The fourth Atlanta (CL-104) was laid down on 25 January, 1943 at Camden, N.J. by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., and launched on 6 February 1944. She was sponsored by Mrs. John R. Marsh, (Margaret Mitchell) the author of Gone With The Wind, who also sponsored the cruiser Atlanta (CL-51). She was commissioned on 3 December 1944, with Captain B. H. Colyear in command.
After commissioning, the light cruiser got underway on 5 January 1945 for shakedown training in the Chesapeake Bay and the Caribbean. Upon the completion of a series of exercises, Atlanta arrived at Norfolk on 14 February and then moved up the coast to Philadelphia. After a period in the navy yard there, she sailed on 27 March for the Pacific. She stopped at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transited the Panama Canal before reaching Pearl Harbor on 18 April. From 19 April to 1 May, the ship conducted training exercises in Hawaiian waters. She then sailed to Ulithi and reported to Task Force (TF) 58 on 12 May and participated in Operation Iceberg.
From 22 to 27 May, Atlanta served with the Fast Carrier Task Force operating south of Japan near Okinawa while its aircraft struck targets in the Ryukyus and on Kyushu to support forces fighting for Okinawa. Task Force 58 became Task Force 38 on May 28 and on June 4, Atlanta received minor damage from a typhoon at 22-46N, 136-12E. On 13 June, and Atlanta entered San Pedro Bay, Philippines on 14 June. Following two weeks of upkeep, she sailed on 1 July with Task Group (TG) 38.1 under Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague and once again protected the fast carriers launching strikes against targets on the Japanese home islands.
On July 15 Atlanta detached from the Task Group as part of Task Unit 34.8.2 with Battleships Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, fellow Light Cruiser Dayton, and Destroyers Remey and Monssen under CTU RAdm Oscar C. Badger to shell Muroran and Wanishi on S. Hokaido.
On the 17th, North Carolina and Alabama joined 34.8.2 and with 34.1 consisting of HMS King George V (Which helped sink the Bismark) and 2 Destroyers went to shell Hitachi just north of Tokyo with Bon Homme Richard to cover.
On the 18th, CruDiv18 (Topeka, Duluth, Oklahoma City and Atlanta) and DesRon62 (English, Ault, Hank, Wallace L. Lind) joined DD Walker in 35.4 under RAdm Carl F. Holden for antishipping sweep of Sagami Nada entrance and Nojima-zaki radar station bombardement. Hank and Wallace L. Lind mistakenly shell Gabilan.
On the 19th, they shell Radar installations on Cape Nojima, Honshu.
After rejoining and refueling, 38.1 proceeds to the Inland Sea of Japan, Osaka, Kure and Nagoya bombing targets between July 24 & 25.
Bombing continues on July 28th of the Inland Sea area between Nagoya and Northern Kyushu., Central Honshu, and Maizuru Bay till July 30th .
Atlanta was operating off the coast of Honshu when the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945. On 16 September, she entered Tokyo Bay and remained there through 29 September.
With over 500 passengers on board, the cruiser sailed on 30 September for the United States. She paused en route at Guam and joined with USS Pennsylvania and USS Walke. The Pennsylvania had been damaged by a torpedoe and had a temporary patch over the hole.
On October 15 Pennsylvania stopped while divers went over the side inspect the patch. Marine sentries armed with rifles stood by on deck to ward off sharks. They scored one "probable". Two days later, No. 3 shaft on Pennsylvania suddenly carried away inside the stern tube and the shaft slipped aft. It was necessary to send divers down to cut through the shaft letting the shaft and propeller drop into the sea. On this occasion the sentries made one "sure kill". At some point, Atlanta towed Pennsylvania during part of this trip. Shipping water and with only one screw turning, the Pennsylvania limped into the Puget Sound Navy Yard on October 24, 1945, a crippled but proud ship.
The Atlanta then proceeded to the shipyard at Terminal Island, Calif. for an extensive overhaul. She was ready to return to sea on 3 January 1946 and got underway for Sasebo, Japan.
From January through June, Atlanta operated among several Far Eastern ports, which included Manila, Philippines; Tsingtao and Shanghai, China; Okinawa, Saipan, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, and Yokosuka, Japan. In June, she returned via Guam to the United States and arrived at San Pedro, Calif. on the 27th. Two days later, the cruiser entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard for overhaul. On 8 October, she headed for San Diego for sea trials.
The cruiser remained in southern California waters until 23 February 1947, when she left for maneuvers off Hawaii. On 1 May, she departed Pearl Harbor with TF 38 for a visit to Australia. The ships stayed in Sydney through 27 May then sailed for San Pedro, Calif., via the Coral Sea, Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Guam. She dropped anchor at San Pedro on 28 July. A series of maneuvers off the California coast ensued, and Atlanta returned to Pearl Harbor on 28 September. She continued on to Yokosuka, Japan. After two days at anchor there, she sailed to Tsingtao, China. Other ports of call during the deployment were Hong Kong, Singapore, and Keelung, China. On 27 April,1948, the cruiser got underway and proceeded via Kwajalein and Pearl Harbor to San Diego.
Following her arrival back in the United States on 19 May, Atlanta conducted exercises off San Diego. She paid a visit to Juneau, Alaska, from 29 June to 6 July. She then arrived at Seattle on 12 July to begin a major overhaul. The cruiser returned to San Diego for local maneuvers on 20 November.
In early February 1949, the ship embarked naval reservists for a training cruise and operated between San Diego and San Francisco until 1 March when she entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard to commence deactivation. Atlanta was decommissioned on 1 July 1949 and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 October 1962, and she was earmarked for disposal.
Atlanta's career, however, had not yet ended. Instead, she underwent an extensive modification at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard. Reinstated on the Navy list as IX-304 on 15 May 1964, the vessel was converted to a target ship for studies of the effects of high energy air explosions on naval ships. The changes included cutting her hull down to the main deck level and erecting various experimental superstructures designed for guided missile frigates and guided missile destroyers on her deck. In these configurations, she was subjected to explosions to determine whether or not the experimental structures could satisfactorily combine essential lightness with equally essential strength and blast resistance. One of these three tests, which were conducted off the coast of Kahoolawe, Hawaii in early 1965, was code-named "Operation Sailor Hat". Records of the other two have not been found. Atlanta was damaged, but not sunk, by the experiments. She was laid up at Stockton, Calif. sometime later in 1965. Her name was again struck from the Navy list on 1 April 1970, and the former light cruiser was sunk during an explosive test off San Clemente Island, Calif. on 1 October 1970.
Atlanta earned two battle stars for her World War II service.