USS Atlanta CL-51 (1941-1942)
The USS Atlanta was built in Kearny, New Jersey. Her construction started on April 22, 1940. She was commissioned on December 24, 1941, and captained by Samuel P. Jenkins. She was the first of eleven of a new class of 6000-ton light cruisers designed for anti-aircraft protection. Her first dispatch was to flush out any enemy ships off the East Coast of the United States.
Action in World War II
She left for the Pacific Ocean early in April 1942 as an escort. The Atlanta remained in the Pacific as part of a task force alongside the USS Enterprise and the USS Hornet aircraft carriers. She participated in the Battle of Midway in early June as part of that task force.
The USS Atlanta left Pearl Harbor in mid July 1942 for south Pacific maneuvers. She filtered the waters for the carriers supporting the landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi during the Guadalcanal campaign starting in early August. She protected the USS Enterprise during the Battle of the Eastern Solomon Islands in late August. She was called to protect the USS Saratoga after the mighty carrier was damaged by a Japanese submarine torpedo hit the ship.
For the next two months the Atlanta was busy shepherding combat ships and support vessels in the continuing skirmish to hold on to Guadalcanal. She gave support throughout the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands from a distance in the late part of October, and then was sent to a more prominent support role in Guadalcanal. The Atlanta bombed Japanese positions on the island with her five-inch guns and two weeks later she helped to fight off enemy planes bombarding United States transports and supply ships at nearby locales.
Destruction at Guadalcanal
On November 12, 1942, the USS Atlanta was part of a fleet commanded to stop the night time Japanese bombing of the airfield on Guadalcanal held by the United States. The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was one of the viciously and frenzied marine battles fought in World War II. The Atlanta was caught by a Japanese torpedo and showered with heavy gunfire, both of which left her severely damaged. The remnants of her crew tried in vain to save her all day on November 13, 1942; it became obvious she was sinking late afternoon. The crew was ordered off the ship and she was sunk on Captain’s orders after the men all had left.
The remnants of the Atlanta are located off the Lunga Point of Guadalcanal. She lies over five-hundred feet below the surface on her port side in the Iron Bottom Sound. Her wreckage has been explored a few times by deep-sea vessels and civilian divers.
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.