11. The Gulf of Tonkin
It’s been a while since this happened, but in August 1964, the USS Maddox engaged three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats, firing some 300 shells in the process. This gave the US an excuse to get involved in the Vietnam War through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, drafted by President Lyndon Johnson. It was the legal document the military needed before marching off to Vietnam.
Some speculated that it was all a lie and that those three boats the destroyer sunk weren’t even there. As with many other wars the United States has been involved in, this is often one of the suspicions most have – that the government somehow fabricated the situation.
For decades, denials were thrown left and right, until time somehow made everyone forget about the situation. Then, in 2005, a National Security Agency document was declassified revealing that there were no foreign ships. What were they shooting at? Nothing in particular, just disturbing the wildlife, most likely.