From: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. IV p 365
The second largest and most southerly of the Philippine Islands.
The first Mindanao (PR-8), a river gunboat, was laid down 20 November 1926 by Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works, Shanghai, China ; launched 28 September 1927 ; sponsored by Mrs. E. A. McIntyre, wife of Lieutenant Commander McIntyre ; and commissioned at Shanghai 10 July 1928, Lt. Comdr. A. W. Ashbrook in command.
Departing Shanghai 28 July 1928, Mindanao conducted shakedown up the Yangtze Kiang, steaming to Chungking and Wansien and returning downstream to Shanghai 31 August. The gunboat stood out again 10 September to return to Wansien and take up station. Arriving 22 September, the ship remained there on convoy and patrol duty until sailing back to Shanghai for fuel and repairs 28 December. She underwent overhaul until 21 March
1929, and then cruised up river on patrol, returning intermittently to Shanghai to investigate political conditions. On 2 May, the warship sailed for Hong Kong and thence to Canton, arriving 14 June where she became flagship of the South China Patrol Force, U.S. Asiatic Fleet. For the next 121/2 years, Mindanao cruised the southern coast of China, based alternately at Hong Kong and Canton, protecting American and Allied interests in China and suppressing piracy. In October 1938, following the Japanese invasion of southern China and seizure of Canton, she commenced operations to guard American neutrality.
On 2 .December 1941--as Japanese aggression was expected shortly and the small, lightly-armed ship could not hope to combat the overwhelming odds facing her in China--the gunboat received orders to sail to the Philippines. Though designed only for river travel, the valiant craft put to sea from Hong Kong 4 December. Bucking heavy winds and high seas, she stubbornly remained on course for Luzon. At 0340 on the night of 5 December, she received word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Immediately going to general quarters, the crew remained near their guns throughout the passage, and on the 9th intercepted and sank a small Japanese trawler, taking 10 prisoners, the first taken by Americans in World War II. Mindanao concluded this dangerous and eventful voyage upon arrival at Manila Bay the next day.
Assigned to inshore patrol and guardship duty in Manila Bay, the gunboat acted as station ship in connection with the minefield channels near Corregidor until the end of December 1941, and then took nightly turns with other China river gunboats, Luzon (PR-7 and Oahu (PR--6) patrolling east of Bataan. The shortage of fuel in the Philippines ended these patrols in early March, and the ships instead took turns watching for Japanese small craft at a position 3 miles east of Corregidor, On the afternoon of 25 March, they engaged nine enemy boats. Mindanao harassed enemy artillery east of Bataan 6 April. The same day, the gunboat helped rescue some 60 American soldiers from both shore artillery and enemy aircraft. The ship repeatedly closed the beach to support small boats embarking the soldiers.
When the naval situation in Manila Bay appeared hopeless, Mindanao's crew was ordered ashore 10 April to help defend Fort Hugheson. Hit by shell fire the same day, the gunboat was stripped of all useful gear. On 2 May, after suffering an aerial bomb hit in the engine room, she was sunk to prevent capture.
Mindanao received one battle star for World War II service.