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: