26. Editorial Note

In an August 5, 1964, memorandum, United States Information Agency Director Carl T. Rowan, summarized for President Lyndon B. Johnson the international media’s initial reactions to United States military action in retaliation to reports that North Vietnamese patrol boats had fired upon two U.S. naval vessels, the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy, on August 2 and 4. According to Rowan, “Far East comment sees the situation in Viet-Nam as grave and there are indications of concern and some anxiety but nothing approaching panic.” However, Western European media viewed “the American moves in Southeast Asia as retaliation against deliberate North Vietnamese attacks.” (Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Countries, EX CO 312, Box CO–79, CO 312 Viet Nam 6/15/64–9/30/64)

In a memorandum the following day, Rowan informed Johnson that “the mood of world comment currently is sober, watchful, and concerned, and hopes are strongly expressed that the conflict will not broaden. U.S. action is generally viewed as justified, and praised for ‘firmness and restraint.’” (Ibid.) In an August 7 memorandum further assessing the on-going international media attention, Rowan noted: “Strongly favorable initial acceptance of U.S. actions in the Gulf of Tonkin has now been tempered by more concern and increasing doubts about those actions.” He further informed Johnson, “General approval, tempered by sober thoughts on escalation, is still coming in from Far Eastern countries, particularly the Philippines and Taiwan.” Although European media continued to view U.S. actions as necessary, “more attention is being given to U.S. domestic implications” and that Johnson had “‘succumbed to a Goldwater policy’” was appearing in mostly leftist European media. (Ibid.)

On August 10, Johnson signed into law the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (P.L. 88–408; 78 Stat. 384), which authorized him to take any necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to repel any military attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent future aggression. For additional information about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the subsequent resolution, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume I, Vietnam, 1964, Documents 255308.