Vietnam War Bibliography:

The Tonkin Gulf Incidents, 1964

Naturally enough, the book I think by far the best in its analysis of the Tonkin Gulf Incidents is the one I myself wrote:

Edwin E. Moïse, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, Revised Edition. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2019. xxiv, 362 pp. The first edition was: Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. xviii, 304 pp. A detailed analysis of the incidents of August 2, 1964 (an actual battle between a US destroyer and three North Vienamese torpedo boats) and August 4, 1964 (when two US destroyers mistakenly reported themselves under attack by North vietnamese vessels), is placed in the context of the preparations for escalation of the war that both sides made during 1964. Based mainly on declassified US documents, and interviews with a large number of US personnel who were involved. I also interviewed some Vietnamese, and used Vietnamese published materials, but I did not have access to archives in Hanoi. The revised edition has far more analysis of Americans signals intelligence. American SIGINT personnel had not been listening to the North Vietnamese Navy for very long, and has not yet learned much about it, so they had great difficulty understanding the messages they intercepted and decoded, and putting those messages in context.

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"About the Gulf of Tonkin Incident." Notes, which Colonel Trinh Nguyen Huan (by permission of General Vo Nguyen Giap) gave to Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, September 12, 1994. The text has been placed online in the Virtual Vietnam Archive of the Vietnam Project, at Texas Tech University.

Eric Alterman, "Lyndon B. Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin Incidents," pp. 160-237 of Alterman's book When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and its Consequences. New York: Viking, 2004. ix, 447 pp. Sometimes careless about minor details. Examples include the statement on p. 185 that a PT boat was sunk in the first Tonkin Gulf incident, August 2, 1964 (none were sunk), and the statement on p. 187 that the USS Turner Joy's guns were "firing for four straight hours" during the second Tonkin Gulf incident, August 4, 1964 (actual time 2 hours 5 minutes, from 2139 to 2344 by ship's time).

Everett Alvarez, Jr. and Anthony S. Pitch, Chained Eagle. New York: Fine, 1989. ix, 308 pp. Alvarez was one of the pilots who flew air cover over the destroyers during the Second Tonkin Gulf Incident. The following day, during air strikes at Hon Gai, he was shot down; he was the first pilot captured by the DRV.

"American Artifacts: Gulf of Tonkin Documents". "American History TV," C-SPAN3, July 7, 2014. This documentary appears to have been made by the National Security Archive (George Washington University) and C-SPAN jointly.

Thomas E. Anastasi, III, "Presidential Decision Making During Selected Foreign Policy Crises from 1950-1968 Analyzed Through the Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator." Ph.D. dissertation, Political Science, Boston University, 2001. AAT 3010443. xvi, 402 pp. Chapter 10, "Johnson and the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and the Tet Offensive" (pp. 287-333) does not look very good. The full text is available online if you are browsing the Internet from an institution, such as Clemson University, that has a subscription to ProQuest "Dissertations and Theses: Full Text."

Dale Andrade and Kenneth Conboy, "The Secret Side of the Tonkin Gulf Incident," Naval History 13:4 (July/August 1999). the text has been place online at a web site of the U.S. Naval Institute.

The Attacks on U.S. Ships in the Gulf of Tonkin and the Events that Followed During the Week August 2 - 8, 1964. Special Report, U.S. Information Service, Press Branch. Tokyo: American Embassy, 1964. The text has been placed on-line in the Virtual Vietnam Archive of the Vietnam Project, at Texas Tech University, in two parts: pp. 1–49, and pp. 50–51.

Anthony Austin, The President's War. New York: Lippincott, 1971. 368 pp. A quite detailed account of the Tonkin Gulf incidents, and the internal processes by which the United States Government dealt with them.

Joseph F. Bouchard, "Uses of Naval Force in Crises: A Theory of Stratified Crisis Interaction." Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1989. 1236 pp. (When Bouchard later published this as a book, he had to cut it to a much smaller size. Tonkin Gulf was one of the things that got cut.)

Richard A. Cherwitz, "The Rhetoric of the Gulf of Tonkin: A Study of the Crisis Speaking of President Lyndon B. Johnson." Ph.D. dissertation, Speech and Dramatic Art, University of Iowa, 1978. viii, 237 pp.

William B. Cogar, ed., New Interpretations in Naval History: Selected Papers from the Eighth Naval History Symposium. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1989. xix, 328 pp. Contains papers on Tonkin Gulf by Edward Marolda (pp. 281–303) and Edwin Moïse (pp. 304–322), and comments on them by James A. Barber, Jr. (pp. 323–328).

Cecil V. Crabb, Jr., Glenn J. Antizzo, and Leila E. Sarieddine, Congress and the Foreign Policy Process: Modes of Legislative Behavior. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000. There is one chapter on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

Edward J. Drea, "Tonkin Gulf Incident: Reappraisal 40 Years Later." MHQ, Summer 2004. The text is available online.

Steve Edwards, "Stalking the Enemy's Coast", Proceedings 118:2 (February 1992), pp. 56–62. A very unreliable account.

Captain Ronnie E. Ford, U.S. Army, "Shedding New Light on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident." Vietnam Magazine, August 1997, pp. 18-24. The research for this article was rather careless.

Captain Frederick M. Frick, oral history interview. The interview was conducted by Jeff Gardner, January 8, 1996. 39 pp. Frick was on the Maddox during the Tonkin Gulf incidents as operations officer to Commodore Herrick. The text is copyright by, and has been placed on-line in the Virtual Vietnam Archive of the Vietnam Project, at Texas Tech University.

John Galloway, The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Rutherford: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970). The actual text is rather short, but this volume has long useful appendices, including the complete official transcripts (classified material deleted) of crucial Senate committee hearings on the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, held August 6, 1964 and February 20, 1968. Note that some of the deleted passages have now been released by the government (see under Congressional documents).

Joseph Goulden, Truth is the First Casualty: The Gulf of Tonkin Affair—Illusion and Reality. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969. 285 pp. This was the first full-scale study of the Tonkin Gulf incidents.

Samuel E. Halpern, M.D., West Pac '64. Boston: Branden Press, 1975. 236 pp. Halpern was a medical officer aboard the Maddox.

Joseph Bruce Hamilton, "Faux Casus Belli: The Role of Unsubstantiated Attacks in the Initiation of Military Action for Domestic Political Purposes." Ph.D. dissertation, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), 2000. v, 235 pp. AAT 9975026. Quite theoretical in approach. Tonkin Gulf (pp. 103-150) is the second of three case studies.

Robert J. Hanyok, "Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2-4 August 1964." This was published as a top secret article in the National Security Agency journal Cryptologic Quarterly, Winter 2000/Spring 2001 Edition (Vol. 19, No. 4 / Vol. 20, No. 1), pp. 1-55. An almost complete text (only slightly sanitized) was placed on an NSA website November 30, 2005, as part of a very large collection of documentation relating to the Tonkin Gulf incidents. This is extremely important; anyone interested in the incidents needs to read at least Hanyok's article, and perhaps some of the other material also.

Andrew L. Johns, "Opening Pandora's Box: The Genesis and Evolution of the 1964 Congressional Resolution on Vietnam," Journal of American-East Asian Relations, 6:2–3 (Summer–Fall 1997), pp. 175-206.

Norman Klar, Confessions of a Code Breaker (Tales from Decrypt). n.p.: BookSurge, 2004. xii, 370 pp. Klar was officer-in-charge of the U.S. Naval Security Group Activity on Taiwan, the outfit that had built and staffed the comvan used in DESOTO patrols.

Captain Norman Klar, "How to Help Start a War," Naval History 16:4 (August 2002).

Captain Norman Klar, "The Naval Security detachments in Vietnam played a significant role in the Gulf of Tonkin incident." Vietnam Magazine, February 2003, pp. 18, 20, 22.

Gerald Kurland, The Gulf of Tonkin Incidents. Charlotteville, NY: Sam Har Press, 1975. 30 pp.

Lam Chiu-ying, Wind, Visibility, Sea, and Swell in the Gulf of Tonkin, West of Hainan Island, 1961-1970. Hong Kong: Royal Observatory, 1980. iv, 37 pp.

Christopher R. Leahey, "Hegemony and History: A Critical Analysis of How High School History Textbooks Depict Key Events of the Vietnam War." Ed.D. dissertation, Binghamton University, 2007. ix, 265 pp. AAT 3273586. The main focus is on the events surrounding the Tonkin Gulf incidents of 1964, and the Tet Offensive of 1968.

William F. Levantrosser, "Tonkin Gulf Revisited: Vietnam, Military Mirage, and Political Reality in 1964," in Bernard J. Firestone and Robert C. Vogt, eds., Lyndon Johnson and the Uses of Power (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988), pp. 297-310.

Mike McLaughlin, "Anatomy of a Crisis." American Heritage, February/March 2004, pp. 45-58.

Edwin E. Moise, "Tonkin Gulf and the WMD Issue," paper presented at the 5th Triennial Vietnam Symposium, Texas Tech University, March 17, 2005.

Sen. Thurston B. Morton, "Only the G.O.P. can Get Us out of Vietnam", Saturday Evening Post, April 6, 1968, pp. 10–12.

Mark Moyar, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. xxvi, 512 pp. Beware numerous errors in the pages of this book that discuss the Tonkin Gulf incidents.

Nguyen Nghe, Facing the Skyhawks. Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1964. 60 pp. The U.S. airstrikes of August 5, 1964, and broader issues. Includes (pp. 55–60) a Nhan Dan editorial of September 20, 1964, on the incident of September 18–19, saying it was imaginary like the incident of August 4. The text has been placed on-line in the Virtual Vietnam Archive of the Vietnam Project, at Texas Tech University, in two parts: pp. 1–46, and pp. 47–60, followed by 20 unnumbered pages of illustrations.

Pham Cao Cuong, "Su that ve am muu cua My dang sau su kien vinh Bac Bo (8-1964)." Nghien cuu lich su, no. 348 (May 2005), pp. 51-60. The sources cited in the notes are all American (in some cases, Vietnamese translations, published in Hanoi, of books originally published in the United States).

"The 'Phantom Battle' that Led to War", U.S. News & World Report, July 23, 1984. Publication of this article marked a major step forward in knowledge of the Tonkin Gulf Incidents of August 1964, with a lot of information from interviews with participants.

John Prados, ed., The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 40 Years Later: Flawed Intelligence and the Decision for War in Vietnam. National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 132, posted August 4, 2004. An essay by Prados and assorted documentary material, including as much as had been declassified up to 2004 of the intercepted North Vietnamese radio messages that are among the most crucial pieces of evidence in connection with the Tonkin Gulf incidents. (Much more is now available; see under Hanyok, above.)

John Prados, "Targeting Journalists". Column on, June 16, 2006, including comments on the discussion within the United States Government, in 1964, of whether to prosecute political columnist Jack Anderson for writing that the Maddox had had advance warning of the torpedo boat attack on August 2, 1964.

Earle Rice, Jr., Point of No Return: Tonkin Gulf and the Vietnam War. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 2003. 144 pp. Intended for young readers.

Harry F. Rosenthal and Tom Stewart, "Tonkin Gulf" (AP dispatch), Arkansas Gazette, July 16, 1967, reprinted in Congressional Record, February 28, 1968, p. 4582.

John W. Schmidt, The Gulf of Tonkin Debates, 1964 and 1967: A Study in Argument. Ph.D. thesis, Speech, University of Minnesota, 1969. 290 pp.

"Selected Documents Relating to the Tonkin Gulf Incidents of 2 and 4 August 1964" This collection of documents has been placed online by the U.S. Navy's Naval Historical Center.

Ezra Y. Siff, Why the Senate Slept: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the Beginning of America's Vietnam War. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999. xix, 172 pp. The actual text of this book ends on p. 111; it is followed by documentary appendices. Siff was an assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (one of those who regretted having voted for the resolution) from 1965 to 1968.

Jim and Sybil Stockdale, In Love and War. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Revised and expanded edition: Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1990. Memoirs of a senior U.S. Navy pilot and his wife, important for the pilot's account of the Tonkin Gulf Incidents (Stockdale was in the air above the Maddox both August 2 and August 4, 1964, and commanded one of the retaliatory strikes against the North August 5), and also for the POW issue (Stockdale was a prisoner from 1965 to 1973; his wife was a leader of the League of POW/MIA families).

Mark A. Stoler, "Aiken, Mansfield and the Tonkin Gulf Crisis: Notes from the Congressional Leadership Meeting at the White House, August 4, 1964." Vermont History 50:2 (Spring 1982), pp. 80-94. The meeting of President Johnson and other top officials with top congressional leaders, beginning at 6:45 p.m., at which President Johnson discussed the incident of a few hours before, discussed in some detail the announcement he was getting ready to make about retaliatory air strikes, but apparently did not go into such detail about the congressional resolution that he was about to request.

I. [Isidor] F. Stone, "What Few Know About the Tonkin Bay Incidents," I. F. Stone's Weekly, XII:28 (August 24, 1964), pp. 1-4. Stone said the United States had been behaving provocatively before the Tonkin Gulf incidents, criticized the retaliatory air strikes of August 5, and was willing to consider the possibility that Hanoi might have been telling the truth when it said the alleged second attack on U.S. destroyers had been an American fabrication.

I. [Isidor] F. Stone, "McNamara and Tonkin Bay: The Unanswered Questions", The New York Review of Books, March 28, 1968, pp. 5–12.

I. [Isidor] F. Stone, "The Supineness of the Senate", The New York Review of Books, 12:3 (February 13, 1969).

Steven Stucky (composer) and Gene Scheer (librettist), "August 4, 1964." An oratorio commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's birth. It juxtaposes two events with which Johnson was dealing on August 4, 1964: the shooting in the Gulf of Tonkin, and the discovery in Mississippi of the bodies of three murdered civil rights workers. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra premiered this piece on September 11, 2008.

Susan B. Sweeney, "Oral History and the Tonkin Gulf Incident: Interviews about the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War," International Journal of Oral History, 7:3 (November 1986), pp. 211–16.

Blaine Taylor, "Anti-Communist Credentialism." Vietnam Magazine, August 1999. The text is available online.

"The Tonkin Legacy," Washington Post editorial, February 25, 1968, D8. "The Gulf of Tonkin naval actions of August 1964 have now had a review in the greatest depth and the fullest detail.... the evidence that there was indeed an attack on the ships of the United States on August 4 as well as on August 2 now seems indisputable," but there are still doubts on other issues.

Tal Tovy, The Gulf of Tonkin: The United States and the Escalation in the Vietnam War. New York and London: Routledge, 2021. The topic of this short book (about 114 pages of text, plus documents) is considerably broader than the title suggests. Not recommended.

United Press International, "Captain Confirms Attack in Tonkin: Commander of 2 Destroyers Denies Any Provocation in the 1964 Incidents." Washington, February 23, 1968. Published in the New York Times, February 24, 1968, pp. 1, 4. Captain John Herrick, in an interview, stated strongly that there had been a genuine North Vietnamese attack against the U.S. destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy in the second Tonkin Gulf incident, August 4, 1964. He said more than I would have expected about interception of North Vietnamese radio messages.

United States Information Service, Press Branch, The Attacks on U.S. Ships in the Gulf of Tonkin and the Events that Followed During the Week August 2-8, 1964. The text has been placed on-line in the Virtual Vietnam Archive of the Vietnam Project, at Texas Tech University, in two parts: pp. 1-49, and pp. 50-51.

Admiral Lloyd R. "Joe" Vasey, "Tonkin: Setting the Record Straight," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 136:8 (August 2010), pp. 66-71. In 1964, Vasey was Chief of Staff for Commander, Seventh Fleet. He strongly affirms the reality of the incident of August 4, 1964. His presentation of the evidence is very selective, and overly dependent on unreliable secondary sources. There were letters to the editor critical of Vasey's article, by R. R. McDonald, D. M. Showers, and C. E. McDowell, in the January 2011 issue, pp. 81-82, a reponse by Vasey in the February 2011 issue, p. 85, a response by Admiral Thomas Hayward in the March 2011 issue, p. 87, and a response by Jim Treanor in the April 2011 issue, pp. 84-86. There was a letter to the editor by R. J. Hanyok critical of Vasey's article, in the in the June 2011 issue, p. 85, and a response by Vasey in the August 2011 issue, pp. 84-86.

Susann Walens, "Perspectives: Twenty-nine years ago this month an incident occurred in the Gulf of Tonkin that was to have profound effects." Vietnam Magazine, August 1993, pp. 58-63. Somewhat inaccurate.

John White, The Gulf of Tonkin Events--Fifty Years Later: A Footnote to the History of the Vietnam War. Createspace, 2014. 48 pp. White, a former naval officer, was one of the first to raise doubts publicly about the second Tonkin Gulf incident. He wrote a letter to the editor of the New Haven Register, published December 6, 1967, in which he described message traffic he had seen coming from USS Maddox in August 1964, expressing doubt about the incident. The letter also described a conversation he had had with a man he mistakenly remembered as having been a chief sonarman who had served on USS Maddox, who had told him there had been no torpedo attack in that incident. White only figured out years later that the man had been Joseph Schaperjahn, who had been a chief sonarman aboard USS Turner Joy, not USS Maddox.

Eugene G. Windchy, Tonkin Gulf. New York: Doubleday, 1971. xxii, 358 pp. Of the three books on Tonkin Gulf published during the first ten years after the events, this seems to me the best.

David Wise, "Remember the Maddox!", Esquire, April 1968, pp. 56–62, 123–127.

Dieter O.A. Wolf, Präsident, Kongress und Aussenpolitik: die Tonking-Golf-Resolutions als Beispiel der exekutiv-legislativen Auseinandersetzungen auf aussenpolitischem Gebiet unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des ius belli. München, 1972.


Photographs of torpedo launching tubes from a North Vietnamese PT boat, of the unit that was involved in the first Tonkin Gulf Incident.

Congressional committee documentation on Tonkin Gulf

For U.S. Navy publications containing discussion of the Tonkin Gulf incidents, go to Navy and see two items by Edward Marolda.

Special Forces, Special Operations, and Intelligence

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Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021, Edwin E. Moise. This document may be reproduced only by permission. Revised April 15, 2021.