Lyndon B. Johnson is nominated to run for the presidency at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His running mate would be Hubert H. Humphrey. Former Vice President Johnson had assumed the reigns of government in November 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Upon assuming office, he inherited a commitment to Vietnam where Kennedy had sent military advisors to support the South Vietnamese government in Saigon.
Following the Tonkin Gulf incident earlier in August when North Vietnamese torpedo boats reportedly attacked U.S. destroyers, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution empowering Johnson to “take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” With the support of Congress in hand and having been nominated for the presidency in his own right, Johnson said he would stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, but that American “boys” should not be sent to do the fighting that Asian “boys” with U.S. help could do themselves. Receiving opposing views from various experts inside and outside the government, Johnson chose to listen to those he wanted to hear, discounting those who suggested that the U.S. should not become deeply involved in the war. Trying to protect his domestic agenda at home, he nevertheless gradually escalated the U.S. commitment in South Vietnam, eventually sending U.S. combat units that resulted in more than 500,000 American troops in-country by early 1968.
Also on this day: The Joint Chiefs of Staff send a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, concurring with an August 19 cable from Ambassador Maxwell Taylor in Saigon who called for “a carefully orchestrated bombing attack on North Vietnam” to prevent “a complete collapse of the U.S. position in Southeast Asia.”
READ MORE: How the Vietnam War Ratcheted Up Under 5 U.S. Presidents