Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, Revised Edition

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Published:June 15, 2019

On July 31, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731) began a reconnaissance cruise off the coast of North Vietnam. On August 2, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the ship. On the night of August 4, the Maddox and another destroyer, the USS Turner Joy (DD-951), expecting to be attacked, saw what they interpreted as hostile torpedo boats on their radars and reported themselves under attack. The following day, the United States bombed North Vietnam in retaliation. Congress promptly passed, almost unanimously and with little debate, a resolution granting President Lyndon Johnson authority to take “all necessary measures” to deal with aggression in Vietnam.

The incident of August 4, 1964, is at the heart of this book. The author interviewed numerous Americans who were present. Most believed in the moment that an attack was occurring. By the time they were interviewed, there were more doubters than believers, but the ones who still believed were more confident in their opinions. Factoring in degree of assurance, one could say that the witnesses were split right down the middle on this fundamental question. A careful and rigorous examination of the other forms of evidence, including intercepted North Vietnamese naval communications, interrogations of North Vietnamese torpedo boat personnel captured later in the war, and the destroyers’ detailed records of the location and duration of radar contacts, lead the author to conclude that no attack occurred that night.

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Product Details
  • Subject: Vietnam War
  • Hardback : 392 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1682474240
  • ISBN-13: 9781682474242
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 23.84 oz
  • “Professor Moise has combined his previous meticulous research with signals intelligence from the National Security Agency, to produce the final, detailed work of what did occur and did NOT occur that night in the Gulf of Tonkin. This work definitively shows how the Johnson administration accepted the story of an attack despite contradictory intelligence. And it establishes the central role of the Gulf of Tonkin in the eventual full-scale American intervention in the Vietnam conflict.” —Robert J Hanyok, Retired Department of Defense historian and author of Spartans in Darkness: American SIGINT in the Indochina War, 1945-1975

Edwin E. Moise is a professor of history at Clemson University. He began as a political and economic historian of China and Vietnam, but eventually became a military historian specializing in the Vietnam War. He published The Myths of Tet: The Most Misunderstood Event of the Vietnam War in 2017. 

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