On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese troops allegedly attack the U.S.S. Maddox off the Tonkin Gulf, which historians say was a response to covert operations being conducted by U.S. and South Vietnam. Two days later, reports from the Maddox claimed another unprovoked attack by the Vietcong. Though there was considerable controversy over the second alleged attack, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Congress to respond to the attacks.
Along with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Johnson was able to convince Congress to sign the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which provided complete authority to “take any necessary steps including military action without officially declaring war on the North Vietnamese.
The resolution, signed on August 10, 1964, gave the president a “blank check” allowing Johnson to implement any military action against North Vietnam without prior authority from Congress, an action that would be highly controversial because it provided complete military authority to the president, effectively giving the executive office control of the war. The resolution would eventually be repealed in 1971.