Yangtze Patrol
The Yangtze Patrol, from 1854 to 1945, was a prolonged naval operation to protect American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 interests in the Yangtze River
Yangtze River
The Yangtze, Yangzi or Cháng Jiāng is the longest river in Asia, and the third-longest in the world. It flows for from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the...

's treaty ports. Initially the patrol was carried out by ships of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

's East India
East India Squadron
The East India Squadron, or East Indies Squadron, was a squadron of American ships which existed in the nineteenth century, it focused on protecting American interests in the Far East while the Pacific Squadron concentrated on the western coasts of the Americas and in the South Pacific Ocean...

 and Asiatic Squadron
Asiatic Squadron
The Asiatic Squadron was a squadron of United States Navy warships stationed in East Asia during the latter half of the 19th century, it was created in 1868 when the East India Squadron was disbanded...

s. In 1922, the "YangPat" was established as a formal component and assigned to the Asiatic Fleet. Under the "unequal treaties
Unequal Treaties
“Unequal treaty” is a term used in specific reference to a number of treaties imposed by Western powers, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, on Qing Dynasty China and late Tokugawa Japan...

", the United States, Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, and various Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an powers were allowed to cruise
Cruising (maritime)
Cruising by boat is a lifestyle that involves living for extended time on a boat while traveling from place to place for pleasure. Cruising generally refers to trips of a few days or more, and can extend to round-the-world voyages.- History :...

Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

's river
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

s and engage in gunboat diplomacy
Gunboat diplomacy
In international politics, gunboat diplomacy refers to the pursuit of foreign policy objectives with the aid of conspicuous displays of military power — implying or constituting a direct threat of warfare, should terms not be agreeable to the superior force....

. They also patrolled coastal waters, protecting their citizens, their property, and their religious missions
Christianity in China
Christianity in China is a growing minority religion that comprises Protestants , Catholics , and a small number of Orthodox Christians. Although its lineage in China is not as ancient as the institutional religions of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism, and the social system and ideology of...

. The Yangtze is China's longest river, and very important to commerce. Ocean-going vessels were able to proceed as far upstream as the cities of Wuhan
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, People's Republic of China, and is the most populous city in Central China. It lies at the east of the Jianghan Plain, and the intersection of the middle reaches of the Yangtze and Han rivers...

. This squadron-sized unit cruised the waters of the Yangtze as far inland as Chungking, more than 1300 mi (2,092.1 km) from the sea, and occasionally far beyond.

19th Century

As a result of the "unequal treaties" imposed on China by Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 after the Opium Wars
Opium Wars
The Opium Wars, also known as the Anglo-Chinese Wars, divided into the First Opium War from 1839 to 1842 and the Second Opium War from 1856 to 1860, were the climax of disputes over trade and diplomatic relations between China under the Qing Dynasty and the British Empire...

, China was opened to foreign trade at a number of locations known as "treaty ports
Treaty ports
The treaty ports was the name given to the port cities in China, Japan, and Korea that were opened to foreign trade by the Unequal Treaties.-Chinese treaty ports:...

" where foreigners were permitted to live and conduct business. Also created by the treaties was the doctrine of extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. Extraterritoriality can also be applied to physical places, such as military bases of foreign countries, or offices of the United Nations...

, a system whereby citizens of foreign countries living in China were subject to the laws of their home country, not those of China. Most favored nation treatment under the treaties assured other countries of the privileges afforded Great Britain, and soon many nations, including the United States, operated merchant ships and navy gunboats on the waterways of China.
During the 1860s and 1870s, American merchant ships were prominent on the lower Yangtze, operating up to the deepwater port of Hankow 680 mi (1,094.4 km) inland. The added mission of anti-piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

 patrols required U.S. naval and marine
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 landing parties be put ashore several times to protect American interests. In 1874, the U.S. gunboat
A gunboat is a naval watercraft designed for the express purpose of carrying one or more guns to bombard coastal targets, as opposed to those military craft designed for naval warfare, or for ferrying troops or supplies.-History:...

 , reached as far as Ichang
Yichang is a prefecture-level city located in Hubei province of the People's Republic of China. It is the second largest city in Hubei province after the province capital, Wuhan. The Three Gorges Dam is located within its administrative area, in Yiling District.-History:In ancient times Yichang...

, at the foot of the Yangtze gorges, 975 miles from the sea. During this period, most US personnel found a tour in the Yangtze to be uneventful, as a major American shipping company had sold its interests to a Chinese firm, leaving the patrol with little to protect. However, as the stability of China began to deteriorate after 1890, the U.S. Naval presence began to increase along the Yangtze.

20th Century

In 1901, American-flagged merchant vessels returned to the Yangtze when Standard Oil Company placed a steam tanker in service on the lower river. Within the decade, several small motorships began hauling kerosene, the principal petroleum product used in China for that company. At the same time, the Navy acquired three Spanish-built
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 vessels (the gunboats , , and ), which it had seized in the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 during the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

. These vessels became the core of the Yangtze River patrol for the first dozen years of the 20th century, but they lacked the power to go beyond Ichang
Yichang is a prefecture-level city located in Hubei province of the People's Republic of China. It is the second largest city in Hubei province after the province capital, Wuhan. The Three Gorges Dam is located within its administrative area, in Yiling District.-History:In ancient times Yichang...

 onto the more difficult stretches of the river.
The and were the first American gunboats built specifically for service on the Yangtze river. The Mare Island Naval Shipyard
Mare Island Naval Shipyard
The Mare Island Naval Shipyard was the first United States Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean. It is located 25 miles northeast of San Francisco in Vallejo, California. The Napa River goes through the Mare Island Strait and separates the peninsula shipyard from the main portion of the...

 in Vallejo, California
Vallejo, California
Vallejo is the largest city in Solano County, California, United States. The population was 115,942 at the 2010 census. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area on the northeastern shore of San Pablo Bay...

 built them in 1913. The U.S. Navy then had them disassembled and shipped to China aboard the American steamer Mongolia. The Kiangnan Shipyard
Jiangnan Shipyard
Jiangnan Shipyard is a historic shipyard located in Shanghai, China. The shipyard has been state owned since its founding in 1865 and is now operated by Jiangnan Shipyard Co. Ltd. Before 2009, the shipyard was located to the south of central Shanghi Jiangnan Shipyard is a historic shipyard...

 in Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 reassembled them and put them into service in 1914.

Later in 1914, both vessels demonstrated their ability to handle the rapids of the upper river when they reached Chungking, which was more than 1300 mi (2,092.1 km) from the sea, and then went further to Kiating on the Min River. In 1917, the U.S. entered World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The U.S. rendered the guns of Palos and Monocacy inoperable to protect Chinese neutrality. After China entered the war on the side of the allies, the U.S. Navy reactivated the guns.

In 1917, the first Standard Oil tanker reached Chungking, and a pattern of American commerce on the river began to emerge. On January 17, 1918, armed Chinese men attacked
USS Monocacy Incident
The USS Monocacy Incident was an attack on the American gunboat in January of 1918 by Chinese soldiers along the Yangtze River. It was one of many incidents at the time involving armed Chinese men firing on foreign vessels-Background:...

 Monocacy and she was forced to return fire with her 6-pounder gun. Passenger and cargo service by American-flag ships began in 1920 with the Robert Dollar
Robert Dollar
Captain Robert Dollar was born in Falkirk, Scotland. The title "Captain" was honorary and he was called the “Grand Old Man of the Pacific". Both were bestowed after his entry into the shipping industry. Dollar became a lumber baron, shipping magnate, philanthropist; he was also a Freemason...

 Line and the American West China Company. They were followed in 1923 by the Yangtze River Steamship Company, which stayed on the river until 1935, long after the other American passenger-cargo ships were gone.
In the early 1920s, the patrol found itself fighting the forces of deadly warlords and ruthless bandits. To accommodate its increased responsibilities on the river, the Navy constructed six new gunboats in Shanghai in 1926-1927 and commissioned in 1928 to replace four craft originally seized from Spain during the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 that had been patrolling since 1903. All were capable of reaching Chungking at high water, and two year-round. and were the largest, and next in size, and and the smallest. These vessels gave the navy the capability it needed at a time when operational requirements were growing rapidly.

In the late 1920s, Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 and the Northern Expedition created a volatile military situation for the patrol along the Yangtze. During the early-1930s, Chinese communist armies took control of much of the north bank of the middle river. The climax of hostilities occurred in 1937 with the Rape of Nanking and the sinking of Panay by the Japanese. The Panay incident
Panay incident
The USS Panay Incident was a Japanese attack on the American gunboat while she was anchored in the Yangtze River outside Nanking , China on December 12, 1937. Japan and the United States were not at war at the time. The Japanese claimed that they did not see the American flags painted on the deck...

 was the first loss of a US Navy vessel in the conflict which would soon become World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

After the Japanese took control of much of the middle and lower Yangtze, American gunboats entered into a period of frustrating inactivity and impotence. Just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, most of the ships on the Yangtze River Patrol were brought out of China, with only the smallest gunboats, Wake (the renamed Guam) and Tutuila remaining behind. Wake, at Shanghai, was subsequently captured by the Japanese. Tutuila, at Chungking, was turned over to the Chinese. When the other gunboats reached Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...

, the Yangtze River Patrol was formally dissolved when, on 5 December 1941, Rear Admiral Glassford sent the message, "COMYANGPAT DISSOLVED". Subsequently, the evacuated ships were all scuttled, or captured with their crews and imprisoned by the Japanese, after the fall of Corregidor
Battle of Corregidor
The Battle for Corregidor was the culmination of the Japanese campaign for the conquest of the Philippines. The fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942 ended all organized opposition by the U.S...

 in mid-1942. Luzon was later salvaged and used by the Japanese. Asheville was sunk in battle 3 March 1942 and was scuttled on 2 May.

During different periods of time, Naval and Marine Corps personnel who were in the patrol may have been eligible for either the Yangtze Service Medal
Yangtze Service Medal
The Yangtze Service Medal is a decoration of the United States military which was created in 1930 for presentation to members of the U.S. Navy and United States Marine Corps...

 or the China Service Medal
China Service Medal
The China Service Medal was a military medal awarded to U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel. The medal was instituted on August 23, 1940 and featured a yellow ribbon with narrow red edge stripes...


Some patrols on the river were resumed in 1945, and included — among others — the destroyer and light cruiser . When the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 reached the Yangtze Valley, this activity ended.

Popular Culture

USS San Pablo, the vessel in Richard McKenna
Richard McKenna
Richard Milton McKenna was an American sailor and writer.-Early life:McKenna was born in Mountain Home, Idaho, on May 9, 1913. Seeking more opportunities than could be found in such a rural part of the country at the height of the Great Depression, McKenna joined the U.S...

's well-known novel The Sand Pebbles
The Sand Pebbles
The Sand Pebbles is a 1962 novel by American author Richard McKenna about a Yangtze River gunboat in 1926. It was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post for the three issues from November 17, 1962 through December 1, 1962. The author completed it in May, 1962, just in time to enter it in the 1963...

(1962), set in 1926, was modeled on the , a 31-year old vessel originally captured from Spain. McKenna served aboard one of the newer river gunboats a decade after the time frame of his novel, as did William Lederer
William Lederer
William Julius Lederer, Jr. was an American author.-Biography:He was a US Naval Academy graduate in 1936. His first appointment was as the junior officer of a river gunboat on the Yangtze River....

, the author of The Ugly American
The Ugly American
The Ugly American is the title of a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer. The novel became a bestseller, was influential at the time, and is still in print...

(1958). The film The Sand Pebbles
The Sand Pebbles (film)
The Sand Pebbles is a 1966 American period war film directed by Robert Wise. It tells the story of an independent, rebellious U.S. Navy Machinist's Mate aboard the fictional gunboat USS San Pablo in 1920s China....

was based on the book.

Kemp Tolley
Kemp Tolley
Kemp Tolley was an officer in the US Navy and is the author of books on the history of the US Navy, like . He was a 1929 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, where he was a member of Phi Alpha Theta...

, an officer who served as executive officer
Executive officer
An executive officer is generally a person responsible for running an organization, although the exact nature of the role varies depending on the organization.-Administrative law:...

 of the Tutuila in the 1930s, wrote a well-received history, Yangtze Patrol.

Sergeant Bobby Shaftoe of the United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 is a protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

 and POV
POV may refer to:* Parliament of Victoria, Australia* Persistence of vision, a theory addressing the visual phenomenon of image retention** POV toy or device, a device that displays an image to a viewer by displaying one piece at a time in rapid succession and in varied locations* Point of view **...

 character in Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.Difficult to categorize, his novels have been variously referred to as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk...

's epic Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon is a 1999 novel by American author Neal Stephenson. The novel follows the exploits of two groups of people in two different time periods, presented in alternating chapters...

. He opens the novel as a member of the Yangtze River Patrol.

External links

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