Your ride back into history begins at the Seattle ferry dock and ends 50 minutes later as you glide into Bremerton's harbor. There on your right is the Vietnam War. You may remember it: the war to end all unnecessary wars (until Iraq). It is embodied in all 418 feet of the USS Turner Joy, a Navy destroyer built and launched in Seattle in 1958, serving honorably in the Pacific and less honorably in the Gulf of Tonkin, now retired and open for public visits at its Bremerton waterfront moorage.
The Bremerton Historic Ships Association, in recounting the Turner Joy's war record—shelling and being shelled, earning nine battle stars—fortunately does not skip the chapter on the destroyer's questionable role in starting Vietnam. That came on an August night in 1964, when theTurner Joy and the USS Maddox were supposedly attacked in the gulf by North Vietnamese gunboats.
"Whether or not the North Vietnamese attacked the two ships . . . remains a mystery," the association acknowledges on its website. "Only they know for sure. It could well have been that bad weather and the freakish radar conditions for which the Gulf of Tonkin is famous caused radar echoes to appear on Turner Joy's screen and prompted her captain and crew to take defensive action in consideration of the events two days earlier."
But the association is much too diplomatic....