On the night of 3 August 1964, South Vietnamese small craft attacked two North Vietnamese islands in the Tonkin Gulf. The U.S. destroyer Maddox (DD-731) was on patrol in the northern end of the gulf, her duty unrelated to the South Vietnamese operation (the United States was not yet involved directly in the Vietnamese civil war). Still, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the U.S. destroyer, which responded with 5-inch gunfire.
While this engagement was in progress, a flight of four F?8E Crusaders, launched earlier from the USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) on a combat air patrol under Commander James B. Stockdale, was vectored to the scene. Armed with 20?mm cannon and Zuni unguided rockets, the fighters swung in over the North Vietnamese craft and made several attacks. The pilots reported sinking one. In fact, two were damaged, none sunk; all were returned to service.1