Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

(1964)

Impact

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution had a tragic impact on American society. It led the United States into a cruel and expensive conflict that, in the end, the nation realized could not be won. Through the determined and firm resolution, Johnson effectively eliminated Vietnam as a topic of the campaign for the 1964 presidential election. However, the escalation of the war allowed by the resolution permanently etched the tragedy of Vietnam into Johnson's second administration, drawing attention away from his vast and ambitious program for social reforms and civil rights, the Great Society. Estimates hold that more than 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam, while Vietnamese victims numbered over 2 million.

At first, Americans overwhelmingly supported the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the escalation of the conflict. The House approved the bill unanimously with only Representative Eugene Siler “pairing” against it (that is, leaving the chamber when the vote took place). The Senate...

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The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (National Archives and Records Administration)

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