286. Editorial Note

At 11:20 p.m., Admiral Sharp telephoned Secretary McNamara to confirm that that the Ticonderoga “got her planes off at 0243” or 10:43 p.m., Washington time, and 10:43 a.m., Saigon time. Sharp indicated that it would take the aircraft almost 2 hours to reach their targets. After discussing the matter with General Wheeler, McNamara called President Johnson to inform him. (August 28 chronology; Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Gulf of Tonkin Misc. 1964)

At 11:36 p.m. on August 4, President Johnson addressed the nation from the White House over radio and television. He summarized the events since the attack on the Maddox on August 2 and informed the nation that “air action is now in execution against gunboats and certain supporting facilities in North Viet-Nam which have been used in these hostile operations.” The President told the nation:

“In the larger sense this new act of aggression, aimed directly at our own forces, again brings home to all of us in the United States the importance of the struggle for peace and security in Southeast Asia. Aggression by terror against the peaceful villagers of South Viet-Nam has now been joined by open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America.

“The determination of all Americans to carry out our full commitment to the people and to the government of South Vietnam will be redoubled by this outrage. Yet our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting. We Americans know, although others appear to forget, the risks of spreading conflict. We still seek no wider war.”

He concluded his statement with an acknowledgement of his “solemn” responsibility in ordering the military action, but he considered that “firmness in the right is indispensable today for peace; that firmness will always be measured.” The President’s statement is printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book II, pages 927–928, and Department of State Bulletin, August 24, 1964, page 259.