260. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1

328. Embtel 281.2 Maddox was engaged in fleet patrol similar to patrols conducted routine basis various parts of world. Ships engaged such activities operate in international waters. For instance ship engaged in patrol along coast Communist China normally remains 15 NM from coast in view Chicom claim 12 mile limit. Observing claimed limits does not indicate recognition of claim. Firing by DRV patrol craft took place in international waters over 20 NM from coast of North Vietnam. Similar destroyer patrol was conducted February–March in Gulf of Tonkin by destroyer Craig. All of foregoing may be passed to GVN.

FYI. Maddox was on DeSoto Patrol and had been authorized approach 8 NM coast of North Vietnam or 4 NM to certain North Vietnamese islands. Destroyer Craig in Feb-March was authorized approach to 4 NM coast of N VN. Maddox will resume patrol observing an 11 mile limit. In case DRV Department has no record of specific distance claimed by them so approach closer than 12 NM authorized. Just prior to incident Maddox may have approached to about 11 NM of coast. Assume you have seen press release issued Honolulu this morning.3 End FYI.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 33–6 US–VIET N. Confidential; Flash. Drafted by William McAfee (INR) and cleared with Green, Hughes, and the Department of Defense.
  2. Document 256.
  3. See footnote 2. Document 257.