Vietnam War is the American’s longest war. During the war, there were many turning points that influenced on the flaw of it and “changed its direction”. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that occurred in August 7, 1964, was one of the major turning points in the United States military involvement into the flow of the Vietnam War.
The official title of the resolution was The Joint Resolution to Promote the Maintenance of International Peace and Security in Southeast Asia. George Moss (2010) mentions that “the key language in the 300-word document that granted Johnson the constitutional authority he later used to wage a war in Vietnam” (p. 173).
The Resolution was not just another event in the history of the United States, it was really a major turning point because in has a great “impact on the Ohioans many of whom were members of the armed forces during the Vietnam War. Bealsville, Ohio, lost more people per capita in the Vietnam War than any other community in the United States” (“Gulf of Tonkin Incident”, 2005).
In addition, Resolution also had a historical significance as this allowed the presidents greatly increase the involvement of the U.S. in the South Vietnam and have an “uncontrolled” interference in the war actions between South and North Vietnam, including the armed forces. The number of American troops there became more than 500,000. This led to enormous losses. More than 55,000 Americans who were engaged in fighting had been killed, as well as thousands of Vietnam people.
The events preceding the Resolution were very important. First of all, after the Kennedy’s death, Johnson assumed the presidency and pro-American military leadership replaced the governing of Diem. The year 1964 was the year of elections and Johnson needed to “neutralize” Goldwater somehow. So, he stood against the “Communist threat” in Vietnam.
It was announced that two American destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, were attacked by the Vietnamese forces, though the United States did not provoke these attacks. But, actually, “the United States provoked these attacks when they supported South Vietnamese commandos by letting them use American worships to identify North Vietnamese radar stations”. (Moss, 2010, p. 458).
These events were named “the Gulf of Tonkin Incident” that permitted to accept the Resolution that worked as a legal justification of the president’s actions directed on the increasing of the American participation in the war.
The events that were caused by this Resolution also were significant. First of all, it convinced American people in the fact that the Congress was confident in Johnson and his poll number quickly rose from 42 to 72 %, moreover, he got an individual power.
Later, the Americans realized that they deceived. Cynthia Ann Watson (2002) says that “ The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution has had memorable effect on U. S. national security policy” (p. 170). After the events caused by resolution, many questions aroused about the real course of those events.
Many scientists assume that there were no the second attack. Moreover, the outcome of the conflict “made the Congress less willing to grant wide military power to the executives. (Watson, 2002, p. 170). So, it influenced on the structure of the decision-making process and until G.W. Bush none of the U.S. presidents had a complete and unquestioned support from the Congress.
So, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was one of the major turning points in the history of the USA that greatly influenced on the flow of the Vietnam War increasing the involvement of the American troops in the war. This Resolution was preceded by important events and it had no less important consequences.
Gulf of Tonkin Incident. (2005). Ohio History Central, July 1. Retrieved from http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=1598.
Moss, G. D. (2010) Vietnam: An American Ordeal. 6th Ed. New York: Pearson Education Inc.
Watson, C. A. (2002). U.S. National Security: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc.