the assault of the previous. As a consequence, the ships offshore were capable to gather precious knowledge on North Vietnamese military capability (Hickman, 2010).

Johnson, like President Kennedy before him, came under demands from his military consultants to take a more commanding action against North Vietnam and the NLF. The Joint Chiefs of Staff counseled Johnson to launch United States combat troops to South Vietnam. The defeat of President Ngo Dinh Diem had not resulted in stopping the growth of the NLF. The new leader of South Vietnam, General Khanh, was cynical that his own army was sturdy enough to avert a communist success. Johnson told his Joint Chiefs of Staff that he would do all that was essential to avert the NLF from being victorious in South Vietnam but was reluctant to take disliked actions like putting troops to battle in a foreign war, until after the 1964 Presidential Elections (Gulf of Tonkin, n.d.).

For awhile, military intelligence officers functioning in Vietnam had thought that without the backing of the Hanoi government, the NLF would not endure. They consequently supported the bombing of Hanoi in an effort to influence North Vietnam to cut off provisions to the NLF. Curtis LeMay, the commander of the U.S. air force, disputed that by utilizing the newest equipment, North Vietnam could be defeated. Others felt that terror raids on resident people throughout the Second World War had not attested to be victorious and said that a superior strategy would be to bomb chosen marks such as military bases and energy warehouses (Gulf of Tonkin, n.d.).

Lyndon Johnson favored the last suggestion but was conscious he would have trouble compelling the American community and the rest of the world that such feat was necessary. He thus gave consent for a scheme to be put into process that he deduced would ultimately allow him to carry out the intimidation attacks on North Vietnam. Operation Plan 34A consisted of the distribution of Asian mercenaries into North Vietnam to carry out actions of sabotage and the kidnapping or killing of communist executives. As an element of this scheme, it was determined to send U.S. destroyers into North Vietnamese waters to acquire knowledge on their naval defenses. On August 2, 1964, the U.S. destroyer, Maddox was fired upon by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. In retribution, Maddox fired back and hit all three, sinking one. The Maddox then moved back into international waters but the next day it was told to return to the Gulf of Tonkin (Gulf of Tonkin, n.d.).

Since this incident there have been reports that not long after entering North Vietnamese waters, Captain Herrick declared that he was under attack. Yet, later he sent a communication that increased uncertainties about this. Evaluation of feat makes reported contacts and torpedoes fired seem uncertain. It was thought that unusual weather and over zealous sonar men may have been the reason for the communication. There were no definite views by Maddox. It was suggested that a complete evaluation take place before additional action was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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