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  USS Atlanta CL-51
Light Cruiser

6,718 Tons (Standard)
8,340 Tons (Max load)
541' 6" x 53 x 20' 6"
16 x 5" 38 cal guns (8x2)
9 x 1.1" AA guns (3x4)
8 x 20mm AA guns
8 x 21" torpedo tubes

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USN December 24, 1941

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USN October 16, 1942

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USS Atlanta May 2011
Ship History
Built by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company at Kearny, NJ. Laid down April 22, 1940 as the lead ship of the Atlanta-class Light Cruiser. Launched September 6, 1941 as USS Atlanta (CL-51) as the third ship named in honor of Atlanta, Georgia sponsored by Margaret Mitchell author of Gone With The Wind. Commissioned December 24, 1941 in the United States Navy (USN) at New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, NY with Captain Samuel P. Jenkins in command.

Wartime History
After fitting out, Atlanta underwent a shakedown cruise off Chesapeake Bay and Casco Bay off Maine until March 13, 1942 then returned to New York Navy Yard for repairs and alterations until the end of the month. On April 5, 1942 transits via the Panama Canal to Balboa a week later until ordered to perform a reconnaissance of Clipperton Island west of Mexico then steams for Pearl Harbor arriving April 23, 1942 and continues training exercises including anti-aircraft life fire training exercises on May 3, 1942.

On May 10, 1042 departs Pearl Harbor with USS McCall (DD-400) escorting a convoy including USS Rainier (AE-5) and USS Kaskaskia (AO-27) to the South Pacific to Nouméa on New Caledonia. On May 16, 1942 joins Task Force 16 (TF-16) under the command of Vice Admiral William F. Halsey including USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Hornet (CV-8) and proceeded from the South Pacific to Pearl Harbor arriving on May 26, 1942 and two days later departs as part of the screening force for the aircraft aircraft carriers and proceeds to the northeast of Midway Atoll.

On June 4, 1942 during the Battle of Midway served as part of the warship screen protecting USS Hornet (CV-8) for a week then back to Pearl Harbor arriving June 13, 1942. For the remainder of the month and took on provisions and undertook training exercises including anti-aircraft practice and being on alert status. On July 1, 1942 enters dry dock until the next day for hull scraping, cleaning and painting then resumed training.

On July 15, 1942 departs Pearl Harbor still as a part of TF-7 bound for Tongatapu arriving nine days later. That same day, Atlanta refueled USS Maury (DD-401) then was refueled herself. She screened the carriers that supported the landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi during August 1942.

Later in the month, escorted USS Enterprise and during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons (Second Battle of the Solomon Sea) and protected USS Saratoga (CV-3) after that carrier was damaged by a torpedo fired by a Japanese submarine.

During the next two months, she kept busy escorting combat and auxiliary ships engaged in the ongoing struggle to hold Guadalcanal.

In late October 1942 provides distant support during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands then was stationed closer to Guadalcanal.

On October 28, 1942 in the morning, embarked Rear Admiral Norman Scott from USS San Francisco (CA-38) and Atlanta became the flagship of Task Group 64.2 (TG 64.2) then was refueled from USS Washington (BB-56).

On October 30, 1942 at 5:50am off Lunga Point embarks U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) officers to spot targets and steams westward with four destroyers in column formation astern. At 6:29am conducts a shore bombardment of Japanese positions at Point Cruz without any return fire. Returns to Lunga Point where the Marines are disembarked and departs with a destroyer screen bound for Espiritu Santo arriving the next afternoon. During early November 1942, departs Espiritu Santo with four destroyers escorting USS Zeilin (APA-3), USS Libra (AK-53) and USS Betelgeuse (AKA-11) bound for Guadalcanal.

On November 12, 1942 off Lunga Point on Guadalcanal screens the transports as they unload. At 9:05am notified of an incoming Japanese air raid and fifteen minutes later is underway moving the transport northward in column formation with the destroyers in a circle. At 9:35am opens fire on nine D3A Val dive bombers from Hiyō and the U.S. ships claims several shot down with only minor damage from near misses. At 10:50am notified of a second air raid and assumed the same defensive formation when targeted by 27 G4M1 Bettys and the destroyers opened fire but they were out of range and instead bombed Henderson Field and when they withdrew resumed screening for the transports as they resumed unloading.

At 1:10pm notified of third air raid and formed a screen around the transports. At 2:10pm spotted 25 G4M1 Bettys each armed with a torpedo escorted by A6M2 Zeros split into two formations and approached at low level for torpedo runs against U.S. warships and transports in Iron Bottom Sound off Guadalcanal. At 2:13pm opened fire and claimed two bombers shot down as they released their torpedoes but none scored hits. The attack ended by 2:18pm and the transports resumed unloaded. Later in the afternoon, notified of the approach of Japanese Navy warships steaming southward to bombard Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The warships of Task Group 67.4 (TG 67.4) were ordered to escort the transports as they withdrew eastward via Sealark Channel. At 11:00pm, the warships reversed course and return to Guadalcanal.

Sinking History
On November 13, 1942 at 1:25am at the start of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (Third Battle of the Solomon Sea) The American force was in a single column formation with the destroyers in the lead with the cruisers in the center. Atlanta had to turn to port to avoid a collision with an escorting destroyer then resumed her correction position on station ahead of USS San Francisco (CA-38) when illuminated by searchlights from from Hiei and Akatsuki and Atlanta immediately opened fire at a range of 1,600 yards and was joined by other U.S. warships.

During the engagement, Atlanta was hit by a torpedo launched by either Inazuma or Ikazuchi. Afterwards, hit by gunfire from other enemy and U.S. warships and was almost completely disabled and suffered heavy casualties including Rear Admiral Norman Scott who was killed on the bridge by gunfire from USS San Francisco (CA-38) and earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

In the early morning, her crew worked to save the ship but the damage was too extensive. The captain ordered her scuttled and the remaining crew were rescued. Atlanta sank at 8:15am roughly three miles west of Lunga Point in Iron Bottom Sound off Guadalcanal. Atlanta was officially struck from the Navy register January 13, 1943.

Atlanta rests on her port side at a depth of 430' in Iron Bottom Sound off Lunga Point on Guadalcanal.

During the 1991-1992 Lost Ships of Guadalcanal expedition led by Dr. Robert Ballard, Atlanta was briefly examined by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and video footage was included in National Geographic: The Lost Fleet of Guadalcanal that first aired in 1993.

In November 1995, the Atlanta was first dived by Kevin Denlay and Terrence Tysall and then thoroughly explored in detail on several dedicated expeditions led by them during the following years.

During May 2011, a team of six divers from Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) with Neil Yates / Tulagi Dive made six dives on the shipwreck using rebreathers. They recorded high-definition video footage for the documentary USS Atlantic: Defender of Guadalcanal documentary.

Stewart Moredock (interviewed in National Geographic: The Lost Fleet of Guadalcanal)

Richard Nunziato adds:
"Carmen Nunziato, was (is) a crew member of the USS Atlanta CL-51. He is 85 years old. He is very proud of the Atlanta and the others who served on board."

Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - Atlanta III (CL-51) 1941-1943
Navy Source - USS Atlanta CL-51 (photos) by Don Edwards
National Geographic: The Lost Fleet of Guadalcanal
The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal (1993) pages 19, 126-135, 138-139, 142, 145-146, 150, 164, 200-201 (map) 205-206, 208 (ROV dive photos)
IMDb "Return to the USS Atlanta" (2012)
YouTube "Return To The USS Atlanta: Defender of Guadalcanal" (2012)
Facebook "Return To The USS Atlanta: Defender Of Guadalcanal"
Fort Green Film Works "Return to the USS Atlanta: Defender of Guadalcanal"

Thanks to Kevin Denlay for additional information

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Last Updated
November 12, 2023


November 13, 1942

Iron Bottom Sound

430' / 131m

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