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I can always make it a rule to get there first with the most men.

-- Nathan Bedford Forrest

USS Wilkes-Barre (CL-103), 1944-1972

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USS Wilkes-Barre, a 10,000-ton Cleveland class light cruiser, was built at Camden, New Jersey. Commissioned at the beginning of July 1944, she shook down in Chesapeake Bay and the West Indies before steaming through the Panama Canal to the Pacific in late October 1944. She arrived in the western Pacific war zone by the end of the year and was thereafter primarily employed as an escort to the fast carriers of the Fifth and Third Fleets. In that role Wilkes-Barre took part in strikes against the Philippines, China and Indo-China, the Ryukyu islands, the Bonin and Volcano islands and Japan. During the Iwo Jima campaign, in February 1945, she also used her guns to shell enemy positions ashore, a mission repeated in the Ryukyus in late March and against the Japanese home islands in July. When suicide planes badly damaged USS Bunker Hill off Okinawa on 11 April, Wilkes-Barre came alongside the stricken carrier to help fight her fires and evacuate some of her crew.

As the Pacific War ended, Wilkes-Barre supported the occupation of Japan, remaining in the Far East for the rest of 1945. She crossed the Pacific to the U.S. West Coast in January 1946 and in March went on to the Atlantic. For the next year and a half the cruiser operated in that ocean and the Caribbean area, making one cruise to the British Isles and Norway in the winter and spring of 1947. Decommissioned in October 1947, she was laid up at Philadelphia for more than two decades. USS Wilkes-Barre was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in January 1971 and subsequently used in explosive ordnance experiments. Badly damaged in these tests, she sank off the Florida Keys in May 1972.

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