August 2nd 1964: Gulf of Tonkin incident
On this day in 1964, North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly fired on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The incident was used by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson to demonstrate the aggression of the North Vietnamese communists, and to justify an escalated US military presence in the country. In the wake of the incident, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Joint Resolution which authorised the President to intervene in Vietnam to counter “communist aggression”. Thus, Johnson was authorised - in what was essentially a blank cheque from Congress - to send troops into Vietnam to fight the communist North and aid the South; there was no formal declaration of war by Congress. It was later confirmed that the USS Maddox in fact fired first on the North Vietnamese, and that the incident was twisted for the purposes of the Johnson administration.