Gulf of Tonkin resolution

foundation of the Vietnam War

The Gulf of Tonkin resolution (August 1964) was a joint resolution by the United States Congress for the United States to begin the Vietnam War. For a decade the CIA had been sending in South Vietnamese teams on sabotage missions to the North. American ships such as the Maddox went on espionage missions in the North's coastal waters. U.S. President Johnson claimed that the North Vietnamese had made two attacks on the Maddox and the Turner Joy in the Gulf of Tonkin. On the 4th of August he asked for congressional support to return the attacks.


President Johnson as he signs the resolution on April 20, 1964

The government had written up a resolution in June 1964. Believing that the lives of American sailors were in danger from the North Vietnamese, Congress willingly passed the resolution. The resolution gave the president the power to start war in Vietnam. As Johnson said, it was "like grandma's night shirt - it covered everything". The resolution would end when the president believed that the situation in Southeast Asia was safe or when Congress decided to terminate it. Senator Mansfield was unconvinced that the U.S. was acting correctly.

Results and significance


With the resolution, Johnson appeared to have the nation behind him. Now the war could really be taken to the North. This escalation for the U.S. in the Vietnam War made Johnson look tough. His public approval rating rose from 42 to 72 percent, helping him to win the presidential election. The resolution and the presidential election suggested a nation united behind its president in his Vietnam policy.

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