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Gulf of Tonkin Incident (Background)

Trivia powered by Prof. WalterThe Gulf of Tonkin Incident was two separate occurrences involving naval forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin that prompted the first large-scale involvement of U.S. armed forces in Southeast Asia. 

On August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731) engaged three North Vietnamese P-4 torpedo boats, resulting in damage to the three boats. Two days later the Maddox (having been joined by the destroyer USS Turner Joy (DD-951) reported a second engagement with North Vietnamese vessels. This second report was later claimed to be in error.

What do you know about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Try this quick and easy Vietnam War trivia quiz. (Answers at the bottom of the page.)

1. The outcome of the incident was the passage by Congress of the Southeast Asia Resolution (better known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution), which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by "communist aggression," including the commitment of U.S. forces without a declaration of war.

  • True or False?

2. The U.S. had begun providing direct support to the South Vietnamese in the form of military and financial aid and military advisers, the number of which grew from 600 in 1961. What was the size of the U.S. military force by the end of John F. Kennedy's presidency in 1963.

  • 16,000
  • 56,000
  • 106,000

3. While Kennedy had originally supported the policy of sending military advisers to Vietnam, he had begun to alter his thinking due to what he perceived to be the ineptitude of the Saigon government and its inability and unwillingness to make needed reforms (which led to an American-supported coup which resulted in the death of Diem). Shortly before his assassination in November 1963, Kennedy had begun limited recall of American forces.

  • True or False?

4. Johnson's views were likewise complex, but he had supported military escalation in Vietnam as a means to challenge what he perceived as the expansionist policies of the Soviet Union. The Cold War policy of containment was to be applied to prevent the fall of Southeast Asia to communist governments. What was the theory known as?

  • Checkmake theory
  • Chess theory
  • Domino theory

5. What was the name of the highly classified program of covert actions against North Vietnam had begun under the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1961?

  • Operation Name Game
  • Plan 69 - Omega
  • Operation Plan 34-Alpha

6. In 1974 the program was transferred to the Defense Department and conducted by the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (SOG).

  • True or False

7. For the maritime portion of the covert operation, Tjeld-class fast patrol boats had been purchased quietly sent to South Vietnam. Although the crews of the boats were South Vietnamese naval personnel, approval for each mission conducted under the plan came directly from Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Jr., CINCPAC in Honolulu, who received his orders from the White House. What country did the fast patrol boats come from?

  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Norway

8. After the coastal attacks began, Hanoi lodged a complaint with the International Control Commission (ICC), which had been established in 1954 to oversee the terms of the Geneva Accords, but the U.S. denied any involvement. Four years later, it was Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted to Congress that the U.S. ships had in fact been cooperating in the South Vietnamese attacks against North Vietnam. Who admitted the facts to Congress?

  • UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge
  • Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara
  • Attorney General Robert Kennedy

9. The night before the launching of the actions against North Vietnamese facilities on Hon Me and Hon Ngu islands, SOG had launched a covert long-term agent team into North Vietnam. What happened to the team?

  • Promptly captured
  • Escape detection
  • Forced to retreat

10. That night (for the second evening in a row) two flights of CIA-sponsored Laotian fighter-bombers attacked border outposts well within southwestern North Vietnam. Where did the mercenary pilots come from?

  • Spain
  • Philippines
  • Thailand

Gulf of Tonkin Incident (Background) Answers

  1. True
  2. 16,000
  3. True
  4. Domino theory
  5. Operation Plan 34-Alpha
  6. False. It was transferred to the Department of Defense in 1964.
  7. Norway
  8. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara
  9. Promptly captured
  10. Thailand

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