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Gunboat Photo Archive

Panay (PR-5)
ex-PG-45

Sunk 12 December 1937

River Gunboat:

  • Built in 1927 as Patrol Gunboat, PG-45 by the Kiangoan Dockyard and Engineering Works, Shanghai, China
  • Launched 10 November 1927
  • Reclassified as a River Gunboat, PR-5
  • Commissioned USS Panay (PR 5), 10 September 1928
  • Sunk by Japanese Naval aircraft 12 December 1937.

    Specifications:

  • Displacement 474 t.
  • Length 191'
  • Beam 29'
  • Draft 5' 3"
  • Speed 15 kts.
  • Complement 59
  • Armament: Two 3" gun mounts and eight .30 cal. machine guns
  • Propulsion: Two triple expansion steam engines, three rudders, two shafts.
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    Panay 281k 3 January 1928
    Kiangoan Dockyard and Engineering Works, Shanghai, China
    Under construction
    Ed Zajkowski
    Panay 408k National Archives photo Bill Gonyo
    Panay 494k 30 August 1928
    Off Woosung, China
    Conducting standardization trials at 17.73 knots
    National Archives photo 19-N-12654
    Benjamin K. Christensen
    Panay 322k 30 August 1928
    Off Woosung, China
    Conducting standardization trials at 17.73 knots
    National Archives photo 19-N-12676
    Original photo: Joe Radigan
    Replacement photo: Ed Zajkowski
    Panay 350k 30 August 1928
    Off Woosung, China
    Conducting standardization trials at 10 knots
    Ed Zajkowski
    Panay 53k Panay (foreground), moored off Hankow, China alongside HMS Bee and HMS Ladybird Tommy Trampp
    Panay 208k c. 1930s David Buell
    Panay 122k 17 December 1937
    Decks awash, following fatal bombing by Japanese
    U.S. Navy photo from the July 1978 edition of All Hands magazine
    Joe Radigan
    Panay 156k The unanswered question... Was the Panay the target of the Japanese attack that sank her, or was it the merchant ships she was escorting?
    Naval History and Heritage Command photo
    Tommy Trampp
    Panay 122k 1 July 1938
    Washington, DC
    Fireman first class John L. Hodge, who is recuperating at Naval Hospital here, was today decorated with the Navy Cross for the bravery he displayed during the sinking of the U.S. gunboat Panay by Japanese bombs last year. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison is pictured pinning the award on the Bluejacket. It was Hodge who carried Jim Marshall, staff writer for Collier's injured in the bombing, from the scene of the sinking vessel to Wuhu, China, a distance of about 17 miles.
    Library of Congress photo
    Bill Gonyo
    Panay 386k c. 1939
    Newspaper clipping from the collection of Robert Wilmes, USS Dawn (IX 186)
    Dan Wilmes

    Commanding Officers
    01LCDR James Mackey Lewis, USN10 September 1928 - 15 February 1929
    02LCDR Lee Cummins Carey, USN15 February 1929
    03LCDR William James Morcott, USN1932 - 1933
    04LCDR Russell Stanley Berkey, USN - USNA Class of 1916
    Awarded the Navy Cross (1944), the Army Distinguished Service Medal (1945), the Navy Distinguished Service Medal (1945) and three Legions of Merit with Combat V (1945) - Retired as Admiral
    January 1933 - July 1934
    05LCDR Chester McKinley Holton, USN1936
    06LCDR James Joseph Hughes, USN1937 - 12 December 1937
    Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler, Ron Reeves and Joe Radigan

    View the Panay (PR-5)
    DANFS History entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Website
    Last Survivor Recalls 1937 Attack Off China

    By Ted Morris - Sierra Vista Herald via AP
    Posted: Sunday Jan 6, 2008 10:32:51 EST

    SIERRA VISTA, Arizona - Four years before Pearl Harbor was attacked, a local man sailed on a Navy ship that was bombed and sunk by Imperial Japanese warplanes. The incident happened on Dec. 13, 1937, as the USS Panay was evacuating U.S. embassy personnel from Nanking, China’s capital of that era. It was a city under siege whose downfall became the infamous Rape of Nanking.

    The Panay was a gunboat that belonged to the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, whose 1930s peacetime mission included protection of American lives and property from pirates along the lawless Yangtze River, under a treaty with the Chinese.

    One of those old Navy "river rats," 94-four-year-old Fon B. Huffman of Sierra Vista, remembers when veterans of the Yangtze Patrol could fill 20 reunion buses.

    "Now I’m the only one left," Huffman said wistfully. He lives with his daughter and son-in-law, Nancy and Steve Ferguson.

    Huffman joined the Navy at age 16, a farm boy from Truro, Iowa. By the time of the Panay incident, Huffman was a 24-year-old veteran sailor.

    He was a water tender second class in 1937. His job was to man the boiler room, to "burn the oil and make steam."

    Huffman remembers awakening to the attack, which began at 1:38 p.m.

    "I was sound asleep," he said. "Bombs blasted us."

    The Panay was a 191-foot-long craft with a crew of four officers and 49 enlisted men, plus a native crew of about a dozen.

    The Panay was the second generation of a gunboat named for an island in the Philippines. She was armed with eight .30-caliber Lewis machine guns, four on the port side and four on the starboard.

    The ship picked up a number of evacuees from Nanking and headed down river for Shanghai. Japanese troops had just broken into Nanking, and even though the United States was a neutral country at this time, Nanking was a dangerous place to be.

    The evacuees aboard the Panay included a number of American and Italian journalists. Thus, the incident was well covered by the media of that day. One of the U.S. newsmen, Norman Alley of Universal, captured valuable newsreel of the airplanes attacking the ship and her gunners firing back.

    Neutral British naval vessels also were involved in the incident, including their assisting the rescue of the stranded Yanks and their passengers.

    Three men aboard the Panay died, and 27 were injured. From the shore, the crew watched their ship sink.

    In newsreel and still photos, Huffman is seen throwing an improvised flotation device overboard. He had given up his own lifejacket to Alley. Huffman had received a 1-inch shrapnel wound in his right shoulder from a bursting bomb. He did not immediately report his injury and would not receive his Purple Heart Medal until 1993.

    On the bridge, the ship’s commanders were exposed to the attack. The captain, Lt. Cmdr. James J. Hughes, was severely wounded. He gave an order to the second-in-command, executive officer Lt. Arthur "Tex" Anders to abandon ship. Anders, the father of Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, had been wounded in his throat, was unable to speak, and he wrote the order on a wall with a bloody finger, Huffman said.

    Fortunately, Alley’s 5,300 feet of newsreel made it back to America, but before it was released in theaters, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered 30 feet of film to be cut where it showed Japanese bombers at nearly deck level, according to Perry. This helped America to remain neutral in the early years of the Pacific war by supporting the official apology of Japan, who claimed that its pilots had made a "mistaken identity" of the nationality of the Panay, even though it displayed several large and conspicuous American flags that the pilots should have seen.

    On April 22, 1938, the Japanese cut a check for $2,214,007.36 in reparation to the United States for "settlement in full" for the supposedly accidental American casualties that included the sinking of the Panay.

    Out of this settlement, Huffman received $1,200. He spent $800 of it on a brand new Chevrolet coupe.

    Besides the Panay, he had served aboard the Navy ships Lexington [CV 16], Augusta [CA 31], Texas [BB 35], Stack [DD 406], Hawkins [DD 873] and Lloyd Thomas [DD 764].

    To this day, Huffman maintains a serious attitude about the Panay Incident. He strongly feels it was deliberate.

    "They knew who we were."


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