August 2 - 1964 - The Gulf of Tonkin Incident
When the USS Maddox drifted towards North Vietnamese waters on August 2, 1964, it was engaged by North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats. Although they quickly exchanged fire and then even more quickly disengaged, this became a pretext for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, a Congressional Joint Resolution that gave President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to use military force in Southeast Asia. This began the Vietnam War, the most controversial military conflict in American History. Yet the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was more of a lesson in unintended consequences than a story of government overreach and creeping militarism.