Passed by both houses of Congress on August 7, 1964, this resolution authorized increased military action in Vietnam. A few days earlier, on August 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. The U.S. government dispatched an immediate air attack on North Vietnam in retaliation, and President Johnson asked Congress to pass a resolution supporting future military action.
The joint resolution to promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia passed Congress with few dissenters. Thus began Americas long, undeclared war in Vietnam with President Johnson, and, later, President Richard Nixon, depending on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to authorize continued military involvement.
In the face of mounting public opposition to the Vietnam War, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution was repealed by Congress in January 1971. It later emerged that reports of the Tonkin Gulf Incident were both distorted and exaggerated and that there had likely been no attack by the North Vietnamese on August 4.
Eighty-eighth Congress of the United States of America
AT THE SECOND SESSION
Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the seventh day of January, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-four
To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.
Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United Stated naval vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and
Whereas these attackers are part of deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and
Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protest their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these people should be left in peace to work out their destinies in their own way: Now, therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the 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.
Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.
Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.