Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
The Tonkin Gulf Resolution (officially, Asia Resolution, Public Law 88-408) was a joint resolution
Joint resolution
In the United States Congress, a joint resolution is a legislative measure that requires approval by the Senate and the House and is presented to the President for his/her approval or disapproval, in exactly the same case as a bill....

 which the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 passed on August 10, 1964 in response to a sea battle
Sea Battle
Sea Battle is a multiplayer strategy game released by Mattel for its Intellivision video game system in 1980. In the game, players command fleets of naval vessels attempting to invade the harbor of their opponent.-Gameplay:...

 between the North Vietnamese Navy's Torpedo Squadron 10135 and the destroyer on August 2 and an alleged second naval engagement between North Vietnamese boats and the US destroyers USS Maddox and on August 4 in the Tonkin Gulf; both naval actions are known collectively as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident
Gulf of Tonkin Incident
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, or the USS Maddox Incident, are the names given to two incidents, one fabricated, involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin...

. The Tonkin Gulf Resolution is of historical significance because it gave U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 authorization, without a formal declaration of war
Declaration of war by the United States
A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by a national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another. For the United States, Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution says "Congress shall have power to ... declare War"...

 by Congress, for the use of "conventional'
Conventional warfare
Conventional warfare is a form of warfare conducted byusing conventional military weapons and battlefield tactics between two or more states in open confrontation. The forces on each side are well-defined, and fight using weapons that primarily target the opposing army...

 military force in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

. Specifically, the resolution authorized the President to do whatever necessary in order to assist "any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty." This included involving armed forces. The unanimous affirmative vote in the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 was 416-0. (However, Congressman Eugene Siler
Eugene Siler
Eugene Siler was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Kentucky between 1955 and 1965. He was the only member of the House of Representatives to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution...

 of Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, who was not present but opposed the measure, was "paired"
Pair (parliamentary convention)
Pairing is a system whereby two members of parliament from opposing political parties may agree to abstain where one member is unable to vote, due to other commitments, illness, travel problems, etc...

 with another member who favored the resolution — i.e., his opposition was not counted, but the vote in favor was one less than it would have been.) It was opposed in the Senate only by Senators Wayne Morse
Wayne Morse
Wayne Lyman Morse was a politician and attorney from Oregon, United States, known for his proclivity for opposing his parties' leadership, and specifically for his opposition to the Vietnam War on constitutional grounds....

 (D–OR) and Ernest Gruening
Ernest Gruening
Ernest Henry Gruening was an American journalist and Democrat who was the Governor of the Alaska Territory from 1939 until 1953, and a United States Senator from Alaska from 1959 until 1969.-Early life:...

 (D–AK). Senator Gruening objected to "sending our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated." The Johnson administration subsequently relied upon the resolution to begin its rapid escalation of U.S. military involvement in South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

 and open warfare between North Vietnam and the United States.
Two days later, on August 4, the Maddox and the destroyer Turner Joy
USS Turner Joy (DD-951)
USS Turner Joy was one of 18 s of the United States Navy. She was named for Admiral Charles Turner Joy USN . Commissioned in 1959, she spent her entire career in the Pacific...

 both reported to be under attack, again, by North Vietnamese torpedo boats; during this alleged engagement, the Turner Joy fired approximately 220 3-inch & 5-inch shells at radar controlled surface targets.Moise, p. 158 Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

 subsequently insisted that it had not launched a second attack. A later investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is a standing committee of the United States Senate. It is charged with leading foreign-policy legislation and debate in the Senate. The Foreign Relations Committee is generally responsible for overseeing and funding foreign aid programs as...

 revealed that the Maddox had been on an electronic intelligence
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

DESOTO patrol
DESOTO patrols were patrols conducted by U.S. Navy destroyers equipped with a mobile "van" of signals intelligence equipment used for intelligence collection in hostile waters....

) mission. It also learned that the U.S. Naval Communication Center in the Philippine Islands, in reviewing ships' messages, had questioned whether any second attack had actually occurred. "Excerpts from McNamara's Testimony on Tonkin", The New York Times, 1968-02-25. In 2005, an internal National Security Agency historical study was declassified; it concluded[7] that the Maddox had engaged the North Vietnamese Navy on August 2, but that there may not have been any North Vietnamese Naval vessels present during the engagement of August 4. The report stated:

In 1965, President Johnson commented privately: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."[28] Within hours, President Johnson ordered the launching of retaliatory air strikes (Operation Pierce Arrow
Operation Pierce Arrow
Operation Pierce Arrow was a U.S. military operation during the Vietnam War.In response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident when the USS Maddox of the United States Navy engaged North Vietnamese ships, sustaining light damage as it gathered electronic intelligence while in the international waters of...

) on the bases of the North Vietnamese torpedo boats and announced, in a television address to the American public that same evening, that U.S. naval forces had been attacked. Johnson requested approval of a resolution "expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in southeast Asia", stating that the resolution should express support "for all necessary action to protect our Armed Forces", but repeated previous assurances that "the United States... seeks no wider war". As the nation entered the final three months of political campaigning for the 1964 elections (in which Johnson was standing for election), the president contended that the resolution would help "hostile nations... understand" that the United States was unified in its determination "to continue to protect its national interests.""Excerpts from President's Message to Congress",

The administration of President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

, which took office in January 1969, initially opposed repeal, warning of "consequences for Southeast Asia [that] go beyond the war in Vietnam." In 1970 the administration began to shift its stance. It asserted that its conduct of operations in Southeast Asia was based not on the resolution but was a constitutional exercise of the President's authority, as Commander in Chief of U.S. military forces, to take necessary steps to protect American troops as they were gradually withdrawn"Gulf of Tonkin Measure Voted In Haste and Confusion in 1964", The New York Times, 1970-06-25.(the U.S. had begun withdrawing its forces from Vietnam in 1969 under a policy known as "Vietnamization
Vietnamization was a policy of the Richard M. Nixon administration during the Vietnam War, as a result of the Viet Cong's Tet Offensive, to "expand, equip, and train South Vietnam's forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S....


Mounting public opinion against the war eventually led to the repeal of the resolution, which was attached to a bill that Nixon signed in January 1971.UPI "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is Repealed Without Furor", The New York Times, 1971-01-14. Seeking to restore limits on presidential authority to engage U.S. forces without a formal declaration of war, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution
War Powers Resolution
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 is a federal law intended to check the power of the President in committing the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress. The resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution; this provides that the...

in 1973, over Nixon's veto. The War Powers Resolution, which is still in effect, sets forth certain requirements for the President to consult with Congress in regard to decisions that engage U.S. forces in hostilities or imminent hostilities.

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