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He readthe chiefs a cable from the captain of the Maddox. PTF-6 took up station at the mouth of the Ron River, lit up the sky with illumination rounds, and fired at the security post. In response, the North Vietnamese boat launched a torpedo. Few areas of the world have been as hotly contested as the India-Pakistan border. A U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea Air Land) team officer assigned to the SOG maritime operations training staff, Lieutenant James Hawes, led the covert boat fleet out of Da Nang and down the coast 300 miles to Cam Ranh Bay, where they waited out the crisis in isolation. Hanoi was more than willing to tell the world about the attacks, and it took either a fool or an innocent to believe that the United States knew nothing about the raids. Those same reports were shown to the select congressional and senate committees that also investigated the incident. The series of mistakes that led to the August 4 misreporting began on August 3 when the Phu Bai station interpreted Haiphongs efforts to determine the status of its forces as an order to assemble for further offensive operations. For the rest of the war they would be truly secretand in the end they were a dismal failure. WebThe Gulf of Tonkin and the Vietnam War. Although Washington officials did not believe Hanoi would attack the Desoto ships again, tensions ran high on both sides, and this affected their respective analyses of the events to come. The SIGINT intercepts also detected that the North Vietnamese coastal radar stations were tracking Maddox and reporting its movements to the outbound torpedo boats. McNamara did not mention the 34A raids.15. Approved on Aug. 10, 1964, the Southeast Asia (Gulf of Tonkin) Resolution, gave Johnson the power to use military force in the region without requiring a declaration Around midday on Aug. 4, Adm. Grant Sharp, the top navy commander in the Pacific, made a call to the Joint Chiefs, and it was clear there were significant doubts about this second incident. Cookies collect information about your preferences and your devices and are used to make the site work as you expect it to, to understand how you interact with the site, and to show advertisements that are targeted to your interests. Naval Institute. Operation Fast and Furious 10 originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Vietnam magazine. The first critic report from Phu Bai reached Washington at about 0740 hours, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). The basic story line of the Gulf of Tonkin incident is as follows: At approximately 1430 hours Vietnam time on August 2, 1964, USS Maddox (DD-731) detected three North Vietnamese torpedo boats approaching at high speed. The string of intelligence mistakes, mistranslations, misinterpretations and faulty decision making that occurred in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964 reveals how easily analysts and officials can jump to the wrong conclusions and lead a nation into war. American aircraft flying over the scene during the "attack" failed to spot any North Vietnamese boats. He headed seaward hoping to avoid a confrontation until daybreak, then returned to the coast at 1045, this time north of Hon Me. Unlike McNamara, Johnson, on the morning of Aug.4,1964, was in less of a hurry to respond to an attack. . Hanoi pointed out what Washington denied: "On July 30, 1964 . While there was some doubt in Washington regarding the second attack, those aboard Maddox and Turner Joy were convinced that it had occurred. The battle was over in 22 minutes. The accords, which were signed by other participants including the Viet Minh, mandated a temporary ceasefire line, which separated southern and northern Vietnam to be governed by the State of Vietnam an George C. Herring, ed., The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War: The Negotiating Volumes of the Pentagon Papers (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1983), p. 18. That initial error shaped all the subsequent assessments about North Vietnamese intentions, as U.S. SIGINT monitored and reported the Norths tracking of the two American destroyers. Gradually, the Navy broadened its role from supply/logistics to aid/advisory -- training Vietnamese and developing the South Vietnamese navy's famed "brown water force," those riverine units operating in the country's matrix of rivers and canals and through the coastal network of islands and archipelagos. For the maritime war specialist, it is of course invaluable. In August 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf resolutionor Southeast Asia Resolution, as it is officially knownthe congressional decree that gave President Lyndon Johnson a broad mandate to wage war in Vietnam. ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, In Saigon, General William C. Westmoreland, the new commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), approved of the plan, and SOG began testing 81-mm mortars, 4.5-inch rockets, and recoilless rifles aboard the boats. Both the Phu Bai station and Maddoxs DSU knew the boats had orders to attack an enemy ship., Not knowing about the South Vietnamese commando raid, all assumed that Maddox was the target. These warning shots were fired and the P-4s launched a torpedo attack. Carl Otis Schuster, U.S. Navy (ret.) To have a Tonkin Gulf conspiracy means that the several hundred National Security Agency and naval communications cited have been doctored. The three torpedo boats continued through the American barrage and launched their torpedoes at 1516. Moreover, the subsequent review of the evidence exposed the translation and analysis errors that resulted in the reporting of the salvage operation as preparations for a second attack. No actual visual sightings by Maddox.". They arrived on station overhead by 2100 hours. 4. At 2000 hours local time, Maddox reported it had two surface and three aerial contacts on radar. Thousands of passengers are stranded after Colombias Viva Air grounds flights, The last of Mexicos artisanal salt-makers preserve a 2,000-year-old tradition, I cannot give up: Cambodian rapper says he will sing about injustice despite threats from govt, Ukrainian rock star reflects on a year of war in his country, Ukrainian refugees in Poland will now be charged to stay in state-funded housing, This Colombian town is dimming its lights to attract more tourists to view the night sky, Kneel and apologize!: 76 years after island-wide massacre, Taiwan continues to commemorate and debate the tragedy. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was a brief confrontation between United States and North Vietnamese warships, off the coast of northern Vietnam in August 1964. Formerly an analyst with the Washington-based Asian Studies Center, Mr. Conboy is vice president of Lippo Group, a large financial services institution in Jakarta, Indonesia. 14. The people who are calling me up, they want to be damned sure I don't pull 'em out and run, and they want to be damned sure that we're firm. WebOn August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing President Johnson to take any measures he believed were necessary to retaliate and to promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. President Johnson himself apparently questioned the sailorsu0019 report of an attack. WebThe Gulf of Tonkin While Kennedy had at least the comforting illusion of progress in Vietnam (manufactured by Harkins and Diem), Johnson faced a starker picture of confusion, disunity, and muddle in Saigon and of a rapidly growing Viet Cong in the countryside. While 34A and the Desoto patrols were independent operations, the latter benefited from the increased signals traffic generated by the attacks of the former. The Johnson Administration initially limited its response to a terse diplomatic note to Hanoi, the first-ever U.S. diplomatic note to that government. For 25 minutes the boats fired on the radar station, then headed back to Da Nang. With that report, after nearly four decades, the NSA officially reversed its verdict on the events of August 4, 1964, that had led that night to President Lyndon Johnsons televised message to the nation: The initial attack on the destroyer Maddox, on August 2, was repeated today by a number of hostile vessels attacking two U.S. destroyers with torpedoes. Neither the United States nor State of Vietnam signed anything at the 1954 Geneva Conference. Suffice to say here that the version as presented here by Marolda and Fitzgerald is highly credible and completely plausible, and I for one am persuaded of its correctness. McNamara took advantage of Morses imprecision and concentrated on the senators connection between 34A and Desoto, squirming away from the issue of U.S. involvement in covert missions by claiming that the Maddox "was not informed of, was not aware [of], had no evidence of, and so far as I know today had no knowledge of any possible South Vietnamese actions in connection with the two islands Senator Morse referred to." One element of American assistance to South Vietnam included covert support for South Vietnamese commando raids against North Vietnams coastal transportation facilities and networks. 12. WebKnown today as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, this event spawned the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 7 August 1964, ultimately leading to open war between North Vietnam and More important, they did not know the North Vietnamese had begun to react more aggressively to the commando raids. Covert maritime operations were in full swing, and some of the missions succeeded in blowing up small installations along the coast, leading General Westmoreland to conclude that any close connection between 34A and Desoto would destroy the thin veneer of deniability surrounding the operations. Or purchase a subscription for unlimited access to real news you can count on. The stage was set. "5, In reality there was little actual coordination between 34A and Desoto. To subscribe to Vietnam Magazine, click here! WebTo many online conspiracy theorists, the biggest false flag operation of all time was the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nonetheless, the North Vietnamese boats continued to close in at the rate of 400 yards per minute. The Truth About Tonkin | Naval History Magazine - February 2008 Declassified NSA documents show that US intelligence members concealed relevant reports from Congress to push the narrative of a second attack. When the contacts appeared to turn away at 6,000 yards, Maddoxs crew interpreted the move as a maneuver to mark a torpedo launch. LBJ knew the Vietnam War was a disaster in the making. Changing course in time to evade the torpedoes, the Maddox again was attacked, this time by a boat that fired another torpedo and 14.5-mm machine guns. President Johnson and his advisers nevetheless went forward with a public announcement of an attack. Hereafter referred to as FRUS, Vietnam 1964; Congressional Research Service, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part II, 1961-1964 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984), p. 287; Message CTG72.1 040140Z August 1964 (Marolda and Fitzgerald, p. 425). In fact, the North Vietnamese were trying to avoid contact with U.S. forces on August 4, and they saw the departure of the Desoto patrol ships as a sign that they could proceed to recover their torpedo boats and tow them back to base. "The North Vietnamese are reacting defensively to our attacks on their offshore islands. Just after midnight on 31 July, PTF-2 and PTF-5, commanded by Lieutenant Huyet, arrived undetected at a position 800 yards northeast of the island. Based on this, they launched the political process that led to the wars escalation. Moises book, however, was based on only the few SIGINT reports he was able to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act. Thus, the South Vietnamese raid on Hon Me Island, a major North Vietnamese infiltration staging point, became the tripwire that set off the August 2 confrontation in the Gulf of Tonkin. "I think we are kidding the world if you try to give the impression that when the South Vietnamese naval boats bombarded two islands a short distance off the coast of North Vietnam we were not implicated," he scornfully told McNamara during the hearings.16 After the incident, Herrick was unsure that his ships had been attacked, reporting at 1:27 a.m. Washington time that "Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonarmen may have accounted for many reports. It took only a little imagination to see why the North Vietnamese might connect the two. Ships radar detected five patrol boats, which turned out to be P-4 torpedo boats and Swatows. Hanoi denied the charge that it had fired on the U.S. destroyers on 4 August, calling the charge "an impudent fabrication. Under cover of darkness, four boats (PTF-2, PTF-3, PTF-5, and PTF-6) left Da Nang, racing north up the coast toward the demilitarized zone (DMZ), then angling farther out to sea as they left the safety of South Vietnamese waters.2 About five hours later they neared their objective: the offshore islands of Hon Me and Hon Nieu. This time the U.S. ships detected electronic signals and acoustic indications of a likely second North Vietnamese naval attack, and they requested U.S. air support. Each sides initial after-action review was positive. Despite the on-scene commanders efforts to correct their errors in the initial after-action reports, administration officials focused instead on the first SIGINT reports to the exclusion of all other evidence. At 1505, when the torpedo boats had closed within 10,000 yards, in accordance with Captain Herricks orders and as allowed under international law at that time, Maddox fired three warning shots. By then, the two American ships were approximately 80 nautical miles from the nearest North Vietnamese coastline and steaming southeast at 20 knots. It still is not clear whether the order was intended to halt the attack or to delay it until after nightfall, when there was a much greater chance for success. He is the author of Shadow War: The Secret War in Laos, as well as several short studies on special operations, including The War in Cambodia (Osprey Books, 1988), The War in Laos (Osprey Books, 1989), and Southeast Asian Special Forces (Osprey Books, 1990). Those early mistakes led U.S. destroyers to open fire on spurious radar contacts, misinterpret their own propeller noises as incoming torpedoes, and ultimately report an attack that never occurred. A lesser-known fact is that Jim Morrisons father, Captain George Stephen Morrison, commanded the Carrier Division during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. They were nicknamed "gassers" because they burned gasoline rather than diesel fuel. Whats not in dispute is the aftermath: A resolution from the Senate Carl Schuster is a retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer with 10 years of experience as a surface line officer. This article is based on the PRI podcast, LBJ's War, hosted by David Brown. The contacts were to the northeast of the ship, putting them about 100 nautical miles from North Vietnam but very close to Chinas Hainan Island. "Vietnam War: Gulf of Tonkin Incident." Forty-five minutes after beginning their attack, the commandos withdrew. . Kennedy Hickman is a historian, museum director, and curator who specializes in military and naval history. U.S. SIGINT support had provided ample warning of North Vietnams intentions and actions, enabling the American ship to defend itself successfully. The most comprehensive and authoritative history site on the Internet. Although McNamara did not know it at the time, part of his statement was not true; Captain Herrick, the Desoto patrol commander, did know about the 34A raids, something that his ships logs later made clear.

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