Atlanta class cruiser
The Atlanta-class cruisers were United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 light cruisers originally designed as fast scout cruisers or flotilla leaders, but later proved to be effective anti-aircraft cruisers during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. They were also known as the Atlanta-Oakland class. The lead ship Atlanta was sunk in action on 13 November 1942. The Oakland and later ships had slightly different armament as they were further optimized for anti-aircraft fire. With 8 dual 5 inch/38 caliber (127 mm) gun mounts (16 x 5-inch guns), the first run of Atlanta-class cruisers had by far the heaviest anti-aircraft armament of any cruiser of World War II. Two cruisers of this class were sunk in action: the and the .


The original main gun battery of the Atlanta-class was composed of eight dual 5 inch/38 caliber (127 mm) gun mounts (16 5-inch guns). This battery could fire over 17,600 pounds (10,560 kg) of shells per minute, including the radar-fuzed "VT"
Proximity fuze
A proximity fuze is a fuze that is designed to detonate an explosive device automatically when the distance to target becomes smaller than a predetermined value or when the target passes through a given plane...

 antiaircraft shells. Four of the ships, beginning with , had their two "wing" mounts of dual 5 inch guns replaced with eight of the highly effective Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns. The Atlanta-class cruisers were the only class of U.S. Navy cruisers in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to be armed with torpedoes tubes, with eight 21" torpedo tubes in two quad launchers.

The class was designed with a substantial secondary anti-aircraft armament of sixteen 1.1 in guns in quad mounts, later replaced by 40 mm anti-aircraft guns, and 6 20 mm rapid-fire anti-aircraft cannons
Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
The Oerlikon 20 mm cannon is a series of autocannons, based on an original design by Reinhold Becker of Germany, very early in World War I, and widely produced by Oerlikon Contraves and others...

. More of these weapons were added as the war progressed to counter the danger of Japanese air attacks (especially kamikaze
The were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible....

s). Oakland was launched with eight Bofors 40 mm guns and sixteen 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons. Although ships of the class were planned as destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 flotilla leader
Flotilla leader
A flotilla leader was a warship suitable for commanding a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships, typically a small cruiser or a large destroyer...

s, the original design did not include anti-submarine armament such as sonar
Sonar is a technique that uses sound propagation to navigate, communicate with or detect other vessels...

 or depth charge
Depth charge
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuze set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from...

 tracks; these were added later. When the vessels were determined to be more valuable as protection against aircraft, the tracks were removed.

The class was powered by four 665 psi boilers, connected to 2 geared steam turbines producing 75000 hp, and the ships could maintain a top speed of 33.6 knots (66 km/h). On trial the Atlanta made 33.67 knots (66 km/h) and 78985 SHP. The ships of the Atlanta-class had thin armor: a maximum of 3.5 in (88.9 mm) on their sides, with the captain's bridge and the 5-inch gun mounts being protected by only 1.25 in (31.75 mm).

The ships were originally designed for 26 officers and 523 men, but this increased to 35 officers and 638 men with the first four ships, and 45 officers and 766 men with the second group of four ships beginning with Oakland. The ships were also designed as flagships with additional space for a flag officer and his staff but the additional space was used for additional crew necessary to man anti-aircraft weapons and electronics.


Although very formidable as anti-aircraft ships, the Atlanta-class cruisers did not fare well in surface combat. The only two cruisers of the class that engaged in surface combat were sunk: the Atlanta and the Juneau. The U.S. Navy had just three light cruisers sunk during World War II, and two of them were the above-named ships. Both were sunk in surface warfare during the Guadalcanal Campaign
Guadalcanal campaign
The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was a military campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II...


The Atlanta-class design was criticized for its shortage of gunfire directors for the main 5-inch gun battery, which reduced its effectiveness. Initially there were not enough intermediate anti-aircraft guns (i.e. 1.1 in guns, Bofors 40 mm and the Oerlikon 20 mm rapid-fire cannon
Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
The Oerlikon 20 mm cannon is a series of autocannons, based on an original design by Reinhold Becker of Germany, very early in World War I, and widely produced by Oerlikon Contraves and others...

s). These problems were somewhat corrected in naval shipyards by the end of 1942, but the Atlanta-class warships were thereafter overloaded with weight, compared to the size of their hulls, and throughout World War II and the postwar years, they had problems with topside weight which was addressed by a redesign of the third repeat order which was called the Juneau-class
Juneau class cruiser
The Juneau-class cruisers were United States Navy light cruisers which were modified version of the design. The ships had the same main armament as with a much heavier antiaircraft battery, while the anti-submarine depth charge tracks and torpedo tubes were removed along with a redesigned...


Service history

All eight ships in this class served during World War II, and six ships survived the war. The lead ship of this class, the USS Atlanta (CL-51), was laid down on 22 April 1940 and launched on 6 September 1941. Atlanta was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 24 December 1941, just a few weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 of December 7th. Atlanta participated as an anti-aircraft cruiser in the decisive American victory at the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 in June 1942 before she was sent south to fight in the Solomon Islands. The was scuttled a few days after receiving a torpedo hit and heavy gunfire damage from IJN surface warships on 13 November 1942 during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, sometimes referred to as the Third and Fourth Battles of Savo Island, the Battle of the Solomons, The Battle of Friday the 13th, or, in Japanese sources, as the , took place from 12–15 November 1942, and was the decisive engagement in a series of naval battles...

. The USS Juneau (CL-52) was also heavily damaged in surface combat in the same battle and then sunk by Japanese submarine I-26
Japanese submarine I-26
I-26 was a Japanese B1 type submarine which saw service in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. She was completed and commissioned at the Kure Dockyard on 6 November 1941, under the command of Commander Yokota Minoru....

, on 13 November 1942. was torpedoed off Leyte on 4 November 1944 resulting in a large fire and significant flooding, but was saved from sinking by the damage control efforts of the crew.

After the war, the six surviving ships in this class were decommissioned between 1947 and 1949 and placed in the reserve fleet. The ships received a new type designation of CLAA in 1949. None of this ships were recommissioned to serve in an active role; all were ultimately struck and scrapped by 1970s.
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