The USS Atlanta was built in Camden, New Jersey. Construction of the Atlanta was funded entirely by war bonds sold in Atlanta, Georgia, and sponsored by Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, who also sponsored the previous Atlanta. The ship was first launched February 6th, 1944.
Commissioned on December 3, 1944, the 10,000 ton Cleveland class light cruiser Atlanta entered combat in the spring of 1945. Her length was 610 feet and her draft was 24 feet and 10 inches. Her top speed was 31.6 Knots, as she carried an armament of a 12 six inch guns, 12, five inch/38 cal. Guns, 28 Bofors 40 mm guns, and 10 Oerlikon 20mm cannons, and a complement of 1,426 men.
Action in World War II
She passed through the Panama Canal in April of 1945, and first entered combat in late May. She served as an escort to huge aircraft carriers, defending them against enemy attacks as American pilots raided targets in the Ryukyu Islands and Kyushu. In July and August the Atlanta aided in the victory against Japan by again escorting and protecting aircraft carriers as they attacked the home islands of Japan. After the victory the Atlanta remained in the Pacific until returning to the U.S. for a shipyard overhaul in October 1945.
After the War
From January until June 1946, the Atlanta served a tour of duty in Far Eastern waters. She was deployed again in May of 1947 to Australia, and again in September to the Far East until April of 1948, when she was assigned to patrol the west coast of the United States. In July 1949 she was decommissioned but continued to serve in the Pacific coast Fleet until 1962 when she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register.
In May of 1964 the USS Atlanta was reinstated, and re-designated IX-304. She was converted to a weapons effects test ship. She participated in Operation Sailor Hat’s explosive experiments. The navy removed her armaments and superstructure, outfitted her with two new aluminum deckhouses, and installed a large number of radar antennas and extensive instrumentation which recorded the effects of explosions nearby. After service in this capacity, experiencing large conventional explosives near Kahoolawe, Hawaii, in 1965, she was retired and later sunk off the coast of San Clemente Island, California, on October 1st, 1970, as part of another experiment in which she was a target.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, naval cruisers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.