December Japanese attack signals war … in 1937
By Patrick McCallister
For Veteran Voice
The first strike in a war between Japan and the U.S. came on a December Sunday, but it was four years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. On Dec. 12, 1937, Japanese warplanes attacked and sank the USS Panay, an American gunboat on the Yangtze River engaged in embassy evacuations.
Today the USS Panay Incident, as it’s called, is barely remembered. But newspapers at the time ran all-caps headlines edge-to-edge on the front pages. For example, the Boston Herald headline “NIPPON PLANES BOMB AND SINK U.S. GUNBOAT PANAY.” Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s fear this attack on a Navy gunboat would lead to war.