An illuminating, almost minute-by-minute reconstruction of the events that took place in the Tonkin Gulf in August 1964, and an analysis of decisions in Washington that led to the massive American escalation of the Vietnam War in 1965. Moise (History/Clemson Univ.) offers a massively detailed study of the Aug. 2 and Aug. 4, 1964, incidents in the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of North Vietnam, after which Congress overwhelmingly passed a resolution giving the Johnson administration authority to wage war against Communism in North and South Vietnam. Moise is careful to point out that the incidents ``did not really `cause' the outbreak of large-scale war in Vietnam.'' As he shows, in August 1964 the war in South Vietnam was heating up rapidly, and the White House and Pentagon were already making plans for large- scale intervention. Still, the events surrounding the Tonkin Gulf incident--including covert American-supported actions against North Vietnam that had begun in February 1964--as well as the actual incidents themselves deserve close study. That is exactly what Moise provides in his book, in which he augments a thorough examination of primary sources with interviews with many key players, including former North Vietnamese naval officers. Moise's readable, if sometimes overly detailed, reconstruction of the events in the water leaves little doubt that the small battle on Aug. 2 was not an unprovoked North Vietnamese attack on ``an innocent [American] reconnaissance vessel,'' as the Johnson administration contended. Rather, North Vietnam attacked the destroyer Maddox, which was loaded with electronic eavesdropping equipment, in retaliation for months of American-supported attacks along the coast. Moise also convincingly shows that no North Vietnamese attacks on American ships took place on Aug. 4, although he concludes that American action was based on a misunderstanding, not on a provocation ``knowingly faked'' by the American government. The most inclusive look by far at the portentous Tonkin Gulf incident.