To what extent was the Gulf of Tonkin the main reason why the US became involved in the Vietnam War between 1954 and 1964?
Between 1954 and 1964 US involvement in Vietnam increased significantly about the time that the Gulf of Tonkin occurred and to an extent it can be seen that the Gulf of Tonkin was the main reason that the US got involved in Vietnam because shortly after the event happened, it lead to various battles between North and South Vietnam in which two élite battalions of South Vietnam troops were defeated by Vietcong ambush tactics. However,this event has speculated other possible reasons why the US got involved in Vietnam which include: President Johnson’s desire for a blank cheque, the Domino Theory and the Policy of containment. These factors will be explored in the following paragraphs. The Gulf of Tonkin can be argued to be the main reason the US got involved in Vietnam. After the first attack of the US Maddox boat on the 2nd August 1964, there was an alleged second attack on the boast which caused Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave President Johnson the power to take any military measures he thought necessary to defend South Vietnam. It could be argued that the US had every right to get involved and send troops into North Vietnam because they had attacked them first and posed a threat. An extract from the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which can be found at www.ourdocuments.com, says: ‘Naval units of the Communist regime...have repeatedly attacked Unites States Navy vessels lawfully present in international waters...have created a serious threat to international peace...’ This backs up my argument and shows that the Vietnamese people had made the first move causing the US to defend themselves from possible attacks. In addition, after the second alleged attack battles between North and South Vietnam resulted in two élite battalions of South Vietnam troops being defeated by Vietcong ambush tactics as Waugh and Wright said. This shows that Vietnam were willing to fight the Americans and use any tactics they could in order for them to win the battle and regain their freedom which was promised to them at the Geneva Agreement. An oil canvas by Commander E.J Fitzgerald in January 1965 shows clearly the fight between the US Maddox and three Vietnamese motor torpedo boats which clearly illustrates the conflict between the US and Vietnam. However on closer examination, firstly, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the Oil canvas are American sources so their reliability has to be questioned as this would make them one sided and reduce how reliable they are. In addition, strong evidence shows that the second alleged attack on the US Maddox did not happen as is said by Waugh and Wright in their history text book. Robert Hanyok, a historian claims that the US ships were there to ‘collect intelligence’ and intercept NVA intelligence to send them to South Vietnam. Vivian Sanders also says in her text book that for a ‘decade, the CIA had been sending South Vietnamese teams on sabotage missions to the North and...American ships such as the US Maddox were sent on espionage missions in the North’s coastal waters.’ Also, George E. Jones in a report says that ‘no causalities or damage were reported by the US Maddox...’ This is strange because if the Maddox had been fired at like the US claimed then these would have been damage to the ship. Moreover Robert Hanyok and Vivian Sanders quotes both agree showing that it was the US who were in the wrong because they were spying on North Vietnam. Consequently, the North Vietnamese had every right to attack because it is clear that the US were spying on them since they were on North Vietnamese waters and had not sustained any damage to their Maddox ship. It is evident from this that the second attack on the US Maddox ship by North Vietnam did not happen and it was in fact the North Vietnam who had been attacked by ‘heavy gunfire’ from the US destroyer and had...
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