FLORIDA KEYS Shipwrecks USS Wilkes Barre Wreck Key West
Historical and current Florida Keys Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers, fisherman and marine historians.




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The Divers Guide to Shipwrecks around the State of Florida and the Florida Keys. Includes over 240 illustrations comprised of 151 color photos, 83 black and white historical images, 8 dynamic u/w sketches.
                    How to SHIPWRECK DIVING Guide By Capt Dan Berg 



The U.S.S. Wilkes Barre, CL-103, was a Cleveland class light cruiser. She was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corp. in 1942 and launched on December 24, 1943. The 610 foot long vessel had a 66.6 foot beam and displaced 10,000 tons. Her armament consisted of twelve 6-inch guns, twelve 5-inch guns and a battery of 40 and 20-mm anti-aircraft guns. The Wilkes Barre was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on July 1, 1944, with Captain Robert L. Porter, Jr., in command.

The Wilkes Barre saw quite a bit of action during World War II. She first screened aircraft carriers on February 16, 1945, as their planes bombed Tokyo, the Japanese capital. This air raid was only a diversion for the American invasion of Iwo Jima. On February 21, the Wilkes Barre was called in to assist in the shore bombardment of Iwo Jima. She quickly responded by destroying pillboxes, ammunition dumps, fortified caves, and turned back one Japanese counter attack. On March 19, she was steaming east of Okinawa when gunners on the Wilkes Barre bagged her first enemy aircraft, a Judy dive bomber. On April 1, 1945, Easter Sunday, the Wilkes Barre supported the largest American amphibious assault in history, the invasion of Okinawa. On April 11, the Wilkes Barre shot down a Val dive bomber and three Zeke fighters. This was not the last action Wilkes Barre saw during the war: she continued to shoot down enemy planes and rescue American downed flyers! She even participated in the fire fighting efforts aboard the fleet carrier Bunker Hill after two kamikazes had crashed into the carrier's deck, starting an inferno that enveloped the entire after deck. 

On January 13, 1946, the Wilkes Barre sailed for the United States. She had received four battle stars for her World War II service and had shot down seven enemy aircraft. She was decommissioned on October 9, 1947, and placed at Philadelphia until January 15, 1971, when the Navy struck her from its list. 

On May 12, 1972, this fine ship was used as the subject for underwater explosive tests. The explosion broke the ship in two. Her stern sank quickly, but her forward section needed an additional scuttling charge to send her to the ocean's floor. The cruiser now serves as an artificial reef. Both bow and stern sections remain intact in 220 feet of water where she was intentionally placed so as not to be a hazard to navigation. Her stern sits on an even keel, and her bow rests on its starboard side. Because of her deep resting spot, the Wilkes Barre can only be dove by very experienced deep divers. Her superstructure can be reached at 145 feet. This huge wreck abounds with marine life, artifacts and a fascinating history.

Remember penetration into any shipwreck should only be done by those with proper training, experience and wreck diving equipment. Scuba equipment like powerful dive lights, navigation reels, dive knives as well as redundant air supply like a pony bottle or doubles are standard gear for wreck divers.

Photos: The Wilkes Barre was sunk during underwater explosive
tests on May 12, 1972. Photo's courtesy Captain Billy Deans.

Basic shipwreck information and images for this section of this site was taken with permission from the book Florida Shipwrecks by Daniel Berg. You are invited to submit your shipwreck related articles, images and information. As long as the text, photographs, sketches etc are of professional quality we will showcase them. Full credit will be provided and a same page link to your web site can be arranged.

Florida Shipwrecks ebook
The Divers Guide to Shipwrecks around the State of Florida and the Florida Keys,

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10.2 MB instant download, printable  PDF file

By Dan and Denise Berg, 180 pages. Shipwrecks are an important complement to the natural coral reefs as a sport diving attraction in Florida. From the barley discernable ballast piles of the 1733 fleet to the almost perfectly intact modern ships sunk specifically as artificial reefs throughout the state, shipwrecks inspire an aura of mystery and fascination. Florida Shipwrecks is the most comprehensive, accurate, illustrated collection of information, photographs, sketches and stories ever written about the shipwrecks around the state of Florida. This downloadable ebook contains a wealth of enlightening information that gives the readers a nostalgic glimpse into the history and present condition of over 235 shipwrecks. Florida Shipwrecks includes over 240 illustrations comprised of 151 color photos, 83 black and white historical images, 8 dynamic u/w sketches. Divers , snorkelers, marine historians, armchair sailors or anyone with a general interest in history diving or the sea will surely find this ebook fascinating, as well as indispensable.


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