The Tonkin Gulf Incident occurred on August 2, 1964, when the USS Maddox was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats while conducting an intelligence mission. On August 4, 1964 a similar attack was reported but never actually happened. These incidences, one being completely fake lead to the start of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. On August 4, the same day the falsely reported attack happened, President Johnson gave a speech on TV, in which he described the incident and asked to undertake a military response. This led to the passing of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave President Johnson the authority to use military forces without a declaration of war. The Tonkin Gulf Incident caused much debate and lead to an almost immediate negative reaction by the American people in opposition to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
|This is a picture taken from the USS Maddox during the first attack.|
The more likely cause of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was the fear of the spread of Communism, also known as domino theory. This idea that Communism spread from one country to the next dominated U.S. foreign policy from the 1940’s to the 1980’s and is still and influence till this day. This Cold War way of thinking was the cause of U.S. involvement around the world not just in Indochina. Proxy wars like Vietnam and Korea were about more than just those countries, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were facing off and drawing lines in the sand. The reality of domino theory is debatable though, as North Vietnam was more nationalist than Communist and wanted to gain independence rather than spread Communism.