In August, 1964, a young U.S. Navy radio operator found himself in waters he had never heard of, participating in the expansion of a war in a nation he didn't know existed: Vietnam. What he learned from actions he witnessed and the classified messages he handled over the next 10 months left him shaken, disillusioned, and full of questions about America's responses to events in the Tonkin Gulf and South China Sea, including the rush to bomb North Vietnam and the Johnson Administration's decisions to vastly expand the presence of U.S. ground, air, and naval forces in Southeast Asia. Some within the U.S. 7th Fleet knew almost from the outset that the still-controversial "second attack" which triggered the 1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution did not involve North Vietnamese PT boats firing on U.S. Navy destroyers in pitch-dark seas. What it did involve, others have since shown, was something simpler and much stranger. This is one sailor's memories of being present at the ragged beginnings of a long conflict that ultimately failed and cost 58,000 American lives.
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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, photojournalist and book reviewer. His previous books include a detective novel, "Erwin's Law," and a novella, "Jump." He lives in Austin, Texas.
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