Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident That Wasn't: LBJ and Robert McNamara On Tape

THEY Say: "You learn something new everyday!" (Thanks to YouTuber, "Thoughty2", I just learned THIS:

My Working Title Is: "Oops!"*
My 2nd Choice Is: "Holy Crap!"

"This is all going to work out, right?"
August 2, 1964: The U.S. destroyer, Maddox, was off the coast of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on an intelligence mission to intercept North Vietnamese communications. Following some shenanigans carried out by S. Vietnamese raiders against the North (as part of the U.S.' "OPLAN 34-A"), the Maddox was attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats. In no way was the attack was a surprise: as stated, communications were being intercepted. Two of the N.V. boats were sunk. The third was seriously damaged.
There were "0" ("Zero") casualties on the Maddox.

Then, "... on the night of August 3/4 the warships recorded a series of sound (sonar) and electronic (radar) readings interpreted to be attacking torpedo boats."

It's been argued that, due to the crew's hyper-alert status and the "confusion of that night"... radio signals from the initial, "0" U.S. casualty (and only) aggression of August 2nd were mistaken as being "Hanoi ordering a fresh attack".

The on-scene Commander, Captain John D. Herrick... stated, then, that he "doubted the reality of the attacks".

Despite this..
the decidedly NOT "on-scene" "Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp nevertheless proceeded as if the attacks were genuine".*

(*Possibly due - in part - to the crushing weight and 5-sizes too-big shoes which accompanied the name that his patriotic parents stuck him with?)

Thus the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam went forward based on the MISTAKEN belief in a second (and non-existent) attack in the Gulf of Tonkin.

And, yes, in the early 1960's, communication back and forth took a little longer than it does today. But, it's not like LBJ and Robert McNamara were kept out of the information loop.

I'm guessing that the towering Texan in the Oval Office wasn't exactly a "let's-sit-back-and -think-about-this" nor a "let's-wait-and-see" -kind of guy.

And, based on the chronology of events/decisions/actions, it's reasonable to suggest that, once good 'ol LBJ got the "conflict"-machines in motion, he either felt he couldn't (that might have been embarrassing) - or he simply wouldn't (not one to back down from a fight, even one he "mistakenly" started) - bring himself to stop it.

Click The LINK Below To Go To the NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVES where you can listen to the actual recorded conversations between LBJ and McNamara (transcripts are posted as well).

"... the ENTIRE Vietnam War can be said to have been based on a 'misunderstanding'."

This is now consensus among Vietnam War historians.*

(*I'm sure that relying, exclusively, on rooms-full of testosterone had a little something to do with it, too.)