Japanese fighters attacked the American gunboat USS Panay at anchor in the Yangtze River outside Nanking on December 12, 1937. Although there was contrary evidence, the Japanese claimed the attack was in error and made reparations.

The attack on an American ship that had been evacuating U.S. citizens during the Nanking Massacre resulted in strong condemnation of Japan by the American public.

But the American Ambassador Joseph Grew wrote that “never before has the fact that there are ‘two Japans’ been more clearly emphasized. Ever since the first news of the Panay disaster came, we have been deluged by delegations, visitors, letters, and contributions of money … trying to express their shame, apologies, and regrets for the action of their own Navy.”