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Tonkin Gulf Resolution: Authority for War

The Tonkin Gulf Resolution was Congress' permission for the president to use force in response to North Vietnamese hostile action. It became a turning point in American involvement in Southeast Asia.

On Aug. 2, 1964, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox 28 miles off the North Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two nights later, attacks were reported against the Maddox and the USS C. Turner Joy. In response, President Lyndon Johnson ordered U.S. Navy planes to bomb the torpedo boat bases and an oil storage depot.

On Aug. 7, Congress adopted the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, giving President Johnson authority to use armed force to assist South Vietnam. The Tonkin Gulf Resolution and continuing attacks on Americans in South Vietnam marked the beginning of a dramatic increase in U.S. participation in the war in Southeast Asia.

Click here to return to the Southeast Asia War Introduction.