View Full Version : Jul 30, 1964: South Vietnamese boats raid islands in the Tonkin Gulf
07-30-2010, 08:17 AM
At about midnight, six "Swifts," special torpedo boats used by the South Vietnamese for covert raids, attack the islands of Hon Me and Hon Ngu in the Tonkin Gulf. Although unable to land any commandos, the boats fired on island installations. Radar and radio transmissions were monitored by an American destroyer, the USS Maddox, which was stationed about 120 miles away.
The South Vietnamese attacks were part of a covert operation called Oplan 34A, which involved raids by South Vietnamese commandos operating under American orders against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations. Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program, Operation De Soto. The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in events that led to what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the Maddox, which had been conducting a De Soto mission in the area. Two days after the first attack, there was another incident that still remains unclear. The Maddox, joined by destroyer USS C. Turner Joy, engaged what were thought at the time to be more attacking North Vietnamese patrol boats. Although it was questionable whether the second attack actually happened or not, the incident provided the rationale for retaliatory air attacks against the North Vietnamese and the subsequent Tonkin Gulf Resolution. The resolution became the basis for the initial escalation of the war in Vietnam and ultimately the insertion of U.S. combat troops into the area.
07-30-2010, 08:33 AM
I went to the war museum in Hanoin today Jack - and there were a couple of torpedo tubes there (I don't think I took a photo of them). They mentioned the Maddox though - in the following terms "chased the US destroyer Maddox away". Interesting to see that they still use the term "the US Air War of Agression".
I also visited B52 Lake.... was the only westerner there too. There is still the wreckage in the lake where it fell. I'll process a couple of pics.
07-30-2010, 09:01 AM
Here's the device they built - I think they call it a boat.... for exploding magnetic mines near Haiphong harbour. They say it worked.
Here's their rather poignant anti-war sculpture at the war museum
.... and B52 Lake
There's very little discussion of the war over here - but the pain from it is seen in the street on a regular basis. I had a guy asking me for money yesterday while I was having my boots shined. He had three vestigal fingers on one "arm" which was about 9" long and none on the other "arm". Poor bastard.
07-30-2010, 09:15 AM
This is (apart from the museums) the only place I've seen left over wreckage.....
There's plenty of memorials - and the hospital and munitions caves were pointed out to us.... but this is different.
As far as the country goes - it has its problems, but its steaming ahead - there's cranes everywhere on the skyline...
07-30-2010, 11:30 PM
Didn't the skipper or XO of the Maddox ignore orders and put the ship in territorial waters in harm's way, the crew I think mutinying at one point?
07-31-2010, 12:53 PM
Purri, no mention of a mutiny here :
North Vietnamese torpedo boats attack the destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731).
The American ship had been cruising around the Tonkin Gulf monitoring radio and radar signals following an attack by South Vietnamese PT boats on North Vietnamese facilities on Hon Me and Hon Nhieu Islands (off the North Vietnamese coast) under Oplan 34A. U.S. crews interpreted one North Vietnamese message as indicating that they were preparing "military operations," which the Maddox's Captain John Herrick assumed meant some sort of retaliatory attack. His superiors ordered him to remain in the area. Early that afternoon, three North Vietnamese patrol boats began to chase the Maddox. About 3 p.m., Captain Herrick ordered his crew to commence firing as the North Vietnamese boats came within 10,000 yards of his ship; at the same time he radioed the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga for air support. The North Vietnamese boats each fired one torpedo at the Maddox, but two missed and the third failed to explode. U.S. gunfire hit one of the North !
Vietnamese boats, and then three U.S. Crusader jets proceeded to strafe them. Within 20 minutes, Maddox gunners sunk one of the boats and two were crippled; only one bullet hit the Maddox and there were no U.S. casualties. The Maddox was ordered to withdraw and await further instructions.
In Washington, President Lyndon B. Johnson, alarmed by this situation, at first rejected any reprisals against North Vietnam. In his first use of the "hot line" to Russia, Johnson informed Khrushchev that he had no desire to extend the conflict. In the first U.S. diplomatic note ever sent to Hanoi, Johnson warned that "grave consequences would inevitably result from any further unprovoked offensive military action" against U.S. ships "on the high seas." Meanwhile, the U.S. military command took several critical actions. U.S. combat troops were placed on alert and additional fighter-bombers were sent to South Vietnam and Thailand. The carrier USS Constellation was ordered to the South China Sea to join the USS Ticonderoga. Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, commander of the Pacific Fleet, ordered a second destroyer, the USS C. Turner Joy, to join the Maddox on station and to make daylight approaches to within eight miles of North Vietnam's coast and four miles of its islands to "assert the right of freedom of the seas."
Ian, have seen any lasting effects of "Agent Orange" while in Vietnam, or has the jungle devoured it all ?
07-31-2010, 04:52 PM
Jack - I wouldn't know from a scenery perspective, but I've seen the human effects.... as mentioned above - the guy with the 9" arms. There's a pretty big photographic exhibition on that issue at the War Remnants Museum in Saigon at the moment. They mention the very high number of disabled in the country - 5 million out of 85 million... But the hard part is sorting out where the propaganda stops and the reality starts. I took some photos of the photos.... but I'm about to hit the sack after an overnight flight.
07-31-2010, 10:24 PM
Cough, my bad in part.
Destroyer Escort USS Vance 1965. CO was Arnheiter. XO relieved the skipper and alleged "reckless misconduct" and enquiry followed. Arnheiter was a martinet trying to revive his stalled career.
08-01-2010, 01:35 AM
I'll only post two photos of the Agent Orange exhibition.... but it's clearly an issue. The number of deformities seen on the streets is quite high too.
Just as disturbing is the number of kids seen in places like Cambodia with missing limbs. I'd like to think we could get to the stage where we can ban land mines - they stay deadly for an awfully long time. I spoke with one victim whose wife was killed by a land mine 3 years ago. He was missing an eye and a leg himself.
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