Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

August 10, 1964

Public Law 88-408; 78 Stat. 384


(On August 1, 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked an American destroyer, the Maddox, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The North Vietnamese believed, incorrectly, that the destroyer had supported South Vietnamese commando raids military raids on nearby islands the night before. Three days later, the Maddox and another ship reported that they were again under attack. This second attack appears to have been imaginary, the result of sailors misreading sonar and radar equipment that was malfunctioning because of heavy seas. Despite the fact that the captain of the Maddox quickly began to doubt that an attack had occurred, Johnson used the alleged incident to persuade Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  Congress passed the resolution after two days of debate and with only two dissenting votes. The speed and near unanimity of the vote largely resulted from the fact that legislators believed that the attacks on the Maddox had been unprovoked. Administration officials failed to inform Congress that South Vietnam had been conducting commando raids in the area and that the second attack may not have occurred.  Congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on January 2, 1971.)



To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.

Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels lawfully present in international waters; and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and

    Whereas these attacks are part of a deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and

   Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protect their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these peoples should be left in peace to work out their own destinies in their own way:  Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.

Sec.  2.  The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.  Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.

Sec. 3.  This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.

Approved August 10, 1964.