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Tonkin Gulf Incidents: Formerly Classified Documents from 2 August - 4 August 1964

Related Resource: Abbreviations


Formerly Classified Documents from 2 August 1984

Formerly Classified Documents from 3 August 1964

Formerly Classified Documents from 4 August 1964

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Memorandum From the Duty Officer in the White House Situation Room to the President:

Washington, August 2, 1964

Mr. President:

  1. Early this morning the USS Maddox was attacked by three DRV PT boats while on patrol approximately 30 miles off the North Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin.
  2. The Captain of the Maddox returned the fire with 5-inch guns and requested air support from the carrier Ticonderoga on station nearby in connection with reconnaissance flights in that area.
  3. Ticonderoga jets arrived shortly and made strafing attacks on the PT boats resulting in one enemy boat dead in the water, two others damaged and turned tail for home.
  4. The Maddox reports no personnel or material damages.
  5. Messrs. Rusk and McNamara have been informed of the incident and present plans are to release a press statement later today either from Washington or Saigon.
  6. Additional details on the Maddox encounter will be available later today.

Source: Dept. of State. Vietnam 1964. vol.1 of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 590.

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COMSEVENTHFLT [Commander Seventh Fleet] message regarding 2 Aug. torpedo boat attack 021008Z:

NAVAL MESSAGE
PRECEDENCE (ACTION) FLASH
FLASH (INFO)

READDRESSED FLASH 021201Z AUG 64
FM COMSEVENTHFLT
INFO RUEKDA/JCS
RUECW/SECNAV

021008Z
FM CTG SEVEN SEVEN PT FIVE

TO RUATZL/BVKG/COMSEVENTHFLT
RUHLHL/CINCPACFLT
RUHLHQ/CINCPAC
RUECW/CNO
RUATZY/T5GL/CTF SEVEN TWO
RUMSMA/COMUSMACV

READDRESSED FLASH 021114Z AUG 64
FM CINCPACFLT
INFO SECNAV
JCS
COMNAVFORJAPAN

TORP ATTACK ON DD (S)

SITREP NR. ONE

AT 020800Z FLASH MSG RECEIVED FROM MADDOX QUOTE AM BEING APPROACHED BY HIGH SPEED CRAFT WITH APPARENT INTENTION OF TORPEDO ATTACK. INTEND TO OPEN FIRE IF NECESSARY SELF DEFENSE. UNQUOTE. TURNER JOY WHO WAS ON WATCH DOG STATION FOR CTG 77.5 YANKEE TEAM OPS AT/N17-31 108-00E WAS ORDERED TO PROCEED TO ASSIST MADDOX. AT 020805Z FLASH MESSAGE WAS SENT TO COMSEVENTHFLT, INFO CINCPACFLT, CTF 72, COMUSMACV THAT CTG 77.5 WAS PROVIDING FOUR 8F8 FOR AIR COVER MADDOX WITH ORDERS NOT TO FIRE UNLESS MADDOX FIRED UPON. THESE ACFT WERE ORBITING TURNER JOY HAVING BEEN PREVIOUSLY LAUNCHED FROM TICO AT 020710Z. MADDOX REPORTED IN MESSAGE RECEIVED TICO AT 021515 THAT QUOTE IT IS BEING ATTACKED BY DRV PT CRAFT, AND THAT HE WAS OPENING UP WITH 5 INCH BATTERY. UNQUOTE. WORD PASSED TO WATCH DOG F8'S TO ATTACK THE DRV PATROL BOATS ONLY IF THEY ATTACKED MADDOX. ON ARRIVAL OVER MADDOX, MADDOX WAS OPENING FIRE WITH 5 INCH BATTERIES AND DIRECTED AIRCRAFT TO ATTACK PT BOATS. ZUNI ATTACKS MADE FIRST. NO DIRECT HITS OBSERVED. STRAFING ATTACKS MADE ON ALL THREE BOATS. PILOTS DEBRIEFED REPORTED ONE PT BOAT DAMAGED AND DEAD IN THE WATER, TWO PT BOATS DAMAGED AND PROCEEDING TO BEACH, SECOND FLIGHT OF FOUR F8'S VECTORED TO MADDOX BUT ORDERED NOT TO PURSUE PT CRAFT PURSUANT TO SEVENTH FLEET MSG 020859Z F8'S DIRECTED TO ORBIT POSITION BUT TO HOLD FIRE UNLESS PT CRAFT RESUMED ATTACKS. WHEN THIS FLIGHT DEPARTED MADDOX LAST REPORT ONE PT TRAILING. MADDOX REPORTS PERSONEL OR MATERIAL CASUALTIES. MORE FOLLOWS.


Source: Tonkin Gulf Collection, 1962-1984 [1964 and 1968], Series I: Misc. Subject Files, 1964, Box 1 of 12, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.

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CTG [Commander Task Group] 72.1 message "July-August DESOTO 021200Z OPSUM:"

INCOMING MESSAGE
THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
PRECEDENCE (ACTION): IMMEDIATE
PRECEDENCE (INFO): IMMEDIATE

O 021443Z

FM CTG 72.1

TO AIG 181

INFO RUMFZK/J8RM/CTG 77.5
RUMFZN/H3WX/CTG 77.6
RUMSMA/COMUSMACV
ZEN/NAVCOMMSTA PHIL
RUMGCR/NHHK/USS MADDOX
RUMGCR/NENB/USS TURNER JOY
RUMFZK/NBMU/USS TICONDEROGA

JULY-AUGUST DESOTO 021200Z OPSUM

A. CINCPACFLT 021104Z NOTAL
B. COMSEVENTHFLT 021255Z NOTAL

1. CTG 72.1 ORIG THIS MSG. MILITARY SIGHTINGS CONTAINED MY SITSUM

2. FOR ADDEES THIS MSG NOT INCLUDED AS ADDEES MY ACTION REPORTS:

MADDOX ATTACKED BY 3 DR P-4 CRAFT AT TIME 020750Z AT POSITION 19-47N, 106-31.1E. EVAL THESE CRAFT AS SAME 3 P-4 REPORTED SITSUM 3. ANTICIPATING ATTACK MADDOX HAD OPENED POINT DELTA 15 MILES TO SEAWARD PRIOR TO PURSUIT BY P-FOURS. MADDOX SPEED 27 KNOTS, P-4 SPEED 50 KNOTS AT 0208, RANGE 9000 YARDS, MADDOX FIRED 3 WARNING SHOTS WHICH WERE UNHEEDED. MADDOX THEN TOOK P-FOURS UNDER FIRE. 3 TORPEDO FIRINGS OBSERVED. 2 PASSED DOWN STBD SIDE AFTER 90 DEGREE PORT TURN. OTHER TORPEDO NOT OBSERVED TO RUN. 50 CAL MACHINE GUN FIRE ALSO EXPERIENCED. NO MATERIAL OR PERSONNEL CASUALTIES TO MADDOX. ALL 3 P-FOURS HIT BY GUNFIRE. 1 APPEARED HIT AND BURNING. REMAINING 2 RETIRED TO WEST. MADDOX RETIRED TO NE AND DIRECTED F8A AIRCRAFT FROM TICO ON P-FOURS. MADDOX PRESENT IN COMPANY WITH TURNER JOY PROCEEDING 17-30N, 108-00-E FOR UNREP FROM ASHTABULA. COMPL UNREP INTEND PROCEED IAW REFS A AND B. 3 HICOM COMM UNSAT TO DATE. UNODIR AM GUARDING CKT D30. 1F (TG77.5 CID) WHICH HAS BEEN SAT FOR COMM WITH TG 77. UNITS. DURATT UNSAT TO DATE. ALL RECENT TRAFFIC PASSED VIA SHIP/SHORE.

INFO....CJCS-3 DJS-3 SJCS-1 J3-6 SACSA-5 NMCC-2 JRG-2 CSA-2 CSAF-2 CMC-2 OSD-15 FILE-1 (44) JRT

ADV CY TO OSD NMCC JRG

4. MATERIAL DEFICIENCIES: MADDOX AN/SPS40 INOP. EXPECT SAT BY MORNING TURNER JOY AN/SPG53 RADAR INOP ETR INDEF.

5. IT IS APPARENT THAT DRV HAS CUT DOWN THE GUANTLET AND NOW CONSIDERS ITSELF AT WAR WITH US. IT IS FELT THAT THEY WILL ATTACK US FORCES ON SIGHT WITH NO REGARD FOR COST. U.S. SHIPS IN THE GULF OF TONKIN CAN NO LONGER ASSUME THAT THEY WILL BE CONSIDERED NEUTRALS EXERCISING THE RIGHT OF FREE TRANSIT. THEY WILL BE TREATED AS BELLIGERENTS FROM FIRST DETECTION AND MUST CONSIDER THEMSELVES AS SUCH. DRV PTS HAVE ADVANTAGE ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT OF BEING ABLE TO HIDE IN JUNK CONCENTRATIONS ALL ACROSS THE GULF OF TONKIN. THIS WOULD ALLOW ATTACK FROM SHORT RANGE WITH LITTLE OR NO EARLY WARNING. PRESENT USS-GUNNERY SUIT NOT TO WELL FITTED FOR ANTI-PT EVEN IN DAYLIGHT. SHORT HULL DD SUCH AS MADDOX TOO SHORTLEGGED FOR LONG PATROL WHERE HIGH SPEEDS ARE REQUIRED AS IN PT EVASION. CONSIDER RESUMPTION OF PATROL CAN ONLY BE SAFELY UNDERTAKEN BY DD, CL/CA TEAM AND WITH CONTINUOUS AIR COVER.


Source: Tonkin Gulf Collection, 1962-1984 [1964 and 1968], Series I: Misc. Subject Files, 1964, Box 1 of 12, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.

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Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp):

Washington, August 2, 1964---12:25 p.m.

7680. This is a DeSoto Patrol message. Reference: A. CINCPACFLT DTG 021104Z (NOTAL). B. ADMINO CINCPAC DTG 021255Z (NOTAL).


Source: Dept. of State. Vietnam 1964. vol.1 of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 591.

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Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam:

Washington, August 2, 1964 -- 1:41 p.m.

328. Embtel 281. Maddox was engaged in fleet patrol similar to patrols conducted routine basis various parts of world. Ships engaged such activities operate in international waters. For instance ship engaged in patrol along coast Communist China normally remains 15 NM from coast in view Chicom claim 12 mile limit. Observing claimed limits does not indicate recognition of claim. Firing by DRV patrol craft took place in international waters over 20 NM from coast of North Vietnam. Similar destroyer patrol was conducted February-March in Gulf of Tonkin by destroyer Craig. All of foregoing may be passed to GVN.

FYI. Maddox was on DeSoto Patrol and had been authorized approach 8 NM coast of North Vietnam or 4 NM to certain North Vietnamese islands. Destroyer Craig in Feb-March was authorized approach to 4 NM coast of N VN. Maddox will resume patrol observing an 11 mile limit. In case DRV Department has no record of specific distance claimed by them so approach closer than 12 NM authorized. Just prior to incident Maddox may have approached to about 11 NM of coast. Assume you have seen press release issued Honolulu this morning. End FYI.

Rusk


Source: Dept. of State. Vietnam 1964. vol.1 of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 592.

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CTG [Command Task Group] 77.5 message "Torpedo Attack on DD(S)," 021506Z:

IMMEDIATE

021506Z AUG 64

FM: CTG SEVEN SEVEN PT FIVE

TO: COMSEVENTHFLT

INFO: CINCPACFLT
CINCPAC
CNO
CTF SEVEN TWO
COMUSMACV

TORPEDO ATTACK ON DD(S)

SITREP NR 3 REPORT OF AIR ATTACK ON MOTOR TORPEDO BOATS

1. TWO SECTIONS OF F8’S DIVERTED FROM OVERHAUL TICONDEROGA ARRIVED OVER MADDOX AT 020830Z AND ON REQUEST MADDOX ATTACKED THE 3 MOTOR TORPEDO BOATS WHICH HAD ATTACKED MADDOX BUT WERE PROCEEDING AWAY FROM MADDOX AT HIGH SPEED IN A NORTHERLY DIRECTION. TWO OF THE TORPEDO BOATS WERE APPROXIMATELY 10 MILES NORTH OF MADDOX AND ONE ABOUT 5 MILES NORTH OF MADDOX.

2. THE FIRST SECTION OF F8'S (VF-51) ATTACKED OFE MORE NORTHERLY PAIR OF MOTOR TORPEDO BOATS WITH ZUNIS ON THE FIRST RUN. THE ZUNIS DID NOT HIT THE TARGETS SHORTLY AFTER THE WINGMAN OF THE FIRST SECTION COMPLETED HIS RUN HE REPORTED HAVING BEEN HIT BUT STILL IN CONTROL OF HIS AIRCRAFT. HE WAS TOLD TO ORBIT MADDOX. THE SECTION LEADER THEN MADE ONE MORE ZUNI RUN AND FOUR STRAFING ATTACKS EXPENDING 400 RND OF 20MM AMMO ON THE TWO TORPEDO BOATS. THE ZUNI DID NOT HIT THE TARGET BUT HITS WERE OBSERVED IN THE STRAFING RUNS. NO SMOKE OR FIRE WAS SEEN, HOWEVER, AND THE TWO TORPEDO BOATS WERE NOT OBSERVED TO LOW DOWN.

3. THE SECOND SECTION OF F8'S (VF-53) ATTACKED THE MORE SOUTHERLY SINGLE TORPEDO BOAT. TWO ZUNIS EACH WERE EXPENDED ON THE FIRST RUN BUT NO HITS WERE OBSERVED. EACH F8 THEN MADE TWO STRAFING RUNS, ONE OF THE RUNS AGAINST THE NORTHERLY PAIR OF MOTOR TORPEDO BOATS EXPENDING 500 ROUNDS OF 20MM AMMO HITS WERE OBSERVED ON ALL STRAFING RUNS AND THE SINGLE TORPEDO BOAT WAS REPORTED DEAD IN THE WATER AND BURNING NEAR THE STERN.

4. THE DAMAGED AIRCRAFT LANDED SAFELY AT DANANG. IT HAS NOT BEEN DETERMINED IF THE DAMAGE WAS DUE TO ENEMY FIRE OR DEBRIS FROM THE ZUNI. PILOT BELIEVES HE WAS FIRED AT BY THE TORPEDO BOAT.

5. AN RF-8 WAS DISPATCHED TO AREA OF TORPEDO ATTACK. LOCATED ONLY ONE TORPEDO BOAT AT APPROXIMATELY 19-31N 106-15E PROCEEDING NORTH AT HIGH SPEED. PHOTOS TAKEN LOW SUN ANGLE RESULTED IN ONLY 2 PHOTOS OF POOR QUALITY. PHOTO INTERPRETATION INDICATES PROBABLE P-4 PT BOAT.

021506Z AUG


Source: Tonkin Gulf Collection, 1962-1984 [1964 and 1968], Series I: Misc. Subject Files, 1964, Box 1 of 12, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.

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Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp):

Washington, August 2, 1964---6:49 p.m.

7681. This is a DeSoto Patrol Message. Reference: JCS 7680 DTG 021725Z Aug 64. In event US vessels are attacked in international waters (11 miles offshore or more), you will seek to destroy the attacking forces, however, pursuit into hostile waters or air space is not authorized.


Source: Dept. of State. Vietnam 1964. vol.1 of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 593.

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Tonkin Gulf: Formerly Classified Document from 3 August 1964:

Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State:

Saigon, August 3, 1964-11 a.m.

282. Deptel 328 and Embtel 281. Deptel does not address itself to primary question raised Embtel namely what will be U.S. Govt reaction to this attack? Dept [Emb] will appreciate that info. Unprovoked attack against U.S. destroyer in international waters by three illegal North Vietnamese torpedo boats will be received dramatically in current atmosphere Saigon. It is not adequate to local minds (nor indeed to ours) to state that attack was repelled and that patrol will continue.

This reaction, if it constitutes totality of U.S. Govt intentions, will make it appear that we are prepared to accept regular Swatow harassment in international waters as normal concomitant our normal naval patrolling activities. Such an attitude would immediately be construed in Saigon as indication that U.S. flinches from direct confrontation with North Vietnamese, especially since we apparently did not press home total destruction those vessels which attacked Maddox.


Source: Dept. of State. Vietnam 1964. vol.1 of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 593.

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Tonkin Gulf: Formerly Classified Documents from 4 August 1964:

Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense (McNamara), Washington, August 4, 1964, 11:10 a.m.:

Telephone Call from Secretary McNamara

M said there was a cable [at] 9:36 our time reporting 3 unidentified boats and 3 unidentified aircraft approaching the destroyers; they had just had a phone call from Sharp that the destroyer reported under torpedo attack. M had told the President we were working out retaliatory measures. M asked if Sec could come over as they had all the charts etc. Sec said he would be there in about 10 minutes.


Source: Dept. of State. Vietnam 1964. vol.1 of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 607.

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Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand

Washington, August 4, 1964 -- 6:03 p.m.

171. In view further attacks today on US Destroyer Maddox President has decided air strike should be carried out at once against torpedo boat bases and a fuel installation in North Viet-Nam. You should be prepared on receipt further message repeat on receipt further message, to notify Thanom and call emergency SEATO meeting to announce action and reasons therefor.

Slug reply Nodis-Pierce Arrow.

Rusk


Source: Dept. of State. Vietnam 1964. vol.1 of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 610.

12 August 2004