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The Gulf of Tonkin Incident is the name given to two separate incidents involving naval forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. On 2 August 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731) engaged three North Vietnamese P-4 torpedo boats, resulting in damage to the three boats. Two days later the Maddox (having been joined by the destroyer USS Turner Joy (DD-951) reported a second engagement with North Vietnamese vessels. This second report was later concluded to be in error.[1] Together, these two incidents prompted the first large-scale involvement of U.S. armed forces in Southeast Asia.

The outcome of the incident was the passage by Congress of the Southeast Asia Resolution (better known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution), which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by "communist aggression", including the commitment of U.S. forces without a declaration of war. The resolution served as Johnson's legal justification for escalating American involvement in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

In 2005, an official NSA declassified report[2] revealed that the Maddox had engaged the North Vietnamese, but that there may not have been any North Vietnamese vessels present during the engagement of 4 August. The report stated:

[I]t is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night. [...] In truth, Hanoi's navy was engaged in nothing that night but the salvage of two of the boats damaged on 2 August.[3]

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