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PG-43 Guam / PR 3 Wake

The Yangtze River Patrol of the United States Navy existed under various names between 1854 and 1941. This squadron-sized unit of the Asiatic Fleet patrolled the waters of the Yangtze river as far inland as Chungking, more than 1,300 miles from the sea, and occasionally far beyond. The patrol was necessary to protect U.S.citizens and their interests against pirates and warlords who would attack commercial ships on the river. In the early part of the 1900's China experienced turbulent times accompanied by many acts of violence against foreigners. The Yangtze Patrol was called upon to defend American lives, property, and commerce along the river and to support American foreign policy in the Far East.

In 1917 the first Standard Oil tanker reached Chungking, and a pattern of American commerce on the river began to emerge. Passenger and cargo service by American-flag ships began in 1920 with the Dollar Line and the American West China Company, 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.

To accommodate its increased responsibilities on the river, the Navy constructed six new gunboats -- the "new six" -- in Shanghai between 1926-1927. These vessels were of three sizes, all capable of reaching Chungking at high water. The LUZON and MINDANAO were the largest, the OAHU and PANAY next in size, and the GUAM and TUTUILA the smallest. These vessels gave the navy the capability it needed at a time when operational requirements were growing rapidly.

Guam (PG-43) was laid down on 17 October 1926 at Shanghai, China, by the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works; launched on 28 May 1927; sponsored by Miss Louise Frances Bruce; and commissioned on 28 December 1927, Lt. Comdr. Robert K. Awtrey in command. On 23 January 1941, the gunboat was renamed Wake in order to clear the former name for new construction. The gunboat survived the war intact, was transferred to the Chinese Nationalists after the surrender of Japan, and subsequently fell to the communists in 1949. Her fate thereafter is, as yet, unknown.

Tutuila (PG-44) was laid down on 17 October 1926 at Shanghai, China, by the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works; launched on 14 June 1927; sponsored by Miss Beverly Pollard; and commissioned on 2 March 1928, Lt. Comdr. Frederick Baltzly in command. Assigned to the Yangtze Patrol (YangPat) and redesignated a river gunboat (PR-4) on 15 June 1928, Tutuila cruised on shakedown up the Yangtze River from Shanghai to I'Chang, where she joined sister ship Guam (PR-3) in mid-July. The ship was permanently transferred to the Chinese government on 17 February 1948. Under terms of lend-lease, the United States leased the gunboat to China on 19 March 1942, her name becoming Mei Yuan which can be translated as "of American origin." The name Tutuila was struck from the United States Navy list on 25 March 1942. She served the Nationalist Navy until near the end of the Civil War which ravaged China after World War II. As Communist forces advanced upon Shanghai, the Nationalists abandoned and scuttled Mei Yuan to prevent her capture. Her subsequent fate is unknown.

(PG-44: dp. 395; 1. 159'5"; b. 27'1"; dr. 5'5" (mean); s. 14.37 k.; cpl. 61; a. 2 3", 10 30-cal. mg.)

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