USS Wake

USS Wake (PR-3) was a United States Navy river gunboat operating on the Yangtze River, that was captured by Japan on 8 December 1941.

USS Wake as Tatara
United States
Name: USS Wake
Namesake: Wake Island
Builder: Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works, Shanghai
Launched: 28 May 1927
Commissioned: 28 December 1927, as USS Guam (PG-43)
Renamed: USS Wake, 23 January 1941
Reclassified: PR-3 (River Gunboat), 15 June 1928
Struck: 25 March 1942
Fate: Captured by the Imperial Japanese Navy, 8 December 1941
Name: Tatara (多多良)
Acquired: by capture, 8 December 1941
Struck: 30 September 1945
  • Recaptured by U.S. Navy, August 1945
  • Transferred to China, 1946
Republic of China
Name: RCS Tai Yuan (太原)
Acquired: 1946
Fate: Captured by Communist Chinese forces, 1949
People's Republic of China
Acquired: 1949
Fate: active until the 1960s
General characteristics [1][2]
Type: Gunboat
Displacement: 350 long tons (360 t)
Length: 159 ft 5 in (48.59 m)
Beam: 27 ft 1 in (8.26 m)
Draft: 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m)
Installed power: 1,900 ihp (1,400 kW)
Speed: 14.5 kn (16.7 mph; 26.9 km/h)
Complement: 59
Armament: 2 × 3in guns (2x1) 8 × .30-06 Lewis machine guns (8x1)1942: US 3" guns replaced with 3" AA guns. Jan 1945 several Type 93 13.2 mm (0.52 in) M.G.s installed

Originally commissioned as the gunboat Guam (PG-43), she was redesignated river patrol vessel PR-3 in 1928, and renamed Wake 23 January 1941.

Service history

U.S. Navy

She was launched on 28 May 1927 as Guam by the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works in Shanghai, China, and commissioned on 28 December 1927. Her primary mission was to ensure the safety of American missionaries and other foreigners. Later, the ship also functioned as a "radio spy ship," keeping track of Japanese movements.[3] However, by 1939, she was "escorted" by a Japanese warship wherever she went, as China fell more and more under Imperial Japanese control.

On 23 January 1941, she was renamed Wake, as Guam was to be the new name of a large cruiser being built in the U.S. On 25 November 1941, LCDR Andrew Earl Harris, the brother of Field Harris,[4] was ordered to close the Navy installation at Hankow, and sail to Shanghai. On 28 November 1941, LCDR Harris and most of the crew were transferred to gunboats and ordered to sail to the Philippines. Columbus Darwin Smith—an old China hand who had been piloting river boats on the Yangtze River—was asked to accept a commission in the U.S. Navy and was appointed captain of Wake with the rank of Lt. Commander.[3]

When Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941, Shanghai had been under Japanese occupation since the 1937 Battle of Shanghai. Smith was in command on 8 December 1941 (7 December in Hawaii), with a crew of 14, when the Japanese captured the ship, which was tied up at a pier in Shanghai. Smith had received a telephone call the night before from a Japanese officer he knew. The officer asked where Smith would be the next morning as he wanted to deliver some turkeys for Smith and his crew. The Japanese did the same to other American officers and officials so as to determine where they would be on 8 December. However, Commander Smith received word from his quartermaster about the Pearl Harbor attack and rushed to the ship only to find it under guard by the Japanese.[3] Surrounded by an overwhelming Japanese force, the crew attempted unsuccessfully to scuttle the craft. Wake surrendered, the only U.S. ship to do so in World War II.

Commander Smith and his crew were confined to a prison camp near Shanghai, where the U.S. Marines and sailors captured on Wake Island were also later imprisoned.[3]

Japanese service

The Japanese gave Wake to their puppet Wang Jingwei regime in Nanjing, where she was renamed Tatara (多多良). The following activities are known to have occurred during the war.

15 Dec 1941Refit began at Kiaguan Engineering and Dock Works.
26 Jan 1942Refit finished.
11 Oct 1942Runs aground off Nanking.
12 Oct 1942Returns to Kianguan E. & D. W. for repairs.
5 Nov 1942Repairs finished.
3 June 1944Attacked by B-24s without damage.
18 June 1944Attacked by three B-25s without damage.
2 Dec 1944Attacked by six P-51 Mustangs.
7 Dec 1944Attacked by two P-51s.
18 Dec 1944Attacked by three P-51s.
24 Dec 1944Sails for Kianguan.
1 Jan 1945Enters Kianguan E. & D.W. for repairs and an AA upgrade.
3 Feb 1945Repairs finished.


In 1945, at the end of the war, she was recaptured by the U.S. The U.S. gave the ship to the Chinese nationalists, who renamed her Tai Yuan (太原). Finally, the ship was captured by Communist Chinese forces in 1949.[5]

As of 2019, no other ship of the U.S. Navy has been named Wake, though a Casablanca-class escort carrier launched in 1943 was named Wake Island.



  1. Silverstone, Paul H (1966). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company. p. 243.
  2. Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War II. Crescent Books (Random House. 1998. p. 104. ISBN 0517-67963-9.
  3. Groom, W. 1942. pp. 111–113
  4. Thomas, Pamela (2009). Fatherless daughters : turning the pain of loss into the power of forgiveness (1st ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 74–75. ISBN 9780743205573. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  5. "". Archived from the original on 11 March 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2012.


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