The U.S. Navy's patrol of the Yangtze River began in 1854 when the USS Susquehanna was sent to China to safeguard increasing American commerce in the region. As Kemp Tolley explains in this entertaining history of the patrol in which he was to later serve, the presence of gunboats along the river greatly benefited the integrity of the shoreline factories. Tolley was a young naval officer in the 1930s when assigned gunboat duty, first in the Mindanao, then in the Tutuila, and finally the Wake in August 1941. His colorful description of life as a "river rat" is filled with anecdotes about the resourceful and high-spirited sailors who manned the old riverboats in that distant land.
In the process of telling their story he covers a century of Chinese history, replete with warlords and mandarins, bandits and kidnappers, missionaries and mercenaries, riots and revolution. He presents a knowledgeable summary of the political situation in China up to World War II, including the bombing of the Panay, the siege of Shanghai, and the Nanking incident. Far more than a routine account of naval operations on the great Yangtze, this book is an unforgettable reading experience that has attracted readers since 1971 when it was first published in hardcover.