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The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident marked the establishment of across-the-board participation of the armed forces of the United States in Vietnam. It was a match up of alleged assailments executed by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam or the North Vietnam’s naval forces aligned with the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, two of American’s destroyers during that time. The event took place in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2 and 4, 1964 (Rice).

The conclusion of the confrontation was the establishment the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution by the Congress which allowed President Lyndon Johnson to have the power to help out any Southeast Asian state whose government was most likely made vulnerable by the communist belligerence. The resolution worked as a legal justification of Johnson for increasing the American participation throughout the Vietnam War, which carried on until 1975. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

As a direct rejoinder to an inconsequential naval rendezvous known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by the US Congress in August 1964. It became important as far as history was concerned mainly because it bestowed the then U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson approval, lacking an official pronouncement or affirmation of war by the Congress, for the employment of military force in Southeast Asia (Siff). The Johnson government consequently referred to the resolution as a legitimate power for its fast increase of U.

S. military participation during the Vietnam War. The Developments of the Tonkin Incident It was exposed in a formal NSA declassified statement in 2005 that the Maddox first blasted warning shots on the August 2 incident. It also said, “…that there might have been no North Vietnamese vessels during the August 4 incident. ” The statement said that the issue was not which story implied what really happened. But mainly, “the stipulation was that there was really no assailment that occurred during that night.

” The statement included that the “Hanoi was connected in nothing but the recoup of the damaged boats on August 2 (Moise). ” Even though U. S. was present during the Geneva Conference in 1954, it did not sign the Geneva Accords. This consented, along with other policies, a cessation of hostilities line, anticipated to break up the Vietnamese self-government and French enemies, and elections to settle on the leadership of Vietnam on the two sides of the line, for almost two years.

It also prohibited the political intrusion of other states within the perimeter of the area, the foundation of new governments devoid of the predetermined elections, and foreign military existence (Rice). Ngo Dinh Diem experienced large dissatisfaction against some districts of the southern population in 1961. This includes a number of Buddhists who were against the dominance of the Catholic Church. Also during that year that a communist-led rebellion was strengthened led by the National Liberation Front or NLF (Hunt).

It started in 1959 right after the decision of the North Vietnamese Politburo. As a result, the U. S . had started giving direct help to the South Vietnam by sending military assistance and giving financial aid. The said military support was intensified from 600 to 16, 000 after the Kennedy administration in 1963 (Addington). Historically speaking, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident took place in the foremost year of Johnson’s administration. Originally, John F. Kennedy was in support of the sending of military aid to South Vietnam.

However, this turned otherwise when he realized and perceived the incompetence of the government of Saigon. He observed the indisposition and lack of ability of South Vietnam to manage reformations. On one hand, Johnson’s position concerning the sending of the military aid in Vietnam was also complex, yet he allowed the military escalation in Vietnam to counter the expansion of communism by the Soviet Union. The policy of containment which was geared to reinforce the Cold War was employed to put off the grip of communist governments to the entire Southeast Asian region (Addington).

Upon the assassination of Kennedy, Johnson commanded the increase of American military forces to help the South Vietnam’s government. In 1961, under the Central Intelligence Agency or the CIA, a highly confidential series of covert attacks aligned with the government of North Vietnam (also known as Operation 34A) had started as reported by the U. S. Naval institute. However, the program was reassigned to the Department of Defense and was spearheaded by the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group or the SOG (Hunt).

Tjeld-class fast patrol vessels had been procured secretly by the U. S. from Norway and sent to Saigon as a part of their maritime underground operation. Though the entire maritime reinforcements were staffed with South Vietnamese crews and personnel, the authorization came directly from Grant Sharp, Jr. , a U. S. Admiral from CINCPAC based in Honolulu. When series of assaults started, the North Vietnam issued an objection before the International Control Commission or the ICCC which was instituted to monitor the terms made under the Geneva Accords. However, the U. S.

did not admit their involvement with the attacks made against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After four years, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, confessed before the Congress that U. S. ships were sent to aid the Saigon government against North Vietnam. And even if the Maddox had knowledge about the operations, it had nothing to do with the attacks against North Vietnam (Rice). A revelation was also done by the veterans of Navy SEAL teams of the United States that South Vietnamese commandos were trained and stationed in the area where the attacks happened.

The Lien Doi Nguoi Nhai or LDNN was the team responsible for the assaults inflicted in the Gulf region on July 31 and August 3 after the team was deployed from Da Nang in Norwegian-made speedy patrol vessels (Moise). The LDNN commandos assaulted a radio transmitter on the island of Hon Nieu on July 31. They employed shipboard cannon to blast a radar transmitter at Cape Vinh Son on August 3. To counter the attacks, the North Vietnam fired all hostile vessels that were visible in the area. As the U. S.

officials consistently denied their involvement in the series of attacks made against the North Vietnam which necessitated the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Siff), some said that a naval official blasted weapons so as to ignite an international incident On August 7 1964, Congress voted on a joint resolution which granted power to the president “to seize all needed measures, together with the employment of armed force, to aid any constituent or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty appealing for a support in protection of its freedom (Siff).

” The undivided assenting vote in the House of Representatives was 416-0 while the Senate granted its endorsement by a vote of 88-2. Some members articulated doubts about the policy, but ultimately, there were only two senators who cast their nay votes against the measure. Senator Morse, one of the two senators who voted for a no, counseled that such resolution was “a historical mistake (Addington). ” The Abolition of the Tonkin Incident Resolution

The severe and direct participation of the United States in the Vietnam conflict received so much criticism in 1967. In order to prevent the occurrence of war which implicated the U. S. a movement to abolish the Tonkin Incident Resolution started to make big noise inside and outside the United States. The Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate held an investigation which exposed the fact that the Maddox had been operated missions against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Siff).

It was revealed then that the Maddox had really an involvement on the attacks made in North America. In addition, the U. S. Naval Communication Center in the Philippines had inquired about the veracity of the occurrence of the second attack. When Richard Nixon took the presidency in January 1969, his administration expressed an opposition regarding the abolition of the resolution arguing that the Vietnam conflict may implicate war and hostilities in other Southeast Asian countries (Hunt).

Furthermore, his administration emphasized that “the operations made in the Southeast Asian region was not based on the Tonkin Incident Resolution but was a means to exercise the power authorized to the president as the Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. military forces (Siff). ” To the members of the Congress who did not believe the resolution to be reckless, the administration’s standpoint now made it appear insignificant. Repealing it stopped to be contentious, and a stipulation to abolish it was included to a bill that Nixon marked in January 1971.

Aiming to claim limits on presidential power to employ US forces without an official affirmation of war, in 1973, the Congress passed the War Powers Resolution over Nixon’s veto which until now is in effect (Moise). It explains particular requirements for the President to discuss with the Congress concerning decisions that involve US forces in warfare or impending battles. Analysis and Conclusion The primary issue of Tonkin Gulf concerns not dishonesty but misuse of authority granted by the resolution.

The terms of the resolution manifestly authorized the powers the President consequently used and Congress recognized the extent of those powers. But there is no doubt that Congress did not aim to approve, without supplementary, complete discussion, the development of U. S. forces in Vietnam – from 16,000 to 550,000 troops, commencing comprehensive warfare operations with the peril of an extended war against the Soviet Union and China, and lengthening the U. S. participation in Vietnam for the following years. Works Cited Addington, L. H.

America’s War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History. Indiana University Press, 2000. Hunt, Michael. H. Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945-1968. Hill and Wang, 1997. Moise, Edwin. E. Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War. The University of North Carolina Press, 1996. Rice, Earle. Point of No Return: Tonkin Gulf and the Vietnam War. Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2003. Siff, Ezra. Y. Why the Senate Slept: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the Beginning of America’s Vietnam War. Praeger Publishing, 1999.

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