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 As public resistance to the war grew, Congress eventually repealed the resolution in January 1971.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
  • Credentials of Jeannette Rankin, the First Congresswoman
    Credentials of Jeannette Rankin, the First Congresswoman

    In 1916 – four years before before the 19th Amendment granted women across the country the right to vote – Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress as a Representative from Montana.

    Rankin was sworn into office on April 2, 1917, having presented this credential as evidence that she... Read more

  • George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789
    George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789

    On April 30, 1789, George Washington placed his hand upon a Bible and took the oath as the first President of the United States. The oath was administered on a second-floor balcony of Federal Hall, above a crowd assembled in the streets to witness this historic event. President... Read more

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech

    At 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers and torpedo planes attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, catapulting the United States into World War II. In less than 2 hours, the fleet was devastated, and more than 3,500 Americans were either killed... Read more

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture Act
    National Museum of African American History and Culture Act

    Following decades of work to promote and feature the contributions of African Americans, the Act to establish the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was authorized by Congress in 2003. The museum, which will house 36,000 artifacts, officially opens on the National... Read more

  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
    Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010

    During World War II, the U.S. Armed Forces established a policy that discharged homosexuals regardless of their behavior. In 1981, the Defense Department prohibited gay and lesbian military members from serving in its ranks with a policy that stated, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” In... Read more