Cruisers are a needed part of navies. It does not matter if we are talking of frigates in the age of sail or heavy cruisers fighting in The Slot during World War II. They are the eyes of the fleets, leading destroyer squadron, and protecting their nations trade routes.
At the turn of the 20th century the major navies had several choices in cruiser design. Armored Cruisers were the heavies in the list able to fight in the battle line. These were followed in size by First, Second and Third Class Cruisers. Also called Protective Cruisers. The Second, and Third being little more than heavy gunboats with limited sea going capabilities.
The Germans with the Gazelle class created a new type of cruiser, the Light Cruiser. With ten 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns two torpedo tube and a speed of 21.5 knots these ships were one of the most powerful warships in their displacement. At 2,700 tones these cruisers are similar in size to Second and Third Class Cruisers but more sea worthy and heavily armed.
What made these cruisers even more powerful was what opposed them. Or more importantly what did not oppose them. While Britain and France were slow to build comparable ships the US Navy continued to use existing protective cruisers until they completed the larger Pennsylvania-Class Armored Cruiser.
In the United States it was easier to build Battleships, as local politicians would often vote in favor of a Battleship named after their state. They are big and powerful, and President Roosevelt loved them.
Even as late as the 1920s, the US Navy was in need of cruisers. This issue was not solved until the 1930s with the launch of the Treaty Cruisers.
The Gazelle class and the follow on classes would see service in the North Sea and on the trade routes. They would often be upstaged by both the smaller submarines as well as by the massive Dreadnoughts, but they served their country’s navy well.