Commentary

August 8, 2014

This Week in History

Rick Griset,
56th Fighter Wing Historian

North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats attack the USS Maddox Aug. 2, 1964.

August 1964: Gulf of Tonkin

Fifty years ago, American involvement in Vietnam hit a major trip wire, the Gulf of Tonkin incident. American involvement began before the end of the First Indochina War in 1954. The breakup of French Indochina created Laos, Cambodia, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam).

By 1954, America was deep into the Cold War against communism. Since North Vietnam’s leader, Ho Chi Minh, was labeled a communist, the United States backed the noncommunist, yet corrupt, leader of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem.

Following Mao’s three levels of war strategy, Ho Chi Minh supported the efforts of the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam’s political and later guerrilla and regular army units in the south. America typically referred to the NLF as the Viet Cong.

As the French pulled out, American Air Force advisors began to help the South Vietnamese air force. When John Kennedy became president in 1961, he decided to increase military support including Air Force trainers and reconnaissance flights. Two years later, the Viet Cong won its first victory against South Vietnamese forces.

In November 1963, both Diem and Kennedy were assassinated. Diem fell in an American approved coup d’état. As the United States waited for a better South Vietnamese leader to emerge, aid continued. Unfortunately, despite his faults, Diem was the strongest political leader in South Vietnam.

In August 1964, reconnaissance efforts included the destroyer, USS Maddox, conducting intelligence signals in international waters in the Tonkin Gulf. The Gulf of Tonkin lies between Hainan Island, part of the People’s Republic of China, and North Vietnam.

On Aug. 2, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer. As the Maddox defended itself, the USS Ticonderoga helped with fighter aircraft. Accounts differ, but at least one torpedo boat was sunk and one was damaged.

Undamaged, two days later, the Maddox was back on mission with the destroyer USS C. Turner Joy. That evening torpedo boats approached. A confused melee followed that gave President Lyndon Johnson all he needed to act.

The next day, Clark Air Base, Philippines, deployed B-57s to Bien Hoa AB and F 100s to Da Nang AB, both in South Vietnam. The following day, Yokota AB, Japan, deployed F 105s to Korat Royal Tahi AFB, Thailand, and Tactical Air Command deployed three tactical fighter squadrons, two troop carrier squadrons, and six reconnaissance aircraft to Southeast Asia.

A joint session of Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on Aug. 7 authorizing the president to use conventional military force in Southeast Asia. An immediate buildup of airpower in the region began and soon American ground forces were in combat. Three years later, the 56th Air Commando Wing (later, 56th Fighter Wing) joined the fray.

Ten years after the first Viet Cong victory, the cease fire ended American combat in Vietnam. Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975, thus creating the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Vietnamese casualties totaled in the millions. American losses were over 58,000 dead and 300,000 wounded.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Pg-1-photo

Chief of staff visits Luke

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and his wife, Betty, spent time meeting with Airmen and leadership Monday at Luke Air Force Base. Welsh highlighted Airman health, wellness and quality of life activities. He also...
 
 

Mentoring fosters dreams, strengthens us

A few days ago while reading an online commander’s call, I came across an article dated Dec. 31, 2014, stating President Obama proclaimed the month of January 2015 National Mentoring Month. Although this topic is thoroughly discussed in our Air Force today, I felt compelled to write on its importance all the same. In a...
 
 

Have you joined the Air Force yet?

I enlisted into the Air Force in February of 1997. However, I didn’t join the Air Force until March of 1999. No, I’m not talking about the Delayed Enlistment Program. There was no doubt that after high school I would attend college. However, not having applied for any scholarships and realizing that I didn’t have...
 

 
Courtesy photo

Prevention training goes face-to-face

Courtesy photo Maj. Jennifer Tomlinson, Air Education and Training Command Medical Readiness Division deputy chief, serves as facilitator during the AETC Medical Services and Training directorate annual Air Force Suicide Preven...
 
 
Senior Airman
JAMES HENSLEY

Thunderbolt looks to future

Senior AirmanJAMES HENSLEY Staff Sgt. Maddie Baker, 56th Dental Squadron acting commander secretary was an Air Force Honor Guard member prior to crossing over to the dental field. As the commander’s secretary, she plays a piv...
 
 

Tuskegee Airmen commemorated

The Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of Tuskegee Airman Inc. celebrated the 2nd Annual Tuskegee Airman Commemoration Day with a wreath ceremony Wednesday at the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Air Park. The Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day is the result of legislation signed into law by former Arizona Governor Janice Brewer in 2013 and is the first such law...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin