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Gulf of Tonkin Incident

The Gulf of Tonkin incident (or the USS Maddox incident) is the name given to two separate confrontations involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The first event occurred on August 2, 1964, between the destroyer USS Maddox and three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Squadron. The second 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” (false radar images) and not actual NVN torpedo boat attacks.

The outcome of these two incidents was the passage by Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by “communist aggression.” The resolution served as Johnson’s legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.

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