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02 June 2010


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JT Davis

Colonel Lang, Sir.

I have been fascinated by the little known USS Panay Incident for some time. Are you aware there is a site on the web that actually has newsreels of the attack?


I always pose this as a question to those on both the left and right who claim FDR wanted war with Japan and let Pearl Harbor happen so as to get America into a shooting war with Japan. Why wait for Pearl Harbor? The bombing of the USS Panay seems like all the pretext FDR would have needed. Just a thought.



USS Panay? Foreshadowing things of things to come?

Patrick Lang

Fred and JT Davis

My uncle, John H. Lang, Chief Quartermaster's Mate of the ship talked to me a lot about the Panay Incident. He is in some frames of the film. Panay was evacuating people from Nanking. Among them was a Life magazine team. He was in the chiefs' quarters when the ship went to action stations. He went to the wheel house which was soon blown away by a bomb hit. The CO lost his legs in that explosion, John lashed the wheel over and put the ship on a grounding course for the chinese side of the river. He then carried the "old man" down to sick bay after putting tourniquettes on his legs. Having returned to the wheel, He logged each Japanese attack. He said the men lined up at the rail to take turns firing the AA machine guns at the bombers who continued attacking. When the ship grounded, it began settling all along the hull. Eventually he took, the log book, stained with his blood and that of the CO and stepped over the rail into a boat. The picture shows him sitting on the river bank just after that. He said he realized how badly he was hurt when blood started running over the top of one of the hand made calf boots that he had just had made in Shanghai. After that they walked for a couple of days before they could reach help. They were sure that if the Japanese Army caught up with them, they were finished. He was a good man, good in the military sense and in just about every other way. The Japanese were very concerned that we wuld go to war over this. John received his second Navy Cross, another Purple Heart and about $40,000 from the Japanese government. pl

JT Davis

That's quite an amazing record of service, Colonel. I'm reading the Wiki entry on your Uncle John H. Lang. He won his first Navy Cross fighting with the Japanese in the 1920s and his second Navy Cross fighting against them in 1937. Then Executive Officer of UDT 2. That is some hard bark, Sir.

In the 1920s he was awarded the Navy Cross and the Japanese Order of the Chrysanthemum (2nd Class) for his heroism during a combined Japanese/US naval operation on the Yangtze River against warlord forces that had besieged the legations on the river.

Patrick Lang

JT Davis

In 1928, USS Palos, his ship, was part of a combined task force sent to Nanking (funny coincidence) where someone called the "Christian Warlord" was besieging the legation quarter. Palos had a company of Japanese marines (SNLF) embarked. In the landing operation John was coxawain of a boat with a squad on board. The boat took a hit from something big near the river bank. The squad leader was killed. John took command and fought the squad up onto the beachhead line. The Japanese company commander, when he hearned this, asked him to continue which he did for several days. Six months later USS Augusta at Shanghai (flagship Asiatic Squadron)was messaged by embassy Tokyo to clean him up and send him there on the China Clipper. He was presented this medal along with other people by the emperor himself. The decoration carried a stipend with. The Japanese paid it to him through the Swiss througout WW2. He never stopped wearing the medal. I saw it when I was a child. pl


Col Lang,
An amazing story about your uncle's receiving the Order of the Chrysanthemum (2nd Class). In an earlier blog, didn't you say that he had served in an Army unit in WWI and had experience in ground combat, something that the normal USN Chief Petty Officer would not have? That helps explain how he was able to command a squad of Japanese marines under fire. Also, it is telling that the Government of Japan continued to pay his stipend during the war.

Patrick Lang


He was in a Canadian Army unit. Are we going to chase this down the rabbit hole? I invite you to do so.

I used to watch the man scratch himsself and pick bits pf shrapnel out as they rose to the surface.

You want to fight me over him? Come on! He was the man that Steve McQueen wanted to be. pl

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