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Tonkin Gulf Tragedy Exposed as Skulduggery

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Tonkin Gulf Tragedy Exposed as Skulduggery

By John McCarthy

The Navy vessels involved in the article below had been used as 'mother ships' to launch high speed vessels transporting CIA/Special Forces trained South Vietnamese Commandos in an organization titled Op 34 Alpha.  Commandos were launched into Hai Phong Harbor and other points along the North Vietnamese Coast for the purpose of sabotage and gathering 'intelligence".

Virtually every five to seven man team launched in this manner were killed or captured by the North Vietnamese. From 1960 until 1972 there were over 500 Op34 Commando's imprisoned in North Vietnam.

Intercepted radio messages transmitted from South Vietnam prior to the departure of the Op 43 Apha teams provied the landing points of the teams by map coordinate.

Similar intercepts were made thorughout the war showing conclusive evidence of espionage penetration of the SOG CCC CCN and CCS (Command and Control elements for regions north, south and central Vietnam).

The captured commando's spent anywhere from 15-20 years incarcerated as war criminals.  Their release was not part of the Peace Talks in Paris by Henry Kissenger and others who were quite aware of the plight of these men.

CIA, in an effort to be financially un-couth, notified the families of those captured that their husbands, fathers and brothers were dead.  The "contract" allowed for discontinuance of monthly pay if captured members died in prison.  At about the same time, North Vietnam began broadcasting live transmissions of these same men who had be declared dead by CIA for frugalilty.

CIA then began using National Security Agency high powered radios to "jam" the live North Vietnamese Radio Broadcasts.

These commando's had been launched by the Navy ships and after high speed infiltration at night, the transports were returning to the 'mother ships' when they were engaged by fire from North Vietnamese shore batteries.

The launch was an act of war and the shots fired were in defense/retaliation due to a breach of National Waters.

The Navy ships were in international waters, waiting for the high speed vessels to return.

Some of the recruits for Op34 Alpha were from the 1.1 million North Vietnamese Catholics imported into South Vietnam in 1956 to support the Diem Regime of the barely two year old Government in Saigon.  The CIA had used it's proprietary planes and ships for the transfer of the North Vietnamese.  A full time CIA Agent, posing as a US Air Force Colonel, Ed Lansdale, acting as the Chief of the Military Mission in Saigon (there was no US Embassy at that time) was responsible for this operation.  The consequences of this action began the advent of the Viet Cong (Free Vietnam) and the following war.

This sets up the following:

30-year Anniversary:

Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War

Media Beat (7/27/94)

By Norman Solomon

Thirty years ago, it all seemed very clear.

"American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression", announced a Washington Post headline on Aug. 5, 1964.

That same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: "President Johnson has ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and 'certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam' after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin."

But there was no "second attack" by North Vietnam — no "renewed attacks against American destroyers." By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.

A pattern took hold: continuous government lies passed on by pliant mass media...leading to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties.

The official story was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" against a U.S. destroyer on "routine patrol" in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2 — and that North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a "deliberate attack" on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

The truth was very different.

Rather than being on a routine patrol Aug. 2, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was actually engaged in aggressive intelligence-gathering maneuvers — in sync with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force.

"The day before, two attacks on North Vietnam...had taken place," writes scholar Daniel C. Hallin. Those assaults were "part of a campaign of increasing military pressure on the North that the United States had been pursuing since early 1964."

On the night of Aug. 4, the Pentagon proclaimed that a second attack by North Vietnamese PT boats had occurred earlier that day in the Tonkin Gulf — a report cited by President Johnson as he went on national TV that evening to announce a momentous escalation in the war: air strikes against North Vietnam.

But Johnson ordered U.S. bombers to "retaliate" for a North Vietnamese torpedo attack that never happened.

Prior to the U.S. air strikes, top officials in Washington had reason to doubt that any Aug. 4 attack by North Vietnam had occurred. Cables from the U.S. task force commander in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain John J. Herrick, referred to "freak weather effects," "almost total darkness" and an "overeager sonarman" who "was hearing ship's own propeller beat."

One of the Navy pilots flying overhead that night was squadron commander James Stockdale, who gained fame later as a POW and then Ross Perot's vice presidential candidate. "I had the best seat in the house to watch that event," recalled Stockdale a few years ago, "and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there.... There was nothing there but black water and American fire power."

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson commented: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

But Johnson's deceitful speech of Aug. 4, 1964, won accolades from editorial writers. The president, proclaimed the New York Times, "went to the American people last night with the somber facts." The Los Angeles Times urged Americans to "face the fact that the Communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have themselves escalated the hostilities."

An exhaustive new book, The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam<, begins with a dramatic account of the Tonkin Gulf incidents. In an interview, author Tom Wells told us that American media "described the air strikes that Johnson launched in response as merely `tit for tat' — when in reality they reflected plans the administration had already drawn up for gradually increasing its overt military pressure against the North."

Why such inaccurate news coverage? Wells points to the media's "almost exclusive reliance on U.S. government officials as sources of information" — as well as "reluctance to question official pronouncements on 'national security issues.'"

Daniel Hallin's classic book The "Uncensored War" observes that journalists had "a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account [of Tonkin Gulf events]; it simply wasn't used. The day before the first incident, Hanoi had protested the attacks on its territory by Laotian aircraft and South Vietnamese gunboats."

What's more, "It was generally known...that `covert' operations against North Vietnam, carried out by South Vietnamese forces with U.S. support and direction, had been going on for some time."

In the absence of independent journalism, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution — the closest thing there ever was to a declaration of war against North Vietnam — sailed through Congress on Aug. 7. (Two courageous senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, provided the only "no" votes.) The resolution authorized the president "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."

The rest is tragic history.

Nearly three decades later, during the Gulf War, columnist Sydney Schanberg warned journalists not to forget "our unquestioning chorus of agreeability when Lyndon Johnson bamboozled us with his fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident."

Schanberg blamed not only the press but also "the apparent amnesia of the wider American public."

And he added: "We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."

Perhaps one of the most controversial and debated incidents in US history. Events started in early 1960 when the communist government in Vietnam began to organize forces which threatened to overtake the US backed South Vietnam. For several years the CIA conducted covert operations to monitor the activity of the communist government. This quickly escalated in to a series of rather non covert skirmishes fought along the shores and islands surround North and South Vietnam.

In January 1964, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara took over the project which became known as OP 34 Alpha. More covert agents were sent to Vietnam, most of whom ended up MIA (estimated over 500 men). McNamara also sent out several patrol vessels which were fitted with equipment to intercept communications from North Vietnam.

On August 2, 1964, all of this came out into the open with a North Vietnamese attack on USS Maddox (Destroyer Class, DD-731) commanded by Captain John J. Herrick which was stationed about 30 miles off the coast of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese believed this ship was in place for the support of an attack against military installations at Hon Me and Hon Ngu several days earlier. One Vietnamese patrol boat was destroyed and several more were damaged and driven off by US support aircraft. Records indicate that one machine gun round hit the Maddox, causing almost no damage. This first attack was designated as an un-provoked attack by US Military Officials.

On August 4, 1964, USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy returned to the area to resume patrols, a short 17 hours after raids of military installations at Cap Vinh Son and Cua Ron. Both ships reported a second attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats. The Maddox reported radar contact with several high speed patrol boats, and later reported over 20 torpedo attacks and automatic weapons fire. The area was filled with low clouds and thunderstorms, leading to very poor visibility. Crew members reported conflicting stories about what they heard and saw, and both US ships received no damage.

An investigation was soon launched by Congress to determine if an actual event took place. McNamara reported that there was definite proof of a second, un-provoked attack. This led Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which was the closest thing to a Declaration of War that would happen during the entire Vietnam War. McNamara also claimed that the ships standing by were not supporting the raids, and the crew had no knowledge of military actions in North Vietnam. He later admitted this was not true, and that the crew of the Maddox were fully aware of the raids and were concerned for their welfare in the event of a retaliation.

In 1972, Deputy Director of the NSA Louis Tordella revealed that McNamara's proof of a second attack was a decoded message which contained North Vietnamese assessments of the damage from the first attack, not the second attack. In his book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, McNamara admits that the US may have provoked the second attack which ultimately began the war, though he claims it was due to an innocent mistake in reading the decoded message, and not an intentional plan to pull North Vietnam into a war. He claimed that he had never lied to Congress or the American people and that he acted in behalf of what he felt was right. During a later visit to Vietnam, McNamara confirmed that indeed, nothing had happened on the night of August 4 to his knowledge.

Later on at a conference in Washington DC, Daniel Ellsberg (former advisor to during the war) said:

"Did McNamara lie to Congress in 1964? I can answer that question. Yes, he did lie, and I knew it at the time. I was working for John McNaughton....I was his special assistant. He was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. He knew McNamara had lied. McNamara knew he had lied. He is still lying. (Former Secretary of State Dean) Rusk and McNamara testified to Congress...prior to their vote....Congress was being lied into...what was to be used as a formal declaration of war. I knew that....I don't look back on that situation with pride."

Ellsberg also revealed:

What I did not reveal in the Summer of 64...was a conspiracy to manipulate the public into a war and to win an election through fraud...which had the exact horrible consequences the founders of this country envisioned when they ruled out, they thought as best they could, that an Executive Branch could secretly decide the decisions of war and peace, without public debate or vote of Congress....Senator Morse, one of the two people who voted against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution told me in 1971, '...had you given us all that years earlier, in 1964, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution would never have gotten out of Committee. And, if it had, it would never have passed....' But there was a time in my life later...knowing the consequences of all these policies...when I did say to myself that I'm never going to lie again with the justification that someone has told me I have to....I've never been sorry I've stopped doing that."

The exact occurrence of events and motivations will probably never be know, but the effect was clear. McNamara summed it up:

"The fundamental issue of Tonkin Gulf involves not deception, but rather, misuse of power bestowed by the resolution. The language of the resolution plainly granted the powers the President subsequently used and Congress understood the breadth of those powers....But no doubt exists that Congress did not intend to authorize, without further, full consultation, the expansion of U.S. forces in Vietnam from 16,000 to 550,000 men, initiating large scale combat operations with the risk of an expanded war with China and the Soviet Union, and extending U.S. involvement in Vietnam for many years to come."


The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

The following is a comprehensive report on the Special Op's elements and function of Op34 Alpha.

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