U.S. History – Gulf of Tonkin and Operation Starlite

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The Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred on August 2nd, 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin. It is located off the coast northern Vietnam and southern China. On August 2nd, the U.S.S Maddox was supposedly doing a routine patrol when three Soviet-built Vietnamese torpedo boats approached it. After the Maddox had fired a warning shot, the Northern Vietnamese open machine gun and torpedo fire on the ship. The Maddox, escapes with the help of U.S. military planes from a nearby air craft carrier. (In-class activity) This incident caused U.S. involvement to skyrocket. The president, Lyndon B. Johnson, would then be able to assist any Asian nation affected by “communist aggression” and also escalate the war in Northern Vietnam. Allowing him to deploy U.S. military and to open warfare against Northern Vietnam.

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Operation Starlite happened on August 18th, 1965, it happened at the Chu Lai Air Base near Van Tuong, South Vietnam. Operation Starlite was the first major offensive action that was done by a purely U.S. military unit. Lieutenant General Lewis W. Walt devised a plan, with intelligence provided from the commander of the South Vietnamese forces, to launch a pre-emptive strike on the Northern Vietnamese base of Chu Lai. This escalated U.S. involvement because it was the first major attack on a Viet Cong unit and the U.S. considered it a great success. (Wikipedia) Which boosted their moral to fight harder.

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