Photograph taken from USS Maddox (DD-731) during her engagement with three North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, 2 August 1964. The view shows all three of the boats speeding towards the Maddox
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred in August 1964. North Vietnamese warships purportedly attacked United States warships, the U.S.S. Maddox and the U.S.S. C. Turner Joy, on two separate occasions in the Gulf of Tonkin, a body of water neighboring modern-day Vietnam. President Lyndon Baines Johnson claimed that the United States did nothing to provoke these two attacks and that North Vietnam was the aggressor. Subsequent reports show that the United States actually provoked these attacks by supporting South Vietnamese commandos operating in North Vietnam and by using U.S. warships to identify North Vietnamese radar stations along the coastline of North Vietnam. There remains no doubt that the North Vietnamese attacked the U.S.S. Maddox in the first incident, which occurred on August 2, 1964, although it does appear that the United States provoked this attack. Many government officials and historians contend that the second incident, which allegedly happened on August 4, 1964, never occurred.
Because of President Johnson's claims, the United States Congress issued the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This proclamation authorized Johnson to retaliate for the purported attacks in the Gulf of Tonkin. The resolution allowed the president "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom." In essence, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution permitted Johnson to increase the United States' involvement in North and South Vietnam. Before Johnson became president, approximately sixteen thousand Americans were acting as advisors to the South Vietnamese military. Historians debate whether or not these soldiers were simply acting as advisors or were actually waging war against South Vietnamese revolutionaries and their North Vietnamese allies. Nevertheless, after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Johnson increased the number of American troops serving in South Vietnam to more than 500,000. These men and women were clearly engaged in actual fighting.
The United States' escalation in the Vietnam War had a tremendous impact on Ohioans. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans were members of the armed forces during the Vietnam War, although not all of these men and women served in North or South Vietnam. Of the Ohioans serving in the military, 2,997 of them died in Vietnam, while another twenty thousand of these people suffered wounds. Bealsville, Ohio, lost more people per capita in the Vietnam War than any other community in the United States. Other Ohioans actively protested the war, especially once the federal government eliminated college deferments and it became common knowledge that the United States military was also bombing countries neighboring Vietnam. The most famous protest occurred at Kent State University, where the Ohio National Guard killed four people, but other protests erupted at college campuses across Ohio and the rest of the nation.