January 16

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jan 16, 1964:

Johnson approves Oplan 34A

President Johnson approves Oplan 34A, operations to be conducted by South Vietnamese forces supported by the United States to gather intelligence and conduct sabotage to destabilize the North Vietnamese regime.

Actual operations began in February and involved raids by South Vietnamese commandos operating under U.S. orders against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations. Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program called Operation De Soto.

The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox, which was conducting a De Soto mission in the area. Two days after the first attack, there was another incident that still remains unclear. The Maddox, joined by destroyer USS C. Turner Joy, engaged what were believed to be more attacking North Vietnamese patrol boats. Although it was questionable whether the second attack actually happened, the incident provided the rationale for retaliatory air attacks and the subsequent Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which became the basis for the initial escalation of the war in Vietnam and ultimately the insertion of U.S. combat troops into the area.

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