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Post Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Tonkin: Parallels?
Created by John Eipper on 07/22/19 4:38 AM

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Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Tonkin: Parallels? (John Heelan, UK, 07/22/19 4:38 am)

The current skirmishes in the Strait of Hormuz have uncomfortable recollections of the Tonkin Gulf Incident involving the USS Maddox. These also have the ingredients of a devil's brew that could explode into war. Those ingredients are a gung-ho president starting a re-election campaign, with advisors to whom truth is a foreign concept.

One recalls that Secretary of State McNamara was economic with the truth when he stated to the Senate: "Our Navy played absolutely no part in, was not associated with, was not aware of any South Vietnamese actions [in the same operational area as the USS Maddox]."

Do these people not believe that others do reality checks on their statements?

JE comments:  John, don't you mean North Vietnamese actions?  In any case, if you want to start a war, there's nothing like a naval skirmish to get a nation fired up.  Is Hormuz Persian for "powder keg"?

Regarding Tonkin, it's hard to believe the 50th anniversary was already five years ago.  WAIS did a "thread" at the time.  Marine pilot and WAIS stalwart Michael Sullivan was in Japan in August '64, and his flight squadron was placed on high alert.  Be sure to read both posts, below:


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  • US Pacific Forces after Kennedy Assassination (Timothy Brown, USA 07/23/19 2:39 AM)
    In 2008, the US Naval Institute published a detailed and interesting version of the Tonkin incident, "The Truth About Tonkin." At the time, I was a Thai/Spanish Intelligence Linguist/Interrogator in a classified (since declassified) unit (1st Interrogator/Translator Team) at CINCPAC and was aware of the activities of our Vietnamese and other sub-teams.

    During an earlier visit to CINCPAC by Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, McNamara, a communicator had quietly entered and informed the CINC that President Kennedy had been assassinated. He, and his staff, immediately rushed out the door and, as soon as we "peons" learned the news, we followed them out.

    CINCPAC immediately ordered all units in the Pacific to go to DEFCON 2 and be readied of DEFCON 1, if necessary. Since, unlike the Mandarin, Russian and Vietnamese sub-unit, only my Mandarin deputy, Ming Kai Chang (he's standing in front of me in the photo on page 80 of Diplomarine) was called up, I was not immediately involved. So, since the CINC had issued an ordered to "clear harbor" and launch Air Force recon and combat aircraft on Oahu, I went out on the nearest balcony and watched as his Clear Harbor order was executed and as every Navy ship in Pearl Harbor immediately got underway under the command of the senior officer aboard. (I heard later that a cruiser had been taken out by a JG!) The destroyers and submarines went first and began a full deep water sweep of the entrance and adjacent waters, followed by the larger combat vessels and then by everything else that could get underway as soon as the combat units cleared. I heard later that all the available combat aircraft, from recce-birds to heavy bombers, had also been armed and launched.

    I was still there when the Tonkin incidents occurred--but that's another story.

    JE comments:  Tim, the rumors among the US forces in the Pacific must have run wild.  Was there speculation that the Soviets had ordered the JFK assassination?  The Chinese?

    When time permits, please tell us your recollection of the Tonkin incident, which is almost at its 55th anniversary (August 2nd).

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    • My Memories of Tonkin Incident (Timothy Brown, USA 07/24/19 4:29 AM)
      John E asked about the rumors circulating among the US forces in the Pacific in the wake of the Kennedy assassination. Regardless of what US forces may have thought, when in doubt the rule was, and still should be, pray for the best but prepare for the worst. Which is what they did immediately after Kennedy's assassination.

      On Tonkin: During my Marine Corps tour at CINCPAC/FMFPAC (1959-64), I was primarily engaged in matters in or about elsewhere in Southeast Asia--Thailand, Laos, Myin Mar (Burma) Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.  However, it was not unusual for me to hear of instances in which both North and South Vietnamese military engaged in operations inside the other side's territory.

      I was on a Foreign Service tour as District Senior Advisor in Ninh Hoa, Khan Hoa, Vietnam, with "opcon" (operational control) just after the Tet offensive. Chapters 22-26 in Diplomarine are about my experiences during that assignment.

      Being a Latinamericanista, I was then and later, fascinated by the operational connections between Vietnam and Latin America, such as the photo of Salvadoran FSLN being trained in Hanoi, later conversations with senior Cuban officers who later defected to the US on their personal experiences in North Vietnam as advisors to the North Vietnamese military during that war.

      JE comments:  Tim, I'm presently away from the WAIS library (at Mom's in Delaware for the week), but need to re-read those chapters of Diplomarine.  Do I remember correctly that you served as a liaison with a Korean combat unit?  (I just learned that over 5000 Koreans died in the Vietnam war, from 1964-1973.)

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