In August of 1964, President Johnson and his advisors believed that US destroyers had been attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The National Security Archives declassified these documents in 2004. Available documents of note are:
- 40th anniversary essay by John Prados that includes thoughts on how this situation is similar to the Iraq situation
- The military messages that began this incident
- Listen to President Johnson discuss the situation with his advisors
- US Foreign Relations Papers
- CIA on the situation
- Article on possible skews that includes many other links to more information
Prados' article ends with this comment:
This new evidence permits us to view more accurately the internal deliberations of the Johnson administration. Especially in combination with LBJ's telephone conversations with McNamara, recently made available to the public with transcriptions, the material clearly shows Washington rushing to a judgment on events in the Tonkin Gulf, which it seized upon as evidence in support of its predetermined intention to escalate the conflict in Vietnam.
Just like any event, as times passes we have come to reevaluate and hopefully more fairly judge what happened in 1964. With the release of classified materials, we are able to see what went on behind the scenes in the Johnson administration. Go read the materials and consider what you would have done in the position of Johnson and his advisors.