It was early in the morning in September 1975. I was standing by the side of a highway somewhere east of Guadalajara, Mexico waiting for a ride south. Already my face was dripping with perspiration. My shirt was wet with my sweat.
It looked like it was going to be a long hot, scorching day of hitchhiking. I remember being concerned whether my water supply would hold out. I had run out once before and ended up drinking from a roadside tap. I was sick for days.
I’d been hitchhiking my way from Canada to South America and was looking for any ride heading in the general direction of Mexico City. I didn’t have to wait long. A car with California plates pulled over. “Howdy!”, the man shouted to me. “I’m heading to see the pyramids at Teotihuacan. Would you like to join me?”. It suited me just fine.
His name was Carl and he had an interesting story to tell.
American defeat in Vietnam: the last helicopter leaves the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon, April 1975.
Carl had joined the US military in 1963 to get away from his abusive family. He was a bright guy and wasn’t interested in combat so they put him in intelligence, the National Security Agency (NSA) to be specific. He was stationed in Japan and his group electronically monitored the whole coast of east Asia.
“Do you remember the Gulf of Tonkin Incident?”, he asked. I did. He went on.
On the night of August 4, 1964 American president Lyndon Johnson got on national TV and announced that North Vietnamese PT boats had attacked the American destroyer USS Maddox earlier that day in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson ordered US bombers to retaliate. The Vietnam war had begun in earnest.
Within two years 500,000 American soldiers were in South Vietnam. By the end of the war in 1975 millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians, and 58,000 American soldiers were dead. Another 60,000 American Vietnam veterans would end their lives through suicide after the war.
“Problem is, it was all a lie”, said Carl. “The whole thing was faked. We were Johnson’s own intelligence operation. We watched the whole thing and we knew nothing happened, nothing happened at all. There had been no attack by the North Vietnamese.”
“So Johnson lied.”
“It was no mistake.”
Pyramid at Teotihuacan
Later that day we arrived at the pyramid complex of Teotihuacan and I took the photo above. I thanked Carl and said good bye.
If you do an internet search today on the Gulf of Tonkin incident what you will find universally is that the American naval personnel made a mistake in seeing the nonexistent attack due to poor nighttime visibility, or that the sonar operators blundered and heard imaginary torpedoes. It seems clear from Carl’s personal testimony that military intelligence and ultimately the Johnson administration knew all along nothing had transpired yet kept this secret from the public.
Prior to the Tonkin incident the American military was officially present in Vietnam in an advisory capacity only and the war had been going badly for the US backed South Vietnamese government. It now seems likely that a decision had already been made in the oval office to “send in the boys” and all Lyndon Johnson needed was an incident to sell the war to the American public.
For more information on the Gulf of Tonkin incident read Vietnam Wars 1945-1990 by Marilyn Young . This book is an excellent history of the disastrous Vietnam War.
May there be peace in our hearts.
May there be peace for all humanity.
May there be perfect peace on earth.
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