photo of three Vietnamese boats taken from the USS Maddox (on Aug. 2).
Parts of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to U.S. intervention in Vietnam, never happened.
After evading a torpedo attack, the USS Maddox reportedly engaged three North Vietnamese boats in the Gulf of Tonkin on both Aug. 2 and 4, 1964, according to the Pentagon Papers. Although without U.S. casualties, the events prompted Congress to pass a resolution allowing President Lyndon John to intervene in the Southeast.
Talk of Tonkin's status as a "false flag" for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War has permeated public discourse almost since the time of the attacks, especially after the government admitted that the second incident may have involved false radar images.
But after resisting comment for decades, the National Security Agency finally declassified documents in 2005, admitting the incident on Aug. 4 never happened at all.
Those involved didn't necessarily intend to cover-up the incident to propagate a war. But the evidence does suggest "an active effort to make SIGINT fit the claim of what happened during the evening of 4 August in the Gulf of Tonkin,"according to NSA historian Robert J. Hanyok.