Following a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the deteriorating situation in Saigon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff draw up a memo proposing air strikes against North Vietnam.
These missions were to be conducted in unmarked planes flown by South Vietnamese and Thai crews. There was no action taken on this recommendation. However, the situation changed in August 1964 when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked U.S. destroyers off the coast of North Vietnam. What became known as the Tonkin Gulf incident led to the passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which passed 416 to 0 in the House and 88 to 2 in the Senate. The resolution gave the president approval to “take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” Using the resolution, Johnson ordered the bombing of North Vietnam by U.S. aircraft in retaliation for the Tonkin Gulf incident. In 1965, as the situation continued to deteriorate in South Vietnam, Johnson initiated a major commitment of U.S. troops to South Vietnam, which ultimately totaled more than 540,000 by 1968.