A bright Sunday in December Japanese planes blazed out of the sky to strafe and bomb an American warship while it lay at anchor.
You’d be forgiven to think this was the Pearl Harbor attack, but you’d be wrong.
The sinking of the USS Panay is pretty much forgotten now. But it was one of the biggest news stories of 1937.
In the 1930s, the United States had something that would be unthinkable today — a treaty with China allowing American gunboats to travel deep up the Yangtze River. It was a major trade route for U.S. commerce in China, and it was notorious for pirate attacks.
The crews of these ships were small. Panay for example carried four officers and forty-nine enlisted men, along with a Chinese crew of porters. The vessel only drew about five feet of water, and resembled more of a Mississippi riverboat than a destroyer. Yet…
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