Thursday, August 7, 2014
AUGUST 7 = The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
- Stanley Karnow
On today's date, August 7 in 1964 the United States Senate passed Public Law 88-408. It was signed into law by President Johnson three days later on Aug. 10. This bill, which passed with very much the overwhelming bi-partisan support that Mr. Karnow speaks of above in his history of the Vietnam War (82 -2 in the Senate, 416 - 0 in the House) came to known as "the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution." It became the classic case of giving the President a kind of "blank check" to do whatever he wants to do with American forces, and has ever since made Congress very wary of what it authorizes the President to do militarily.
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident(s?)
This title refers to an incident or a pair of them which occurred on August 2 and 4th in the Gulf of Tonkin, which is a body of water off the coast of North Vietnam and Southern (Mainland) China. The reason for
The second attack was probably not an attack at all. The Maddox and another destroyer, the C. Turner Joy were sent to "show the flag" on Aug. 4 after the provocative action on Aug. 2. During the summer the Gulf of Tonkin's climate is volatile, and subject to atmospheric conditions which can make radar and radio data difficult to read. At
The Political Fallout - LBJ Gets a Blank Check
These two incidents taken by themselves were of no great consequence. But there was an election going on in the United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson, filling out the term of John F. Kennedy was
"So the Senate approved the resolution with only (Senators) Morse and Gruening dissenting while the House passed it unanimously. Morse predicted that its supporters 'will live to regret it'.... The outcome of the vote pleased nobody more than (LBJ adviser) Walter Rostow, who had originally conceived the idea. Looking back on the Tonkin Gulf incident and its aftermath, he remarked, 'We didn't know what happened, but it had the desired result.'"
"Vietnam, A History" by Stanley Karnow, Viking Press, New York, 1983.