Tonkin Gulf Resolution Essay Research Paper President

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Tonkin Gulf Resolution Essay, Research Paper President Lyndon B. Johnson’s immediate advocacy of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, acting as head of state, influenced Congress to unintentionally give him a blank check in conducting the Vietnam War. Johnson’s accusation of unjustified attacks on American ships by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin led to the resolution’s nearly unanimous passage in Congress three days later. Although with the passage of time the certainty of these attacks has come into question, President Johnson through his presidential powers was able to get the Tonkin Gulf Resolution passed, which gave him near free reign in conducting the Vietnam War. The events leading up to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution must be understood with knowledge of the

Johnson administration’s motivations during that time period. As early as May 1964, Vietnam experts in Washington were creating a resolution that would give Johnson the ability to use unlimited force in North Vietnam. However, Johnson thought that the timing was not right to call attention to this escalating war in Southeast Asia. Considering the benefits of a resolution, his Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara believed that attaining the capability to perform air strikes would raise South Vietnamese morale. Even though Johnson and his staff were forced to fight a defensive war, they knew very well that a resolution passes by Congress would very well change that. (1) A generally accepted modern-day account of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents that occurred in early August of

1964 should precede evaluation of how the Johnson administration handled the situation. The USS Maddox began a reconnaissance patrol along the coast of North Vietnam on July 31, 1964, with the objective of gathering information about the coastal defense forces. North Vietnamese defense forces were expected to be quite active because covert operations were being carried out by boats out of Danang, South Vietnam under Operations Plan 34A (OPLAN 34A). These OPLA 34A raiders attacked the North Vietnamese islands of Hon Me and Hon Ngu during the first hours of July 31. The Maddox was aware of these covert operations, but did not plan its’ route based on them. During the afternoon of August 2, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats from the island of Hon Me attacked the Maddox when it

was not far by, and this was the first attack. The Maddox left the Gulf of Tonkin afterwards, but returned on August 3, with the USS Turner Joy, as they were heading away from the North Vietnamese coastline they believed they were being attacked, and opened fire. Most of the presumed attacking vessels appeared on the radar screen of the Turner Joy, but not on the radar of the Maddox. Some men aboard the destroyers believed that what had appeared on the radar were ghost images, while others believe that they were actual torpedo boats attacking them. This incident is referred to as the second attack, and the following afternoon retaliatory air strikes approved by President Johnson were carried out. (2) The Johnson administration’s presentation of what occurred in the Gulf of

Tonkin on August 2 and 4 must be taken in context with their eagerness for a resolution. Their account of the events stated that on August 2, the Maddox while navigating on a routine mission through international waters off the central coast of North Vietnam was attacked by three North Vietnamese patrol boats without provocation. Their presentation of the Maddox’s voyage as a routine mission is directly contradicted by later information that proved it was, in fact, on a reconnaissance mission. Their account further stated that the Maddox returned fire, but the United States chose to only issue a warning because they treated it as an isolated incident. Johnson and his administration insisted that after a second unprovoked attack two days later in the Gulf of Tonkin, the