The USS Princeton (CVL-23) was an Independence-class aircraft carrier serving the United States Navy during the Second World War. The vessel was commissioned in February 1943 under the command of Captain George Henderson.
The Independence-class vessels were a series of small aircraft carriers, the hulls of which had been intended for cruisers. As war in the Pacific became imminent, the Navy realized the need for carriers – however, in 1941, there were only three antiquated Yorktown-class carriers available. The Independence-class was essentially a stopgap measure that filled the needs for carriers in the Pacific while the new Essex-class carriers were under construction.
Princeton was constructed by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey between June 1941 and October 1942. Measuring just under 623 feet in length with a beam of a little more than 109 feet at flight deck level, Princeton displaced 13,000 tons. Her crew compliment consisted of 1,569 officers and seamen, and an air wing of 45 aircraft.
Repairs and Upgrades
Princeton's first yard "availability" was from November 1943 to January 1944 after over four months of nearly constant action in the Pacific. Repairs and maintenance was carried out at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.
She never came home after that; maintenance and replenishments were carried out at various forward bases in the Pacific, specifically Majuro, Espiritu Santo and Eniwetok Atoll.
Princeton underwent her shakedown trials in the Caribbean in July of 1943 before getting underway for the Pacific. Reporting to Pearl Harbor, she proceeded to the US military base on Baker Island, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. She participated in combat operations in the Gilbert Islands in September, then following a brief voyage to Pearl, reported to Task Force 38 at Espiritu Santo west of New Guinea. From there, Princeton's planes carried out missions against Japanese positions on the latter island.
She headed to the States for maintenance in November 1943, then returned to the South Pacific the following January. Over the next five months, she carried out attacks against enemy bases in the Carolines.
Princeton spent the last three weeks on May 1944 at Pearl, then got underway for combat operation in the Marianas.
In July, preliminary strikes on the Philippines got underway. Throughout July and August, Princeton's air wing carried out attacks on Mindanao, the Visayas and Luzon. In early October, Princeton's airmen participated in strikes against Japanese bases on the Ryukyus and Formosa (Taiwan).
Later in October, the battle of the Philippines got underway in earnest. During what came to be known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Princeton was hit by a bomb from a Yokosuka D4Y that smashed through her flight deck and caused a series of fires and explosions that ultimately sent her to the bottom.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Princeton (CVL-23)
The first time Princeton was damaged to the extent that asbestos materials would have become significantly friable was during her last battle in Leyte Gulf. On 24 October around 1000 hours, she was hit by a single bomb that penetrated the flight deck and exploded on the hangar deck. This led to a chain reaction of more explosions as aviation fuel and ordnance caught fire.
While all branches of the military made use of asbestos insulation in various types of buildings and environments, asbestos exposure was much more frequent on ships, and thus there are many more mesothelioma navy victims than in other branches. Ships like Princeton made use of asbestos insulation extensively in engines and engineering compartments, as well as to insulate pipes throughout the ship. Asbestos has long been known for its fireproofing properties, but it has also been proven to be the primary cause of life-threatening conditions like "miner's lung" and pleural mesothelioma.
Sadly, a mesothelioma prognosis is not usually optimistic; most mesothelioma victims have a life expectancy of a few months to a few years after they are diagnosed. As trustworthy information concerning malignant mesothelioma is not easy to find, we've written a mesothelioma information packet complete with information about legal options and choices for medical treatment, along with a list of mesothelioma clinics nationwide. Simply fill out the form on this page and we will send you the free package.Sources
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).