U.S. Combatants – Gulf of Tonkin Incident

USS Maddox (DD-731) off Hawaii about four and a half months before the first Gulf of Tonkin Incident (U.S. Navy Historical Society)

USS Ticonderoa (CVS-14) after conversion to an anti-submarine carrier in 1969-1970.  She was an attack carrier (CVA) during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (U.S. Navy Historical Society)

The Chance-Vought F-8E “Crusader” fighter was the prime fleet air defense fighter at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.  The rail aft of the national insignia carried either AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air missiles or “Zuni” 5-inch rocket pods.  A pair of Mk 12 20mm cannon were carried internally on each side just below the cockpit canopy.  (Photo: US Navy)


A port side photo of PTF-1 (exPT-810) cruising in Chesapeake Bay.  PTF’s were VNN-crewed and based at Da Nang, RVN as part of Op Plan 34A.  PTF-1 and -2 burned 115/145 octane aviation gasoline.  (Photo Jim Gray)

A late 1950’s photo of PT-811 that became PTF-2.  PTF-1 and -2 were Korean War designs (1950 and 1951 respectively).  PT-810 and -811 were reclassified as PTF’s in December 1962.  Along with the Norwegian-built PTF-3 and -4, these boats  became the nucleus of Op Plan 34A raids against North Vietnam.  These raids began in April 1964.  (Photo: US Naval Institute)


PTF-3 (ex-Norwegian SKREI) is shown at speed in this dramatic photo of her taken at Subic Bay, Philippines, before her departure for Da Nang, RVN, in February 1964.  The bow 40mm gun was soon replaced with the Navy Mk 2 81mm mortar for firing high explosive, white phosphorous smoke, and illumination rounds.  (Photo: US Navy)

North Vietnamese Combatants – Gulf of Tonkin Incident

The Soviet Project 183 (P-6 class) motor torpedo boat was built in large numbers from 1952 to 1960.  The P-6 was 83’ long by20.5’ wide by 5.5’ draft; weight was 66.5 tons; 4 diesel engines @ 4,800 hp drove 4 props; speed was 43 to 45 knots; range 450 nm at 30 knots.  Armament was 2 twin 25mm/80 cal. 2M-3 guns, 2 21-inch torpedoes, 8 depth charges.  Crew was 20. (Sketch: Chip Marshall)

A Soviet Project 123K (P-4 class) motor torpedo boat.  Developed in the late 1940’s, the boats were built in large numbers by the Russians and Chinese.  North Vietnamese P-4 boats conducted the torpedo attacks upon USS MADDOX (DD-731) during the first Gulf of Tonkin Incident on 2 August 1964.  (Photo: Chip Marshall)

The Soviet Project 123K (P-4 class) motor torpedo boat.  The P-4 was 63.3’ long by 12.1’ wide by 3.3’ draft; displacement 45 tons; 3 diesel engines @ 3,600 hp drove 3 props; speed was 45 knots; range 500 nm at 30 knots.  Armament  twin 14.5mm/93 cal type 2M-7 guns, 2 17-inch torpedoes, 4 depth charges.  Crew was 11.   (Sketch: Chip Marshall)

In this rare photo, three P-4 torpedo boats are shown on the Red River in North Vietnam.  (Photo: Chip Marshall)


A US Navy photo of one of three P-4 torpedo boats that attacked USS Maddox.  Note the 5-inch shell splash aft.


The “Swatow” was a Chinese design based on the Russian Project 183 (P-6 class).  Designed as a motor gunboat, the heavy twin 37mm/63 cal. V-11M guns and their shields slowed the boat to a top speed of 28 knots.  The twin 37mm guns were copied after the famous 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun of World War 2.  (Photo: Peoples Liberation Army Navy via Chip Marshall)


A nest of PLAN “SwatowMGB’s.  The water-cooled, twin 37mm guns are very prominent in this picture.  Some boats mounted a 12.7mm DShK M1938/46 heavy machine gun aft, on either side of the bridge.  Other boats replaced the twin 37mm guns forward with a single, lighter air-cooled gun of the same type to save weight and (hopefully) improve performance.  No torpedoes were carried, but there were roll-off racks for 8 depth charges.  A slow speed pf 28 knots maximum meant that “Swatows” were often used as controllers for the faster P-4 or P-6 torpedo boats.  (Photo: PLAN via Chip Marshall)

Another view of a PLAN “Swatow” that shows its radar mast folded down.   Swatows” were 83.8’ long by 19.8’ wide by 6.5’ draft; displacement was 80 tons; range 500 nm at 28 knots; crew was 17.  (Photo: PLAN via Chip Marshall)

“Surface Action, Starboard!”  USS MADDOX fires on three NVN P-4 torpedo boats T-333, T-336, and T-339.  (Painting: E.J. Fitzgerald).