Tag Archives: Vietnam

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

August 4, 1964
Robert McNamara from the documentary, “The Fog of War.”

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

August 2, 1964

It had been 254 days since President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas.

254.

The number of days that President Lyndon B Johnson was president.  November 3, Election Day, 93 days away.  He had signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1962 exactly a month earlier.

Vietnam was a mosquito; not a tiger.

Military intelligence had suggested that there might be North Vietnamese military action in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Captain of the destroyer USS Mattox, Captain, John J. Herrick, was on alert.

On this date, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reported to President Johnson that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked the Maddox.

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

 What happened

Three North Vietnamese patrol boats had engaged the Maddox. Herrick ordered the crew to commence firing as the North Vietnamese boats came within 10,000 yards of the ship.

10,000 yards is over 5 miles.

Herrick also called in air support from a nearby air craft carrier, the USS Ticonderoga. The North Vietnamese boats each fired torpedoes at the Maddox, but two missed and the third failed to explode. U.S. gunfire hit one of the North Vietnamese boats. US jets strafed them.

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

The Result

Maddox gunners sunk one of the boats and two were crippled. One bullet hit the Maddox and there were no U.S. casualties.

The US took no further action, but warned the Vietnamese to cease such attacks.

Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

August 4, 1964

Two days later around 8 PM, the Maddox and the USS C. Turner Joy, both in the Gulf of Tonkin, intercepted North Vietnamese radio messages. Captain Herrick got the “impression” that Communist patrol boats are planning an attack against the American ships. He again called for the support of the USS Ticonderoga.

Neither the pilots nor the ship crews saw any enemy craft. However, about 10 p.m. sonar operators reported torpedoes approaching. The destroyers maneuvered to avoid the torpedoes and began to fire at the North Vietnamese patrol boats. The encounter lasted about two hours. U.S. officers reported sinking two, or possibly three of the North Vietnamese boats, but no one was sure.

Herrick communicated his doubts to his superiors and urged a “thorough reconnaissance in daylight.” Shortly thereafter, he informed Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp, commander of the Pacific Fleet, that the blips on the radar scope were apparently “freak weather effects” while the report of torpedoes in the water were probably due to “overeager” radar operators.

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

President Johnson’s reaction

Convinced that a second attack had occurred, President Johnson, ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to select targets for possible retaliatory air strikes. At a National Security Council meeting, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, recommended the ordering of reprisal attacks to the president.

Though cautious at first, eventually Johnson gave the order to execute the reprisal, code-named Pierce Arrow. The President then met with 16 Congressional leaders to inform them of the second unprovoked attack and that he had ordered reprisal attacks. He also told them he planned to ask for a Congressional resolution to support his actions.

At 11:20 p.m., Admiral Sharp informed McNamara that the aircraft were on their way to the targets and at 11:26, President Johnson appeared on national television and announced that the reprisal raids were underway in response to unprovoked attacks on U.S. warships. He assured the viewing audience that, “We still seek no wider war.”

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack

On August 7, the House of Representatives unanimously (416 – 0) and the Senate overwhelmingly (88 – 2) approved the so-called Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Its title read, “”To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.” [text]

President Johnson signed the resolution on August 10.

In 1964, there were approximately 23,300 troops in Vietnam.

By 1965 that number was 184,300.

There were 536,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968.

1964 Gulf Tonkin Ghost Attack
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Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

July 1968
Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

Eric Burdon

Eric Burdon with the Animals were part of the British Invasion in 1964. Their “House of the Rising Sun” stuck an earworm into  American teenagers’ heads that still resides there. What Boomer can hear those first few guitar notes without immediately recognizing the song? Perhaps it was one of the first licks you learned on guitar? (click and see!)

American blues dominated the Animals’ early albums, but like Bob Dylan’s job on Maggie’s farm and John Lennon’s Norwegian wood lover, Eric Burdon did not stay with the girl he brung to the dance.

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

Eric Burdon & the Animals

With his release of Winds of Change (the title echoing,  of course, Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin” as well as his line in “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”), Burdon allowed the times to change his content.

Such compositions as “The Black Plague” and “San Franciscan Nights” signaled those changes.

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

The Twain Shall Meet

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

In 1968 Burdon released “The Twain Shall Meet” album. On it was the now classic “Sky Pilot.” The Vietnam war raged and demonstrations regularly filled streets. Campuses seemed to have become places to sit in to protest, not to sit in a desk.

Even more than the popular “Monterey” on that album, Burdon’s reflections on the Monterey Pop Festival, an event he attended but did not perform at, “Sky Pilot” is the album’s strongest song.

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

Sky Pilot

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

He blesses the boys

As they stand in line

The smell of gun grease

And the bayonets they shine

He’s there to help them

All that he can

To make them feel wanted

He’s a good holy man

In some ways the song is as powerful as Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. Hendrix’s performance declared that those who were anti-Establishment were also entitled to our nation’s anthem.

“Sky Pilot” (particularly with its inclusion the traditional bag piped “All the Bluebonnets Are Over the Border”) questions not only war, but whether God was on our side, or whether God’s self-appointed representative, the Sky Pilot, was even on God’s side.

Released as a two-sided single, many radio stations stated that its length too long and style not “pop” enough.  Be that as it may, the song remains among the elite of anti-war songs.

The whole band wrote the song: Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, and Danny McCulloch

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

All the Blue Bonnets

It is interesting to listen to just the bag pipes song after listening to the Animal’s song with its inclusion.

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot
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Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

7th Grade

On June 11, 1963 I was about to finish 7th grade. I had 8th grade on my mind and envisioned girlfriends. It was a Tuesday and the the afternoon Record would be light. My paper route done quickly enough to have time to play basketball on the side of my house with a few friends.

The sun set that evening at 8:27. I don’t remember that, of course, but it meant that I might have gone out after dinner despite it being a weekday.

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

President Kennedy

On June 11, 1963, John F Kennedy was President. November 22 164 days away.

I don’t know if the name Vietnam meant anything to me. Unlikely. The Gulf of Tonkin was 418 days away. That would be the day that many more Americans would learn the name Vietnam.

Little did they realize that it would be 3,100 days before the signing of the Paris Peace Accord. What would they have thought had they known?

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

Civil War…religious persecution

Vietnam was in turmoil. Ho Chi Min’s northern forces faced a series of leaders in South Vietnam.

In 1961, when Malcolm Wilde Browne arrived in Vietnam, he  was Associated Press’s first permanent correspondent there. The large majority of South Vietnamese were Buddhist, but the current President, Ngo Dinh Diem, was Roman Catholic and had instituted repressive Buddhist policies.

On May 8, 1963 South Vietnamese soldiers had opened fire on a group of Buddhists who were flying the Buddhist flag–a violation of a government ban. Nine were killed. Protests followed.

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

Thich Quang Duc

The evening of June 10, Browne and other correspondents received a message that something important would happen the next day.

On June 11 Browne and a few other correspondents witnessed a peaceful protest with about 350 monks marching and carrying banners demanding religious equality.

Among the monks was Thich Quang Duc, a senior leader who had helped establish many Buddhist temples.

After the march had gone a few blocks, the monks formed a circle and Thich Quang Duc took the lotus position at the center. Another monk poured gasoline over Thich Quang Duc who moments later lighted a match and self-immolated.

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

Before closing my eyes…

           In a letter he left, Thich Quang Duc wrote: Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngô Đình Diệm to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.

It took 15 hours over 9,000 miles of AP WirePhoto cable for Malcolm Browne’s pictures to reach the USA. [images via rarehistoricalphotos dot com]

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc
photos by Malcolm Browne
Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

Media reporting

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc

Other Buddhist monks later did the same and inspired a few Americans to do the same in protest to the undeclared war.

I was in 7th grade and had no idea what the next 3,100 days were bringing to Americans.

Buddist Monk Thich Quang Duc
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