Thursday, November 6, 2014
USS Augusta (CA-31) in Shanghai, 1937
This image from the 1938 Horrors of War trading card series shows a highly stylized depiction of a tragic event that occurred aboard the Newport News-built light cruiser USS Augusta (CL/CA-31) on August 20, 1937. A Chinese anti-aircraft shell fell onto the deck amid a group of sailors, killing one and wounding several others. As the flagship of the Asiatic fleet, USS Augusta had put in at Shanghai to observe the Sino-Japanese hostilities and to protect American interests there. The cruiser had sailed to Shanghai a few days after Chinese and Japanese forces started to battle for control of the city near the middle of August.
Fighting was confused as there were neutral elements in the city (particularly the International Settlement). A few days prior to the errant shell, some Chinese planes had dropped bombs near Augusta, but they exploded harmlessly in the water. Another trading card shows sailors from Augusta helping American refugees flee to a civilian ship that would take them away from Shanghai. The small boat they were on was apparently peppered with shrapnel from bombing attacks on nearby Japanese warships.
The light cruiser stayed on station in Shanghai for several months, observing the fighting, sending intelligence reports to Washington on the Japanese navy, and protecting American interests. Augusta would still be moored there in December, 1937 when survivors of the USS Panay incident spent Christmas on the ship. For more on the Panay, check back for our next blog post.