The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Practice Rehearsal for Pearl Harbor

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

The United States warship is anchored in the middle of the river. Everything is very calm and peaceful. All hands are enjoying a leisurely lunch, when they are rudely interrupted.
The time is 1350 o'clock Navy time (1:50 pm). The US warship is plainly identified by two large American flags, one at the bow (front), and one at the stern (rear). Suddenly, out of the sun, the airplanes swoop swiftly down. Lieutenant Mastake Okuyama is leading a full squadron of imperial Japanese navy dive-bombers.

Chief Quartermaster Lang mused, "I wonder who the planes belong to. They must be on a practice drill." Then he shouted, "Why, they are Japanese planes, I can see the "meatball" on their wings! (The meatball was a big round red circle) I can't believe that they are dropping bombs on our warship!"

The warship is the USS Panay PR-5, part of the Yangtze River patrol. The U.S. had six of these gunboats patrolling this river: The Guam, Luzon, Mindanao, Ohahu, Turtuilla, and the Panay. These warships were small gunboats, flat-bottomed, built to sail along anywhere in the Chinese Yangtze River. They are just 191 ft. long,  weigh 395 tons, and top speed is 14 knots (about 15.5 miles per hour). However, the warships are heavily armed with two 3 inch guns, four .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns, and ten .30 caliber machine guns.

The skipper of the USS Panay is Lieutenant Commander James J. Hughes, with a crew of 55 sailors. His main duty is controlling the river pirates because the whole course of the river literally swarms with them. The Yangtze River was called by the Chinese the "Ch'ang Chiang" (long river). It flows 3,100 miles deep within China, and empties into the yellow sea. There are several great cities along its banks, including Shanghai and Nanking.

Cecil Owen

The river pirates have always been bad along this river. Even during World War Two, they managed to steal the Liberty Launch of Captain Moon, from my warship the USS Destroyer Escort George DE697! It made the skipper so mad. We went hunting for the pirates the next day. When we rounded a big bend in the river, there his little boat was. It was tied up to a large Chinese junk. (the Chinese boats are called "junks"). "Fire the forward 5 inch gun", Captain Moon shouted! At close range, the 5 inch shell just about made tooth picks out of the Chinese junk and Liberty Launch also.

Now on this particular day, the USS Panay was on a "mercy mission", it had been sent to Nanking, China. Because Nanking was under siege by a Japanese army. Four U.S. Embassy officials, five refugees and a whole bevy of Western journalists had been rescued.

Was this after World War Two, after Pearl Harbor day? No way. This particular day was on Sunday, December 12, 1937!

Lieutenant Commander Jim Hughes rushed into the pilot house just as a bomb exploded. It mangled and busted the skipper's leg. On the deck, Norman Alley of Universal News, grabbed his motion-picture camera and started filming. The Japanese planes zoomed down so low, you could see the pilot's faces. Norman was amazed that the Japanese planes continued to attack the USS Panay, for they could plainly see the two large American flags!

Jim Marshall, the Far East corespondent of Collier's Magazine, stood watching in shock and amazement. "I wonder why they are deliberately attacking an American warship", he shouted. These were his last words, as he fell to the deck, he was fatally wounded. He was struck in the neck, shoulders, chest, and stomach by bomb fragments.

The executive officer, Lieutenant Arthur F. Anders, took command after the skipper was badly injured. He was directing the machine gun fire at the diving Japanese planes. Suddenly, he too was badly injured by jagged throat wounds. The gun crews were doing their best, but to no avail. Not a single Japanese plane was shot down.

Just 20 minutes after the first explosion, the USS Panay PR-5 begins to sink! Sprawled on the deck, Lieutenant Anders scribbles on the bulkhead with a piece of chalk. (Due to his neck wounds, he could not speak) Abandon Ship! Keep the life boats as close to shore as possible, then send them back for more!

Immediately, crewman and passengers scramble over the side into the lifeboats! They begin to paddle madly for the shore, as the boats are quickly filled. Some of the passengers are afraid to wait for the boats to return. So they jump into the water and begin swimming hard for the shore. Suddenly, there is the angry hissing of machine gun bullets all around them. The Japanese pilots are trying to shoot them all, like ducks in a pond. This is indeed a terrifying experience, but it is far from being over.

Just as the survivors begin to reach the shelter of the riverbank reeds, a Japanese military launch races up. It rakes the riverbank with machine gun fire. then the Japanese launch rakes the Panay from end to end with more machine gun bullets. Next, several Japanese officers board the ship looking for secret codes and new devices.

Meanwhile the strenuous and dangerous ordeal for the crewmen and passengers continues. They have to walk 20 miles in order to reach Chinese lines. While at the same time, squads of Japanese soldiers stalk the countryside trying to hunt them down. Finally, the Panay survivors reach safety, and take stock of their losses. Two American sailors and one Italian newspaper reporter are dead, and seventeen crew members and U.S. Embassy officials are wounded, several are seriously wounded.

The very next day after the sinking of the USS Panay, (remember this is December 13, 1937) Japanese general Iwane Matsui rides into Nanking triumphal, as general Chiang Kai-Shek's Chinese soldiers retreat!

He rides astride a symbolic white horse, and proudly proclaims, "the Japanese imperial way is shining through!" With that, the Japanese soldiers launch a blood bath that is worse than the barbaric Attila the Hun! Nearly 250,000 Chinese civilians, men, women, and children were ruthlessly murdered. (Mainly by beheading with Samurai swords, or bayoneting!) The carnage is so great that even German army observers are shocked.

They report it to Berlin, Germany as "systematic butchery!" (Japan had been at war with China since July 1, 1937.)

When word reached the United States of the sinking of the USS Panay, everyone is outraged. Usually the reserved soft spoken Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, blasts the Japanese. This is the work of wild, half-insane Japanese admirals and generals. American anger really intensified a few days later as Colonel Kingero Hashimoto declares, "I had orders to deliberately attack the American warship!" (For some unknown reason, he really hated the United States with a passion.)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt views the newsreel film of the sinking, taken by Universal News reporter, Norman Alley. The president orders the censoring of the close-ups of the Japanese pilots. This was intended to help calm the public's outrage and possibly avoid a war with Japan!

Some congressmen even wanted to begin a blockade all around Japan. But the Roosevelt administration wanted to downplay the situation and charged the Japanese pilots with "reckless flying!" These same Japanese pilots also attacked a British warship, the HMS Ladybird, but failed to sink it.

The Japanese government was quick to apologize, stating that it was an accident. And they also came up with a large compensation check! Most American military leaders were convinced it was a planned and deliberate attack!

The Japanese war leaders were well pleased with the wishy-washy response from the United States. This encouraged them to continue their plans for a sneak attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Way back in the year 1927, Japanese generals and admirals drew up a top-secret plan called "The Tanaka Memorial." This was a blueprint that declared war with the United States and China! So how can Japanese historians and Japanese school teachers spread such incredible and preposterous "scuttlebutt?" (Scuttlebutt is navy slang for absolute lies.) The Japanese people today are being taught that the poor Japanese government never ever wanted anything but peace and that the United States of America is still the barbaric monster that wants war!

The United States Navy: A Complete History by Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc.
World War Two 4,139 Strange and Fascinating Facts by Don McCombs and Fred L. Worth
Unexplained Mysteries of World War Two by William B. Breuer