This Week in Universal News: The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 1964

Fifty years ago, in what came to be known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the U.S.S. Maddox. The events led to Congress passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed the president to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam without Congressional approval. In this week’s Universal newsreel, the story, including President Johnson’s “Midnight Address” to the nation, takes up the entire six minute run time. You can find out more about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which is currently on display at the National Archives, in this Prologue post. More documents related to the incident are featured at the Today’s Document Tumblr.

The original release sheet reads:

UNITED STATES BOLSTERS FORCES PLANES AND MEN RUSHED TO ASIA Swift and sure has been U.S. retaliation for Communist PT-boat attacks on the high seas. The “Maddox” and the “C. Turner Joy” were attacked while patrolling international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin off north Viet Nam. War planes from two carriers avenged the unwarranted Red assault with 64 sorties against North Vietnam PT bases. Twenty-five boats – more than half the fleet – were destroyed and oil reserves badly damaged. President Lyndon Johnson went before the people to announce the U.S. action and Ambassador Adlai Stevenson reported to the United Nations. Meanwhile, a massive U.S. buildup is underway in Southeast Asia as people of all political faiths rally behind the President in this crisis.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson speaks about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in a “Midnight Address” to the nation.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.