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Cold War Files: All Units: Events: First Bombing of North Vietnam Results in First American POW

August 4, 1964
First Bombing of North Vietnam Results in First American POW

Although immediate doubts arise concerning the validity of the second attack, the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly recommend a retaliatory bombing raid against North Vietnam.
Press reports in America greatly embellish the second attack with spectacular eyewitness accounts although no journalists had been on board the destroyers.

At the White House, President Johnson decides to retaliate. Thus, the first bombing of North Vietnam by the United States occurs as oil facilities and naval targets are attacked without warning by 64 U.S. Navy fighter bombers. "Our response for the present will be limited and fitting," President Johnson tells Americans during a midnight TV appearance, an hour after the attack began. "We Americans know, although others appear to forget, the risk of spreading conflict. We still seek no wider war."

Two Navy jets are shot down during the bombing raids, resulting in the first American prisoner of war, Lt. Everett Alvarez of San Jose, California, who is taken to an internment center in Hanoi, later dubbed the "Hanoi Hilton" by the nearly six hundred American airmen who become POWs.

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