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282. Message From President Johnson to Prime Minister Macmillan1

I tried to reach you earlier by phone to inform you of a serious development concerning North Vietnam. Two of our destroyers, the Maddox (which had already been subjected to attack on August 2) and the C. Turner Joy were today attacked on the high seas some 65 miles from the North Vietnamese coast by a number of PT boats which launched a number of torpedoes. Fortunately neither of our ships suffered any damage. They engaged the attack craft vigorously and, according to still unconfirmed reports, three were sunk. In view of this further unprovoked attack against U.S. war ships on the high seas by the North Vietnamese Naval Forces, I gave orders that air strikes should be immediately carried out on the four PT bases and the accompanying POL installations. Two of these bases are located in the Southern part of the coastline and the two others in the Northern area.

I have called the leadership of the Congress to meet with me at 6:45 this evening, our time. We will make a report to a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council at 3 p.m. European time tomorrow, Wednesday. I am also considering whether to send a personal message to Chairman Khrushchev in order to inform him of this further attack and of the reasons why I am determined to take all measures necessary to prevent such attacks and to protect our forces. At the same time, I would assure him that our objective remains the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia.

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I will of course continue to keep you informed of developments as promptly as possible and attach the greatest importance to our keeping in closest touch with each other.

Sincerely,

Lyndon B. Johnson2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 33–6 US–VIET N. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Pierce Arrow. Transmitted to the Embassy in London in telegram 861, August 4, 9:41 p.m. with the explanation that the message had been sent to the Prime Minister by a separate channel. Telegram 861 is the source text.
  2. Telegram 861 bears this typed signature.