President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Tonkin Gulf Resolution
On August 4th, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced to the public that U.S. destroyers, USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy, had been attacked on August 2nd, 1964, without provocation, in the Gulf of Tonkin by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Then two days later on August 4th the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy reported that they were once again under attack. President Johnson immediately dispatched U.S. planes, ordering retaliatory airstrikes against North Vietnam, and asked Congress to sanction any further action he might take. On August 7th, 1964, Congress passed the Public Law 88-408, which became known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, with only two senators (Wayne k. Morse and Ernest Gruening) dissenting. The bill was passed with a unanimous vote by the House of Representatives, and was signed into a law by President Johnson on August 10th, 1964. This resolution gave President Johnson the power "to take all necessary measures to repeal any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent any further aggression." This resolution caused a great political controversy during the course of the undeclared war that followed, and was used by both President Johnson, and later President Nixon, as a legal basis for their military actions in Vietnam. Congress repealed the measure in 1970 as public resistance to the war heightened. Further investigation has led to the conclusion that no actual attack happened on August 4th, 1964. In fact within only days of the attack President Johnson told State Department official George Ball that "Hell, those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish!" Nevertheless, the passing of this resolution was highly significant to the Vietnam War because it gave President Johnson full consent to place American forces in Southeast Asia without an official declaration of war.