On August 2, 1964, four North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox (DD731). This did not turn out well for the North Vietnamese. Between American guns and air support, one NV patrol boat was left dead in the water with the remaining badly shot-up. The Maddox took a few machine-gun hits.

In spite of leftist propaganda, the attack on the Maddox actually took place — unlike the “Turner Joy” incident that due to bad equipment, bad weather and jittery nerves was mistakenly reported at first as an attack.

LBJ went to Congress with it even though he knew then that no second attack had occurred. LBJ characterized the “attacks” as “unprovoked.” Well, the North Vietnamese were guilty of a lot of sins, but their attack — while unwise — was not “unprovoked.”

The CIA had been running the “Nautilus” program in South Vietnam. While some of it dealt with intercepting North Vietnamese weapons being sent along the coast into the South, the program also had a more “aggressive” side to it:

As part of Operation 34A (also known as OPLAN 34A), junks would carry Vietnamese frogmen into Northern waters where they would sabotage naval facilities, radar installations and the like. Soon the increased number of North Vietnamese Swatow and P4 gunboats made that decidedly unhealthy, so the Americans scraped up a couple of tired PT boats (1950 manufacture date) and began training South Vietnamese officers and crew. But something better was needed.  As the White House saw it, the North was behaving badly and needed some surreptitious “slapping down…”

It was decided that while the program must remain covert, it needed to be under the American military, not least because of its far greater resources. On January 1, 1963, the program was handed off to Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG). (For information regarding the epic story of SOG, see SOFREP’s past articles under “SOG,” especially those by John Stryker Meyer.)

SOG decided right off the bat that they needed something hot. Unexpectedly, the Norwegian Navy had just what they were looking for: The Norwegians had gotten tired of the Soviets poking into their waters and then being long gone before a cutter could intercept them. So in 1957, they deployed the “Nasties.”