Gulf of Tonkin

Gulf of Tonkin, also Gulf of Bac Bo, northwestern arm of the South China Sea, bordered on its west by northern Vietnam, on its north and east by southern China, and on the east by the Chinese island of Hainan. Several rivers flow into the gulf, including the Red and the Lo. The gulf is very shallow near the coast but increases to as much as 200 m (650 ft) in depth. The seabed is composed mainly of silt and other fine particles from the Red River delta and is undergoing rapid siltation. Two major ports lie along the gulf: Haiphong in Vietnam and Beihai (also Pei-hai or Pakhoi) in China.

There are numerous islands in the gulf.

There are numerous islands in the gulf. Along Vietnam`s Ha Long Bay, in the northern part of the gulf, are 3,000 small islands. Among the more important islands are C T, known for its pearls, and Ct B, an important tourist center. Formed of limestone pillars and other shapes, many of the islands are exceptionally beautiful and in 1994 were designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Many of the islands are uninhabitable and consequently have maintained their unique structure.

For much of the last 2

For much of the last 2,000 years the Gulf of Tonkin has been a major trade route, especially in conjunction with the Red River delta. In the 11th century trading posts were opened on islands of the gulf, encouraging merchants from Siam and Java and significantly increasing trade. In the 19th century the French expanded the port at Haiphong and conducted military raids around the area. Control of the gulf and the Red River delta allowed French soldiers to easily travel inland. During the French colonial period the gulf was a primary export route for rice, cement, and coal.

The Gulf of Tonkin played an important

The Gulf of Tonkin played an important role in the history of the Vietnam War (1959-1975). At the end of July 1964 the U.S.S. " Maddox," a destroyer of the United States Navy, was patrolling the gulf coast seeking reconnaissance about the North Vietnamese. At the same time, a number of smaller ships were conducting covert operations in the gulf against the North Vietnamese; these ships, which were in North Vietnamese territorial waters, eventually shelled several offshore islands.

The North Vietnamese retaliated by attacking

The North Vietnamese retaliated by attacking the "Maddox" with three torpedo boats on August 2, 1964. On August 4, the "Maddox" and another destroyer, the U.S.S. "Turner Joy," believed they were under attack and radioed two nearby U.S. aircraft carriers, the "Ticonderoga" and the "Constellation," for retaliatory air strikes. Fighter planes from those two ships struck North Vietnamese naval vessels and a major petroleum storage center in the city of Vinh.

On August 7

On August 7, the U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Lyndon Johnson the authority to take action against the North Vietnamese. Over the next four years, Johnson used the resolution to justify sending increasing numbers of troops to fight in the Vietnam War. Johnson`s critics argued that the president had exaggerated the attack on U.S. ships and exceeded the authority of the resolution by escalating the war. Subsequent congressional hearings showed that the ships probably had not come under attack. In 2006 the declassification of National Security Agency (NSA) documents revealed an internal appraisal of the incident by an NSA historian, which concluded that the ships were not attacked on August 4 and that evidence was deliberately skewed to support the claim that an attack occurred.

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