Tonkin Gulf Resolution

  • Tonkin Gulf Resolution
Tonkin Gulf Resolution

By 1964, Vietnam had been torn by international and civil war for decades. U.S. military support for South Vietnam had grown to some 15,000 military advisers, while the North received military and financial aid from China and the Soviet Union.

In a late-night televised address on August 4, 1964, President Johnson announced that he had ordered retaliatory air strikes on the North Vietnamese in response to reports of their attacks earlier on U.S. naval ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. He asked Congress to pass a resolution stressing that “our Government is united in its determination to take all necessary measures in support of freedom and in defense of peace in southeast Asia.”

The resolution passed quickly on August 7, with only two dissenting votes in the Senate. It stated that “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.”

The resolution became the subject of great political controversy in the course of the undeclared war that followed. As public resistance to the war grew, Congress eventually repealed the resolution in January 1971. More than 58,000 U.S. military personnel were killed in the war.

This document was on display in the “Featured Documents” exhibit in the Rotunda Galleries of the National Archives in Washington, DC, July 15 through August 7, 2014.

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the generous support of Toyota.

Download a high-resolution version of this document from the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

Past Featured Records
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
    Voting Rights Act of 1965

    On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, a momentous achievement in the struggle for equal rights.

    When President Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment, freeing the nation’s slaves on January 31, 1865, it was not the end of... Read more

  • The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon
    The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon

    “A bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark”
    –Coca-Cola Company, 1915

    Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same. To distinguish its product... Read more

  • 1774 Articles of Association
    1774 Articles of Association

    On October 20, 1774, the First Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Association in response to the “Intolerable Acts” the British government had imposed on its subjects in the colonies. These punitive laws were passed in response to patriot uprisings in the north, particularly the... Read more

  • Sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s Lifeboat Storage Mechanism
    Sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s Lifeboat Storage Mechanism

    On May 1, 1915, when the RMS Lusitania departed New York, it was carrying a decent amount of passengers, despite the announcement from the German Embassy printed in newspapers on April 23 warning Americans traveling on British or Allied ships in war zones did so... Read more

  • Report concerning the death of Abraham Lincoln
    Report concerning the death of Abraham Lincoln

    On the evening of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln during a performance of ‘Our American Cousin’  at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC. Booth chose a moment with loud laughter from the audience, which obscured the sound of the pistol. The... Read more