The USS Princeton (CV-37) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier serving the United States Navy from the post-World War II era through the Vietnam war. She was amed in honor of her predecessor, the Independence- class USS Princeton (CVL-23) which was lost at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Princeton was commissioned in November 1945 under command of Captain John Hoskins.
Princeton was laid down at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in September 1943 and launched five weeks before the end of the war, in early July 1945.
At flight deck level, Princeton was 888 feet in length with a beam of 146 feet, six inches. When first commissioned, she had a standard displacement of 27,100 tons. Her power plant consisted of four Westinghouse geared turbines and eight Babcock & Wilcox boiler.
Her crew compliment was originally 2600 officers and seamen, supporting an air wing of up to 100 prop-driven aircraft.
Repairs and Upgrades
Princeton never underwent the major SBC-27 and 127 conversions that would have modernized her (and exposed crew and dock workers to large amounts of loose asbestos insulation). From her construction until decommissioning she maintained her original World War II-era configuration, unusual for the Navy’s big carriers which were generally upgraded after the war to be able to launch and recover the new jet-powered fighter and bomber aircraft.
In January 1954, Princeton instead entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for conversion to an anti-submarine carrier. In 1959, she underwent some relatively minor structural changes when she was converted into an amphibious assault carrier. Princeton underwent a FRAM ("Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization) procedure in 1961, a series of modifications oriented toward improving her ability to support anti-submarine warfare.
After spending her first several months in the Atlantic, Princeton was transferred to the Pacific Fleet in June 1946. Her first mission was a diplomatic one, carrying the coffin of former Philippine president Manuel Quezón, who had been buried at Arlington National Cemetery, back to his home country. She remained in the Far East until the following March, then returned to port in San Diego. Princeton made one more deployment to the Far East before going into reserve status in June 1948.
Princeton was reactivated in August 1950 for service in Korea. Her first combat deployment lasted from April until August 1951; a second tour of duty began at the end of April 1952 and continued until that November. Princeton returned to Korea a third time in February 1953 and remained in the area until September.
Following conversion work during the first part of 1954, Princeton spent the next several years operating as an anti-submarine carrier in the Far East, including one deployment to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf in 1958.
During the early 1960s, the vessel and her crew trained for a new role as an amphibious assault carrier. This training was put into practice in Vietnam beginning in October 1964, and Princeton continued combat deployments for the next four years.
In April 1969, Princeton carried out her last major mission, serving as the recovery ship for the Apollo 10 mission. The carrier was decommissioned in January of the following year and scrapped in May 1971.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Yorktown (CV-10)
Other than the normal asbestos exposure risks present aboard marine craft built prior to 1980, Princeton was never damaged in battle nor involved in any collisions that might have caused her asbestos materials to tear loose to an unusual extent. Installing asbestos-containing materials in the construction of naval vessels was mandated by law in the US in the 1930s, after a deadly fire aboard a luxury liner caused the deaths of 137 passengers and crew. Princeton utilized asbestos extensively in boilers and engine spaces, as well as for fireproofing in all parts of the ship. When an asbestos-based product is damaged it becomes friable, which means that individual fibers can be broken off and escape into the surrounding air, where they can be inhaled or ingested by sailors and repair workers, potentially leading to the development of mesothelioma. Asbestos has been known for centuries for its ability to insulate; however, it has also been proven to be the leading factor in the development of such serious diseases including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
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Friedman, Norman. U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1983)
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).