OOOPresident Johnson's Message to Congress on Tonkin Incident &
of Tonkin Resolution
OOOOHOME | 20TH CENTURY DOCUMENTS | GULF OF TONKIN
Johnson's Message to Congress
night I announced to the American people that North Vietnamese regime
had conducted further deliberate attacks against US. naval vessels
operating in international waters, and that I had therefore directed air
action against gunboats and supporting facilities used in these hostile
operations. This air action has now been carried out with substantial
damage to the boats and facilities. Two US. aircraft were lost in the
After consultation with the leaders of both parties in the Congress, I further announced a decision to ask the Congress for a resolution expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in southeast Asia.
These latest actions of the North Vietnamese regime have given a new and grave turn to the already serious situation in southeast Asia. Our commitments in that area are well known to the Congress. They were first made in 1954 by President Eisenhower. They were further defined in the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty approved by the Senate in February 1955.
This treaty with its accompanying protocol obligates the United States and other members to act in accordance with their constitutional processes to meet Communist aggression against any of the parties or protocol states.
Our policy in southeast Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954. I summarized it on June 2 in our simple propositions:
1. America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments.
2. The issue is the future of southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us.
3. Our purpose is peace. We have no military, political, or territorial ambitions in the area.
4. This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity. Our military and economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel aggression and strengthen their independence.
The threat to the free nations of southeast Asia has long been clear. The North Vietnamese regime has constantly sought to take over South Vietnam and Laos. This Communist regime has violated the Geneva accords for Vietnam. It has systematically conducted a campaign of subversion, which included the direction, training, and supply of personnel and arms for the conduct of guerrilla warfare in South Vietnamese territory. In Laos, the North Vietnamese regime has maintained military forces, used Laotian territory for infiltration into South Vietnam, and most recently carried out combat operations-all in direct violation of the Geneva agreements of 1962.
In recent months, the actions of the North Vietnamese regime have become steadily more threatening. In May, following new acts of Communist aggression in Laos, the United States undertook reconnaissance flights over Laotian territory, at the request of the Government of Laos. These flights had the essential mission of determining the situation in territory where Communist forces were preventing inspection by the International Control Commission. When the Communists attacked these aircraft, I responded by furnishing escort fighters with instructions to fire when fired upon. Thus, these latest North Vietnamese attacks on our naval vessels are not the first direct attack on armed forces of the United States.
As President of the United States I have concluded that I should now ask the Congress, on its part, to join in affirming the national determination that all such attacks will be met, and that the United States will continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom.
As I have repeatedly made clear, the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war. We must make it clear to all that the United States is united in its determination to bring about the end of Communist subversion and aggression in the area. We seek the full and effective restoration of the international agreements signed in Geneva in 1954, with respect to South Vietnam, and again in Geneva in 1962, with respect to Laos.
I recommend a resolution expressing the support of the Congress for all necessary action to protect our Armed Forces and to assist nations covered by the SEATO Treaty. At the same time, I assure the Congress that we shall continue readily to explore any avenues of political solution that will effectively guarantee the removal of Communist subversion and the preservation of the independence of the nations of the area.
The resolution could well be based upon similar resolutions enacted by the Congress in the past-to meet the threat to Formosa in 1955, to meet the threat to the Middle East in 1957, and to meet the threat in Cuba in 1962. It could state in the simplest terms the resolve and support of the Congress for action to deal appropriately with attacks against our Armed Forces and to defend freedom and preserve peace in southeast Asia in accordance with the obligations of the United States under the Southeast Asia Treaty. I urge the Congress to enact such a resolution promptly and thus to give convincing evidence to the aggressive Communist nations, and to the world as a whole, that our policy in southeast Asia will be carried forward--and that the peace and security of the area will be preserved.
The events of this week would in any event have made the passage of a congressional resolution essential. But there is an additional reason for doing so at a time when we are entering on 3 months of political campaigning. Hostile nations must understand that in such a period the United States will continue to protect its national interests, and that in these matters there is no division among us.
Joint Resolution of Congress: H.J. RES 1145 August 7, 1964
promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast
Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels lawfully present in international waters; and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and
Whereas these attacks are part of a deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protect their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these peoples should be left in peace to work out their own destinies in their own way: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.
Sec. 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.
Sec. 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.
Approved August 10, 1964.
of Tonkin Incident: C.T. Evans and B. McGowan,
Northern Virginia Community College
Gulf of Tonkin Incident: Wikipedia
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: Reader's Companion to American History, Houghton-Mifflin, college.hmco.com
LBJ Tapes on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident : John Prados, The White House Tapes (New York: The New Press, 2003) [National Security Archive, GeorgeWashington University]
Gulf of Tonkin Documents: As released by the National Security Agency in 2005 and 2006
The Gulf of Tonkin, 1964: Perspectives from the Lyndon Johnson and National Military Command Center Tapes: David Coleman and Marc Selverstone, Miller Center of Public Affairs, White House Tapes, whitehousetapes.org
War Report, Gulf of Tonkin Incidents: The History Channel, historychannel.com
USS Maddox (DD-731), 1944-1972 - Actions in the Gulf of Tonkin, August 1964: Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, history.navy.mil
By Sea, Air and Land: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and the War in Southeast Asia: Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, history.navy.mil
Foreign Relations of The United States 1964-1968, Volume I Vietnam, 1964: United States Department of State
The Senate Debates the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, August 6-7, 1964: Congressional Record. August 6-7, 1964. pp18132-33. 18406-7. 18458-59, and 18470-71 [The Wars for Viet Nam, Vassar College, vietnam.vassar.edu]
Cronkite: Gulf of Tonkin's Phantom Attack: National Public Radio
Cronkite on Gulf of Tonkin, Part II: National Public Radio
The Relevance of the Tonkin Gulf Incidents: U.S. Military Action in Vietnam, August 1964 : Kim Weitzman, The Vietnam Project, Texas Tech University, vietnam.ttu.edu
LBJ Signs the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: Picture History, picturehistory.com
War Report, Gulf of Tonkin Incidents: The History Channel, historychannel.com
The Tonkin Incident: Michael L. Umphrey [Montana Heritage Project, edheritage.org]
Tonkin Incident Might Not Have Occurred : Bob Richter, the San Antonio Express-News [Common Dreams, commondreams.org]
New Tapes Indicate Johnson Doubted Attack in Tonkin Gulf: David E. Sanger, The New York Times [University of California Berkeley, tiger.berkely.edu]
"A Communications Storm The Gulf of Tonkin Incident": Michael L Umphrey [Montana Heritage Project, edheritage.org]
"30-Year Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War": Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon [Fairness and Acuracy in Media, fair.org]
New Light on Gulf of Tonkin: Captain Ronnie E. Ford, U.S. Army [Hartford Web Publishing, hartford-hwp.com]
Retractions of Reporting Are Quite Selective: Norman Solomon, Change Links, change-links.org
One Man With Courage Makes a Majority: Michael Sloyer, John F. Kennedy Library & Museum
Vietnam War Bibliography: The Tonkin Gulf Incidents, 1964: Edwin E. Moïse, Clemson University, hubcap. clemson.edu