The First Shot

Amid steadily rising tensions over North Vietnam's activities in Laos and
South Vietnam, at the end of July 1964 USS Maddox entered the Gulf of
Tonkin for a cruise along the North Vietnamese coast. As part of a
general U.S. effort to collect intelligence in potential Far Eastern hot
spots, this "Desoto Patrol" was particularly focused on obtaining
information that would support South Vietnamese coastal raids against
North Vietnam. One of these had just taken place as Maddox began her

On the afternoon of 2 August 1964, while steaming well offshore in
international waters, Maddox was attacked by three North Vietnamese
motor torpedo boats. The destroyer maneuvered to avoid torpedoes and
used her guns against her fast-moving opponents, hitting them all. In
turn, she was struck in the after gun director by a single 14.5-millimeter
machine gun bullet. Maddox called for air support from the carrier
Ticonderoga, whose planes strafed the three boats, leaving one dead in
the water and burning. Both sides then separated.

The President and his national security advisors were surprised that Ho
Chi Minh had not only failed to buckle under U.S. military pressure but
had reacted to it in such a bold way. Johnson, Admiral Ulysses S. G.
Sharp, the commander of American military forces in the Pacific, and
Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet,
decided that the United States could not retreat from this clear
Communist challenge. They reinforced Maddox with destroyer USS
Turner Joy (DD 951) and directed Captain Herrick to continue his
intelligence-gathering mission off North Vietnam with the two naval
vessels. On the night of 4 August, the warships reported making contact
and then being attacked by several fast craft far out to sea. Officers in
the naval chain of command and U.S. leaders in Washington were
persuaded by interpretation of special intelligence and reports from the
ships that North Vietnamese naval forces had attacked the two

In response to the actual attack of 2 August and the suspected attack of
4 August, the President ordered Seventh Fleet carrier forces to launch
retaliatory strikes against North Vietnam. On 5 August, aircraft from
carriers Ticonderoga and USS Constellation (CVA 64) destroyed an oil
storage facility at Vinh and damaged or sank about 30 enemy naval
vessels in port or along the coast. Of greater significance, on 7 August
the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed the so-called Tonkin Gulf
Resolution, which enabled Johnson to employ military force as he saw fit
against the Vietnamese Communists. In the first months of 1965, the
President ordered the deployment to South Vietnam of major U.S.
ground, air, and naval forces.
Information gathered from

Operation Rolling Thunder

Operation Rolling Thunder was a frequently interrupted bombing
campaign that began on 24 February 1965 and lasted until the end of
October 1968. During this period U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft
engaged in a bombing campaign designed to force Ho Chi Minh to
abandon his ambition to take over South Vietnam. The operation began
primarily as a diplomatic signal to impress Hanoi with America’s
determination, essentially a warning that the violence would escalate
until Ho Chi Minh "blinked," and secondly it was intended to bolster the
sagging morale of the South Vietnamese. The Johnson administration
also imposed strict limits on the targets that could be attacked, for China
and the Soviet Union were seen as defenders of communism who might
intervene if the North Vietnamese faced defeat. Consequently, the
administration tried to punish the North without provoking the two
nations believed to be its protectors.

Information gathered from

Draft Lottery

A lottery drawing - the first since 1942 - was held on December 1, 1969,
at Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This
event determined the order of call for induction during calendar year
1970, that is, for registrants born between January 1, 1944, and
December 31, 1950. Reinstitution of the lottery was a change from the
"draft the oldest man first" method, which had been the determining
method for deciding order of call.

Information gathered from

War Officially Over

During the early months of 1974, the North Vietnamese army advanced
from the north and west on the southern capital. They soon surrounded
Saigon with an ever-tightening perimeter. Saigon fell to the Communists
on 29 April 1975. On the morning of April 30, 1975, the last Marine
boarded a CH-46 helicopter atop the American Embassy in Saigon and
took off eastward disappearing into the blue horizon. It was 21 years
after the first advisors arrived in country and nearly three years after the
last combat troops withdrew.
Information gathered from