U.S. Navy Gunboats 1885 – 1945

New Vanguard 293 US Navy Gunboats


Brian Lane Herder


Adam Tooby

This 48 page paperback book is the 293rd book in the New Vanguard series of books that are available from Osprey Publications.

A study of the history of the US Navy’s gunboats and their role in building a worldwide American naval presence abroad and in combat, from the Yangtze era through to World War II.

For more than half a century, American gunboats were the ships often responsible for policing small crises and provided deterrence and fast-response capabilities around the world – showing the flag, landing armed parties, patrolling river and littoral areas, and protecting ex-pats. They were often the United States’ most-visible and constant military presence in far-flung foreign lands, and were most closely associated with the Far East, particularly the Philippines and China. Most famous, of course, was the multinational Yangtze Patrol.

Many US gunboats were built, purchased or reassembled overseas where they usually served out their entire careers, never coming within 7,000 miles of the national homeland which they served. Numerous gunboats were captured from the Spanish during the 1898 war, many being raised from shallow graves, refurbished, and commissioned into USN service.

The classic haunt of US gunboats was the Asiatic Station of China and the Philippines. Gunboat service overseas was typically exotic and the sailors’ lives were often exciting and unpredictable. The major operational theatres associated with the US gunboats were the pre-1898 cruises and patrols of the earliest steel gunboats, the Spanish-American War of 1898 (both the Philippines and the Caribbean), the guerilla wars of the early 20th century Philippines and Latin America, the Asiatic Fleet and Yangtze Patrol of the 1890s-1930s, and finally World War II, which largely entailed operations in China, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Alaska, and on convoy routes. It was Japan’s sudden 1941-1942 ‘Centrifugal Offensive’ that effectively spelled the beginning of the end not just of most American gunboats, but also the century-old world order in Asia that had provided US gunboats with their primary mission.

The contents of this paperback book is;

    • The first steel gunboats
    • 1890s gunboats
    • Early 20th-century gunboats
    • Spanish-American War prizes
    • River gunboats (PR)
    • Steel monitors (BM)
    • World War II gunboats 1936-42
    • Armed yachts 1898-1945 (PY)
    • Special flagships 1905-77
    • Manila Bay
    • Cuba and Puerto Rico
  • BANANA WARS 1899-1916 34
  • THE ASIATIC STATION 1899-1937 36
  • ASIA AND THE PACIFIC 1937-42 39
    • The Panay Incident, December 12, 1937
    • Escape from China, late 1941
    • Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
    • Twilight of the Asiatic Fleet 1941-42



This book is an excellent addition to any historian or wargamers library. The historian will enjoy the book for its excellent account of the Gunboats from 1885 to 1945. The wargamer will find this book full of information that they can use in their wargames. Both the Historian and Wargamer will enjoy the black and white photographs and color drawings of the gunboats that were used during this period of history. They will also get a lot of useful information on these type of ships.

This book is available from Osprey Publications.

Paperback $19.00
eBook (ePub) $15.20
eBook (PDF) $15.20