Eyewitness to Tragedy: Death of USS Princeton - May '97 World War II Feature

Eyewitness to Tragedy: Death of USS Princeton – May ’97 World War II Feature

8/19/1997 • World War II

Eyewitness to Tragedy:  Death of USS Princeton
Eyewitness to Tragedy: Death of USS Princeton

A tremendous explosion in Leyte Gulf on October 24, 1944, broke the American light carrier in two and devastated the light cruiser USS Birmingham.

By Harry Popham

The 600-foot light carrier USS Princeton (CVL23) was commissioned in the Philadelphia Navy Yard on February 25, 1943, and was sunk 20 months later, on October 24, 1944, in Leyte Gulf during heroic efforts to retake the Philippines from the Japanese. One of two light carriers in Task Group 38.3, Princeton carried 23 fighters and 10 torpedo bombers. I am probably one of only two living eyewitnesses to a tragic event. Except for a buddy and me, everyone who had been in a position to see the start of the explosion that eventually sank Princeton was killed outright that day. Official tallies on casualties from the death of Princeton were 347 killed, 552 wounded and 4 mising.

The majority of those casualties were not aboard Princeton, however, but were, as was I, aboard USS Birmingham, a light cruiser that was also part of the task group. Birmingham had drawn alongside to assist Princeton after the light carrier was crippled by a successful bombing run by a lone enemy plane. Aboard Birmingham, the tally was 230 dead, 408 wounded, and 4 missing.

I am convinced that it would have been impossible to improve upon what a single Japanese pilot, flying a Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” dive bomber with two 550-pound bombs, achieved that day, had the bombing been the result of a meticulous plan rather than a chance encounter. In the explosion that occurred hours after the Judy’s bombing run, my right leg was blown off at the knee and buried at sea. So, in effect, I already have one foot in the grave.

Birmingham had been at sea for eight months. It had become part of Task Group 38.3 in August 1944. For eight weeks, the fast carrier forces ranged throughout the Palau and Philippine islands, inflicting serious damage and destruction on the enemy. From the 18th through the 23rd of October, in fair and calm weather, Task Force 38 launched extensive airstrikes covering the length and breadth of Luzon, as part of the drive to retake the Philippines.

October 24 dawned with broken clouds and occasional squalls, but there was good visibility, allowing continuing airstrikes in support of land operations on the island of Leyte. The day began before sunrise, with general quarters sounded for all the ships in Task Force 38.

To start the day, Princeton contributed 20 fighter planes to the air battle over Leyte Gulf. The first wave of 40 to 50 Japanese planes was intercepted and their attack broken up with many enemy losses. A second group of about 30 enemy aircraft quickly took to the air. Out of the two waves, Princeton’s planes alone shot down 34 enemy aircraft with a loss of only one. Pilots became aces in a matter of minutes. The planes returned to the carrier for refueling and arming in preparation for an airstrike against a Japanese force of four battleships, eight cruisers and 13 destroyers southeast of the island of Mindoro.

At 9:12 a.m., USS Essex reported a possible bandit plus a friendly aircraft about six miles away. No other unidentifieds were within a radius of 25 miles. At 9:38 a.m., a single Judy was sighted by Princeton’s lookouts, diving on their vessel from out of the low cloud cover ahead of the ship. The plane immediately came under fire from the forward 20mm and 40mm batteries, and the helm was put over to port in an evasion attempt. The Judy dropped two bombs. One missed Princeton and fell harmlessly into the sea. The other 550-pound bomb fell almost in the center of Princeton’s deck, causing jarring on the bridge and a dull thud in central station. Black smoke issued from the hole in the flight deck, the forward elevator and every access trunk to the hangar aft of the island. Ed Butler, a radarman, said, “I saw him [the Japanese pilot] high-tailing it away from our stern, trailing smoke.”

Pete Callan, one of the crew who had refueled and armed the torpedo planes, says he heard machine-gun fire at a more rapid rate than any of the guns aboard Princeton were capable of. He heard bullets striking the wooden planking of the flight deck. Fifty years later, Pete told me, “The Japanese pilot utilized the striking bullets to guide his aim by stitching the deck and the surrounding water, then making the appropriate corrections to his bombing run.” The bomb passed through the flight deck, leaving a small jagged hole about 15 inches in diameter, continuing downward and severing the main gasoline line used to fuel the planes. The bomb then passed through an auxiliary drop tank under one wing of Lieutenant Tom Mooney’s torpedo plane parked in the hangar. The bomb continued on its path, piercing the hangar deck and detonating in the crew’s galley on the second deck. The bomb blew a hole through the second deck into the third, above the after engine room.

Structural damage was relatively minor, but a raging gasoline fire flared up in the wreckage of Mooney’s plane and spread rapidly to the other five planes parked there. The quantity of gasoline dumped onto the hangar deck from the severed gasoline main is unknown, but those six fully fueled planes had held more than 2,500 gallons of high-test aviation gasoline. The bomb had created a 5-foot indentation around the small 15-inch hole, which acted as a funnel for the gasoline spilling onto the hangar deck, directing it into the lower decks where the fire raged. Within seconds of the explosion there were fires on the third deck over the after engine room, on the second deck, and in the hangar. Billowing black smoke from burning gasoline poured from every opening in the lower decks.

Less than 10 minutes after the bomb was dropped, the firefighting sprinkler system was completely disabled. Within the same short timespan, the main engines lost almost all power, which first slowed Princeton, then brought her to a halt and turned her into a drifting, burning hulk.

Many American naval history books refer to USS Birmingham as the most tragic ship to participate in World War II, because of the number of engagements she was involved in and the damage she sustained. By the same measure, Princeton must be considered the most unlucky. One small bomb, which should have been a minor inconvenience for the light carrier, caused a great deal of death and destruction.

Lieutenant Mooney said: “I was in the pilot’s ready room, which was directly under the flight deck on the portside, forward of the hangar. At the instant the bomb pierced the flight deck, the TBM [torpedo-bomber] pilots in their ready room heard a thump or a bump similar to the sound made if a heavy object dropped somewhere. The ready room door led onto a companionway which was normally closed, but at this time for some reason was open.” Mooney looked toward the door and saw something he will never forget. “It was a fireball, a true ball of molten flame, maybe the size of a basketball, that sailed forward through the companionway past the open ready room door!” Mooney and the other pilots wasted no time leaving immediately through an emergency hatch opening onto the portside catwalk, then up to the flight deck, where Mooney saw controlled chaos. Everyone had something to do and was doing it “with great vigor and proficiency.”

Pilots had not been assigned a ship’s function, so Mooney grabbed a fire hose and joined a group directing streams of water down into the forward elevator shaft, which was partially below the flight deck. Several other crewmen were similarly engaged when an incredible eruption blasted the elevator platform out of its shaft. Mooney was knocked backward but otherwise unhurt. In the hangar, the fire-sprinkling apparatus had completely failed, probably because the engulfing fire had destroyed the electrical circuitry that controlled the firefighting equipment in the hangar. Ten minutes after the bomb hit, Princeton began to drop out of formation.

The destroyers Irwin, Cassin Young and Gatlin, along with the anti-aircraft cruiser Reno, were ordered to stand by to render assistance to Princeton. From her flight deck, several small explosions were felt. There were about 12 men in the executive officer’s office who were badly burned but could not be reached because of the very hot water on the decks.

Eighteen minutes after the bomb struck, steering control in the pilot house was lost. Irwin came alongside Princeton’s port side to fight the fires, but was too small to have much effect on the furnace that Princeton had become. Irwin took aboard more than 600 of Princeton’s crew who had been forced to abandon ship. Moderately heavy swells caused Irwin to collide with Princeton, a much larger vessel, and the little destroyer took a physical beating from the collisions. Her port engine was out of commission because its main circulator pump and condenser screen had become plugged with debris floating on the water. There continued to be explosions aboard Princeton, and Irwin cast off for fear of being too heavily damaged. Reno attempted to come along Princeton’s starboard side, but the carrier constantly drifted into her.

Nearly 90 minutes after the bomb hit, Birmingham was ordered to fall out of formation and assume command of the firefighting operations. Birmingham maneuvered aft on Princeton’s port side. The two ships were built to the same hull design, so Birmingham was not so heavily battered as Irwin. Coming in from the weather side also allowed Birmingham better control. But things did not go smoothly for long.

Reno failed in her attempt to position her bow between Princeton and Birmingham. She was not able to hold her own and disengaged from the firefighting operations when the fire had abated considerably.

Birmingham moved forward on Princeton’s port side, the ships smashing into each other in the incessant swells. It was sickening to watch; it seemed as though the two ships were attempting to destroy each other.

To be effective, Birmingham had to stay in direct contact so firefighters could move from ship to ship. To stay in physical contact, Birmingham deliberately crowded Princeton. Princeton’s anti-torpedo blisters on both sides below her waterline amidships effectively limited the approach of any supporting ships to the bow or stern areas.

After an extended all-night shift belowdecks making repairs in the after engine room of Birmingham, I was relieved from duty. I went above with Vernon Trevethan and George Thompson. No longer serving under general quarters, we were off duty and sightseeing.

George, Vernon and I headed for the open bridge above the starboard flying bridge. We wanted to observe the firefighting efforts on Princeton but still stay out of the way. Clearly, Birmingham’s starboard side and Princeton’s port side were severely damaged by the grinding impacts that ensued during Birmingham’s attempt to maneuver to the advantage of the firefighters aboard both ships.

Damaged by the constant collisions between the two vessels, a hatch door was ripped from Princeton’s hull, exposing the interior of what appeared to be a companionway. Today the memory of what I saw scares me. Then, however, I was only 23 and not easily intimidated by potential danger. What I saw was a row of bombs standing upright. If memory has not failed me, those bombs were in the neighborhood of 5 feet tall and 12 inches in diameter. Firefighters on Birmingham were directing streams of water onto those bombs, causing them to sizzle like a hot frying pan when water is sprinkled onto its surface. This effort by Birmingham’s crew to cool down the bombs with fire hoses was desperately hampered because of the narrow quarters and the constant rolling of the ships. The bombs were hissing and generating clouds of steam. My buddies and I watched this activity from our vantage point less than 20 feet away from the nearest bomb. Birmingham’s skipper, Captain Thomas Inglis, was just below us on the flying bridge, directing the entire operation. The grim expression on his face indicated his deep concern at the stress of the situation.

Three hours and seven minutes after Princeton was hit, the destroyer Morrison came alongside starboard amidships. In short order, a jeep and an aircraft-towing tractor fell from Princeton’s deck onto Morrison’s bridge. Fifteen minutes after coming alongside, Morrison became wedged between Princeton’s No. 2 and No. 3 stacks. As a result, Morrison’s mast bent and eventually broke.

At around 1:32 p.m., Birmingham sounded general quarters as she pulled clear of Princeton due to threats of air and submarine attacks. Fires and smoke were still observed pouring out of Princeton. While clearing Princeton, Birmingham moved to the carrier’s starboard side, and from Birmingham’s deck we could see Morrison in her predicament. Morrison looked so ludicrous with her mast bent 90 degrees at its base that it provoked uncontrollable laughter from Birmingham’s crew. My companions and I left for our respective battle stations.

Four hours and 16 minutes after the encounter with the Judy, Morrison finally cleared herself and rejoined the screen of destroyers with her mast dragging in the sea. Reno fired on enemy planes, but a concerted attack did not develop.

About 90 minutes later, general quarters ended with the all clear. Again Birmingham moved alongside Princeton. My little group reconvened. Now we perched on the after mushroom ventilator, between the No. 3 and No. 4 turrets, intently watching the activities on Princeton. Birmingham prepared to rig for towing. From an estimated distance of 50 to 75 yards, absolutely no smoke or fires were observed, only patches of foglike vapors coming from the numerous openings in Princeton’s flight deck. Princeton appeared to be serenely drifting with the current. It appeared as if the fires had gone out on their own. Our little group on Birmingham figured the excitement was all over. The fires aboard Princeton had been extinguished.

The ships were still separated by about 50 feet when sailors shot their messenger lines across in order to secure a spring line between the two ships. George, on my right, suddenly exclaimed, “Look at that flame!” We saw a single tongue of flame shoot out from the area of the after elevator, followed by an enormous puff of white smoke like a billowy cumulus cloud. To our horror, a slender column of pale orange-colored smoke shot several hundred feet straight up. All hell broke loose with an enormous eruption. One hundred and thirty feet of Princeton’s stern blew off, as well as 180 feet of her flight deck.

As a high-speed shock wave headed my way, my reflexes took over. I threw myself backward before the concussion could hit me head on. This reflex action undoubtedly saved my life. Still, the force of the shock wave tumbled me backward 30 or 40 feet and about 10 feet into the air before dropping me on the deck. The shock wave hit me a split second before the thunder of the explosion reached my ears.

While I was tumbling, I was aware that Vernon, my best friend, was also somersaulting. I saw him land on his feet andrun around the barbett of No. 3 turret to disappear from my sight. Some time later, I learned he had dropped dead on the other side of the turret.

I was stunned momentarily, yet at the same time my senses were heightened. When the roar of the explosion abated, I became aware of an ear-splitting silence that seemed to last for an eternity and was almost painful to my ears. The deafening hush was finally brought to an end by the sound of burning hot shrapnel raining down all around me. The shrapnel was burning through my clothes in what seemed to be hundreds of places. I had to get out from under that shower of hot steel. When I glanced down I saw that my right knee was mangled, so I thought I would get up on my left leg and hop to the overhanging No. 4 turret. But my left leg would not support me because it was broken. I tried to crawl on my belly, but the pea-sized, gravel-like bits of Princeton on the deck painfully burned my hands and forearms as well as the nape of my neck. All I could do was roll around on the deck, trying to escape the searing pain. Finally, the shrapnel stopped falling and the pieces of steel cooled. I collected myself enough to look around at hundreds of dead or unconscious bodies. Out of maybe 300 crew members on the after starboard deck of Birmingham, there was only one person other than myself who was conscious. There was no moaning, only an eerie quiet.

On my back and propped on my elbows, I surveyed the extent of the damage. Wherever I looked there was carnage. Rivers of blood poured from the scuppers into the sea. It was a scene from a nightmare. I was wondering what to do when another shipmate, John Miksis, suddenly appeared from nowhere. His face was burned cork black, and he was completely covered with soot. At first I did not recognize him. Only his voice identified him to me. He was excited. I was calm. He started clapping both my cheeks. Maybe I was going into shock, but this was irritating. I snarled at him, “Cut it out, John!” Miksis promised to find some more help and went below, where he bumped into Dick Stern, another shipmate. Miksis and Stern tore a bunk from its hanger and then rushed back to the deck to carry me to a first aid station below. While I waited for John’s return, my limited view was of the deck strewn with assorted body parts and rivers of blood draining into the water.

Gerald Baldwin was one of my best friends on board Birmingham; in fact, he was like a brother. When Princeton’s stern was blown off, he was standing after and a little to port of Birmingham’s No. 4 turret. The explosion’s shock wave pitched Baldy over the port side into the sea. He was stunned and wounded from a piece of steel in his shoulder. Shortly after he had landed in the water, Birmingham slowly backed down, leaving him forward of the bow. Baldy drifted across Brimingham’s bow to the starboard side, about 20 feet from Princeton’s port beam. He then spotted Princeton’s broken stern floating aft, swam to it and attempted to climb aboard. It was too slippery, so he abandoned it to grasp onto Birmingham’s No. 2 screw guard. That was hazardous duty because the ship was maneuvering forward and aft for short distances. During those maneuvers the wash of the No. 2 screw would suck him below toward the rotating screw. Fortunately the screw would stop turning before he got chewed up.

After Baldy had been pulled below three of four times, he decided there was a limited future in floating near the screw. He made his way to Birmingham’s stern, where there were ladder rungs welded to the hull leading up from the ship’s waterline to her weather deck. Unfortunately the bottom three rungs had been broken off. The sea, however, was swelling to such an extent that the crests buoyed him up enough to grasp the lowest intact rung with both hands. Baldy’s vigor, however, had been sapped because of his previous exertions and possibly because of the chilling effects of the waters of the Pacific Ocean. His strength had been depleted to a degree that he was unable to hang onto the rung. He lost his grip and fell back into the sea.

At that point, as he treaded water, Baldy came to the conclusion that to remain in the area would be fatal. But where to go? He had spotted two wooden planks floating in an oil slick, and they seemed to be his best bet. He managed to swim over to the planks and then lay down atop the boards until the destroyer Cassin Young came along and hauled him out of the ocean.

Aboard Princeton, four people had miraculously escaped the incredible explosion that had originated abaft the after elevator on the hangar deck. They were about 280 to 300 feet from the origin of the explosion. One of them, Gene Mitchell, sustained multiple wounds. Mitchell pulled himself together enough to look over at Birmingham. What he saw was so ghastly and traumatic that he experienced flashbacks for years. He saw the same horrors and rivers of blood washing the deck as I had.

The prompt action of my shipmates saved my life. Events from that time on are a blur. Birmingham had left San Francisco on February 18, 1944, and had been at sea for months with only an occasional stop at some hot, unbelievably humid, mosquito-infested tropical island for supplies or repairs. We had been in a combat zone constantly for two months. Now, during one of the first lulls in the fighting, at a time when I was off duty, my war had come to an end.

Years later I met an ex-Navy man who had been attached to the Mare Island Navy Yard at the time Birmingham came in for repairs after the battle to save Princeton. He told me that civilian workers brought in to clean up Birmingham so it could be repaired actually refused to do the job. The stench of rotting flesh, even after three months, was too awful. A crew of naval enlisted men was assigned to the job.

Despite Princeton’s punishment, however, and even after that final tremendous explosion, the carrier was still afloat without even a list. Her buoyancy probably was provided by the side blisters that contributed greatly to her marvelous stability.

Princeton’s skipper grudgingly gave orders to his damage-control party to abandon ship for the destroyer Gatling. The gallant light carrier was to be scuttled by torpedoes.

Irwin fired her first torpedo from 2,500 yards to no effect. A minute later she fired a second torpedo, again with no effect. Two minutes later, Irwin fired a third torpedo that ran true for 1,500 yards but reversed course, U-turning right down the pipe back toward Irwin. The destroyer was forced to outrun its own torpedo on less than healthy engines. Three minutes later, Irwin tried again, firing her fourth and fifth torpedoes, both of which missed. Later examination showed that Irwin’s torpedo tubes had been seriously damaged during her earlier encounters with Princeton.

The destruction of the carrier was finally assigned to Reno. The anti-aircraft cruiser fired two torpedoes into Princeton’s main magazine, where some 70 tons of explosives were stored, triggering an enormous explosion. Princeton disappeared under the waves of the Pacific in about 45 seconds. She didn’t die easily. She was a tough old ship. *


Author Harry Popham writes from his home in Fountain Valley, Calif. For further reading, he suggests: The War in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay, by Harry A. Gailey; and Clash of Titans: World War II At Sea, by Walter J. Boyne.[ TOP ] [ Cover ]

107 Responses to Eyewitness to Tragedy: Death of USS Princeton – May ’97 World War II Feature

  1. DC says:

    Amazing Story.

    I just found a mohters day card my grandfather sent to my grandmother from the uss birmingham in 1945 which prompted my web search and I came across this story.

    • Ennis Dobbins Karns says:

      My uncle, Robert “Bobby”)Henry Dobbins of Yadkinville, NC was among those killed on the Birmingham and buried at sea.


        my uncle,Albert Henry Bailey, served on the Princeton and as I understand, he was lost at sea one day before it was destroyed.

  2. Andrew says:

    I’ve read the book Carrier Down by Thomas L. Bradshaw and Marsha Clark. The Judy actually dropped only one 250 kilo bomb which scored a direct hit, not two. Japanese sources stated it was a 500 kilo bomb, but that has left me in suspect as the attacker was identified to be a D4Y and it was never designed to carry any 500 kilo bombs, only one 250 and two thirty kilos.

  3. Susan (Laudermilk) Schultz says:

    My Dad was on the Priceton when it was hit. He was a gunners mate. It was quite traumatic. It was many years before he talked about it. He was young – 17 or 18. He’s still alive. I wonder if anyone else from the Princetn is still around….

    • gerald j peters says:

      susan: my dad was also on the uss princeton when it was sunk. he was a anti aircraft gunner also but never really talked about it. i just finished reading the book carrier down and i have all kinds of questions as to where he was stationed, and his injuries which he receive a purple heart for. my dad’s name is the same as mine and can be found in the back of the book under the injured list. if you or your dad have any info on him i would be interested in corresponding with you. gerald j peters jr


      My uncle, Albert Henry Bailey, served on the Princeton. Hewas lost at sea one day before it was destroyed.

  4. Ed Chinn says:

    Susan, my Dad — Jack Chinn — died four years ago. He was onboard the Princeton when she slipped into the water and was there when she slipped under the water on 10/24/44.

    Dad and Mom attended the Princeton reunions from 84 until about 95. My wife and I attended three of them.

    A few survivors are still alive, but I think the number is so few that they have ceased meeting. I’d love to continue the conversation by email or phone. ed@edchinn.com or 214-532-9191.

  5. Gary Grimme says:

    My uncle, William K. Taylor, was a Plane Captain for an F6F Hellcat Fighter, and was topside when the ship was bombed. He, too, attended the Princeton Reunions, attending his last one in Sept 2005, at Elkton, MD. Bill passed away in Sept 2007.

    I am a member of the Princeton Association, and would be happy to share any information I have about the Princeton, with anyone else wishing to learn more about the ship. I can be reached at: gg32068@yahoo.com

  6. Brett Hite says:

    My dad, Bert Hite, was a water tender on the Princeton. He would never speak of the experience. I asked him twice, and that was one time more than I had a right to ask. Even though he was my dad, I have never known a better man. I had to respect his silence. I did see a photo of him standing with six other guys behind the Captain and some pilots, but that’s all I know.

  7. Candyce says:

    Does anyone know where I can find a listing of personnel aboard the USS Princeton on that fateful day? I have a record from Ancestry.Com that states that my uncle, Fred M Jackson, may have been one of the survivors. I’d really like to verify that information somehow.


  8. Jim Spencer says:

    My uncle, William Joseph Spencer, Water Tender Second Class, from Gloucester City NJ helped build the USS Princeton CVL-23 at the New York Shipbuilding Company in Camden NJ. He also served and died on her on 10-24-1944 which also happens to be my birthday in 1956. I would love to hear from any of his shipmates or relatives that may have known him. Gary Grimme is an excellent historian on the Princeton and has supplied me with a ton of information. Please feel free to contact me.
    Thank you.

  9. Wayne Connelley says:

    I am researching Cdr. Bruce L. Harwood, USN, Air Officer, USS Princeton CVL-23, who died while leading a fire-fighting party on the aft of the USS Princeton. I wish to speak, correspond, or visit with anyone who knew or has any knowledge about him. Cdr. Harwood was an alumnus, Class of 1932, of Northern Arizona University (then known as Arizona State Teachers College at Flagstaff, not to be confused with Arizona State University). I have begun talking, corresponding, and emailing with a number of individuals who served with Cmdr. Harwood in Torpedo Squadron 8 from the USS Hornet at Midway and on Guadalcanal. Our University knows very little about this exceptional alumnus or about his service. Please email or call me at anytime or pass this request on to whomever. I look forward to the conversation. Thank you.
    Wayne Connelley
    Cell# 602-763-6924

    • Scott Frasco says:

      Hello Wayne,

      Have you read A Dawn Like Thunder, by Robert J. Mrazek? It was published in December 2008, and is by far the most comprehensive piece I have found on Torpedo 8. Bruce is mentioned several times, it is an excellent read.

  10. Faith Lopez says:

    I believe my uncle, Manuel Pino was part of the fire fighting party. He was lost at sea. In information you can research will be helpful.

  11. Jake Bridges says:

    My Stepfather’s dad served on the Princeton, his name was Art Mayer. He passed away two days ago. He was a great man whom I dearly respected and liked. I was told it took him many years before he was able to discuss that dreadful and final day of the USS Princeton. Art did attend some if not all of the reunions. Rest in peace Art, you were a great man who will not be forgotten.

    Jake Bridges

  12. Kenneth L. "Rip" Stephens says:

    Just found my uncle, Billy Mauller, on 3 of the Muster Rolls of the Crew of the U.S.S. Princeton (CVL-23) on Ancestry.com. It listts name, service no., rating, date of enlistment and date first received on board. I herd my Uncle Billy tell the story of his survival, just one time, when I was a small boy of 6 or 7. I never forgot the horror of the story, but never knew the ship. Now, 65 or so years later, it has become possible to find all of the information. My Uncle Billy passed 21 Feb 1988, at age 62. I shall never forget.
    Kenny Stephens

    • Angel Fowler (Mauller) says:

      Kenny, I do not know you and I am not sure if you would know who I am but Billy Mauller was my grandfather. He past when I was 15. My Father is also Billy A. Mauller. I have just got into looking into our families history and found the same info on Ancestry.com. Just want to say hello and it is awesome to find people that you are related to in just strange places. Would love to hear what my grandfather told you I was too young to really understand what he went through and to want to hear the stories before he past.

  13. Connie Clewell says:

    My father, James C. Smith served aboard the Princeton when she was sunk. He was a machinist’s mate 2nd class. He has related some of the details of that day, and they are horrific! He is alive and doing OK for a guy of his age. He will be 90 years old if he makes it to D-Day (June 6).
    Anyone who may see this, send him a birthday card. His address is 402 Cherry Street West Reading, Pa. 19611

  14. Bill Smith says:

    I have a letter your step dad, Art meyer sent me back in the 90’s about the Princeton and my dad. They both served in the same division and he knew my dad.
    I also have a picture of the P that he signed for me that I can make you a copy of if you would like one. I did a project back then to honor my dad and had several shipmates and pilots sign many many pictures for him. I also had crewmen from the other ships sign. Glad to share anything that I can with who I can.

    Drop me an email and we can talk.


    • Ennis Dobbins Karns says:

      Did you happen to run across anyone who served on the Birmingham that came to the aid of the Princeton on October 24, 1944? My uncle died that day and I would like to learn more about the Birmingham.

      • Francis Busa says:

        There is a lot of info on the USS Birmingham as well as other ships on line.
        If you are interested you can even get a copy of the Birmingham’s book which is offered on line in book form and CD. Just go on amazon.com and search: USS Birmingham CL 62 WWII Cruise Book Great Naval Images
        Good luck.

      • Gruetzmacher, Wolf says:

        Hello, just read your note concerning sailors who served on the ” Birmingham ” that fateful day. My wife’s uncle, Floyd Webb, was there.He was found around a gun-turret severly wounded. Everyone thought: he is gone. Well, he lived and still lives, in St.Rosa, Calif. We just visited him about 2 weeks ago. He is still in pretty good shape, considering all his wounds and of course now his advanced age. I do believe he said he’ll be 87 soon.Whenever he talks about that day he becomes very emotional. His memory is still very much alive. Hope it helps you to know: yes there are still some around who seved on the ” Birmingham “. Sincerely, Wolf.

      • kay McDonald says:

        Ennis, my dad served on the Birmingham and was awarded the Bronze Star for helping with the slip line created between the Birmingham and the Princeton. My Dad passed away in 2004….he would not talk about the experience that day…..the only thing he did tell me is that he was haunted with burning faces of his shipmates. My Dad’s name is Wayne E. Durst….he is listed in the book made by the USS Birmingham that describes the battles the ship was involved in during the war. It is more like a diary and a tribute to the Mighty “B”. In this book under the Bronze Star recipients he is listed with the incorrect middle initial…..they have him listed as Wayne “S” Durst…it is supposed to be an “E”

  15. Bill Smith says:

    My apologies for spelling Art’s last name wrong. Old eyeballs!
    contact me when you can.


  16. Patrick Taylor says:

    While enjoying the annual reunion of the USS Goldsborough DDG 20 in Branson last week, I crossed paths with the USS Princeton reunion group. Princeton was my first ship and I made the 1968 crusie as an HM in sickbay. Can not find any info on the associaition but have just registered on the crew list. How can I get info on the reunions and the association?


    Pat “Doc” Taylor

  17. Nancy Robinson says:

    We met a man named Mr. Bugbee who lives in Adams, Mass. who told us he was a gunner on the Princeton in the Phillipines when it was sunk by a Japanese pilot dropping bombs. He then was on a second Air Craft carrier that was also sunk in the Phillipines. He lives at the old Paper Mill there in Adams.He also said Jimmy Dolittle took off on a bombing raid to Japan from his carrier. He is 89 years in age and a wonderful man with values that I value very much and admire. I was riding a on a bike trail and he was in a scooter at a major city road crossing in Adams. I do not remember his first name. You may want to find him by calling the Historical society at 92 Park St, Adams, MA 01220 or city hall. What are the odds of surviving the sinking of two battleships? What a man!

    • Gerald Swick says:

      Mr. Bugbee wrote to HistoryNet in December 2010 to say he was only on one ship that sunk, not two.

  18. Linda Christie Knight says:

    My father was Ensign A.A. “Chris” Christie. He died and received the Navy Cross for trying to rescue men in the lower decks of USS Princeton on 24 October 1944.

    If any of the survivors remember Chris Christie, I would love to hear from them.


  19. Kyle McNamara says:

    I met a man yesterday who was on the USS Princeton as well. Mr. Webb in Gastonia, NC. He is 87 years old, what a wonderful Christian man, and what amazing accounts of the event he told me.

    Kyle McNamara

  20. Eric Knight says:

    Nancy Robinson,

    That man, Mr. Bugbee… his name is Roy Bugbee and he is my grandfather. Listening to his WWII stories about the Princeton brings tears to my eyes when he relates them. To be honest, hearing those stories was the reason I joined the Army and not the Navy. He is still alive and doing well.

    • Joe Fuhring says:

      My father was on the Princeton and was a Doctor. He got off the ship shortly before it was sunk. Does anyone remeber him his name was Dr. S.A. Fuhring.

  21. Eric Knight says:

    Roy Bugbee
    75 Commercial St.
    Apt A-20A
    Adams, Ma.

    For those wishing to make contact.

  22. gerald j peters says:


  23. Bob Carl says:

    Robert Paul Carl, my second cousin, was killed on October 24, 1944 as a crew member of the USS Birmingham assisting the aircraft carrier Princeton. Ten years later, my father named me after his cousin from Ohio, that died that day. Is there anyway to get a list of all those that died that day on the Birmingham? If you know anything about young seaman Robert Carl, I’d appreciate it you contacting me. Thanks!

    • Tom D says:

      My Godfather served aboard the Big B and was wounded that day. He died 10 years ago and I just received all his stuff after my Godmother died this past month.
      One of the items I received was a book that was ‘The Saga of the U.S.S. Birmingham’ ‘Compiliation of her Officers & Men’. It has the history of the ship as well as each battle in detail. It lists photos, ports., maps, roster of awards.

      • kay McDonald says:

        My Dad served aboard the Mighty B. I also have that book. My Dad, Wayne E. Durst is listed under the Bronze Star recipients….he is listed as Wayne “S” Durst which is incorrect…..it is supposed to be Wayne “E” Durst. He was awarded the bronze star for assisting with the slip line created between the Birmingham and the burning Princeton. He was wounded. He passed away in 2004.

  24. Da Thump says:

    I grew up listening to my father scream at night while reliving the sinking of the USS Princeton in his nightmares. He’s 84 years old and doesn’t have much mind left but he STILL has those nightmares and they can wake up the whole wing of the nursing home he’s in.

    He was on the deck and apparently got blown of it when the bomb exploded, landing in the water and he couldn’t swim a lick!! His name is Robert Louis Graham. I have no idea what rank he held but I bet it was low. He told us stories about how he’d get upgraded as long as the ship was at sea but as soon as he got shore leave, he was notorious for not coming back on-board when he was supposed to and always required an armed escort to return. He never discussed the day his ship was sunk. The only way I learned about it was one night my older sister told me why he was screaming. That was certainly terrifying to a little girl who worshiped her father.

  25. Glenn Pete Draper says:

    During my High School days i was a friend of one Guy Hayes in Beverly Hills Calif..He joined the Navy and was gone to war. He ended up on the Birmingham.when he returned he described the action trying to save the Prinston.He was foreward topside but survived.i wonder where he is today. Does the association have any information or can you tell me how to maybe find him.
    He went to the Navy and I went to the 11 th Airborne to Japan
    Just alot of good memorys.
    Thanks Pete Draper

  26. Gary Nesseth says:

    I happen to wonder on to this site tonight and it brought tears to my eyes with the tradegy of war. My father Clifford Melvin Nesseth better known as Slim from the piloits and others on board) was also on that ship. He was a firefighter and I assume was there till the end. I was born 10 years later but was aware of the hell he went through. I was told by my older sisters years later that he was in the ocean for a period of time and lost his best friend. Sharks were a constant threat. He had in our attic for years the life buoy ring he said saved his life. He had problems forgetting the war and would not talk about it. He died young at 51 with lung cancer. I always wondered about breathing the smoke during the fight of the fire contributed. I would love to hear of any body who may have information or have heard his name. I know so little about what he experienced and the people who he knew at the time.

  27. Vanessa says:

    My uncle, Millard (Shorty) Wiedemann, was also aboard the Princeton on October 24, 1944. I don’t know his rank or occupation as of this writing, but he is a fairly healthy, delightful and extremely kind 87 y.o.

    I had heard his story of the sinking of the ship over the years but only this past weekend had asked him any in depth questions about it. He remembers it very vividly, and doesn’t seem too upset by talking about it.

    Shorty has spent his life since the war in the service of God, and I suppose that has a great deal to do with his peace. He has described how the men spent hours in the water with sharks taking lives at random the entire time, and how terrifying that was. I plan to print your emails and ask him if he remembers any of the men you all are asking about.

    I’d certainly appreciate it if any of you could ask your surviving veterans if they remember my Uncle Shorty.

    I’d also like to take a moment to thank all veterans for their service in defense of our country, both in times of war and in times of peace. We owe them all our undying debt.

    • Barbara says:

      Hi Vanessa,

      I hope your uncle is still doing well. I wonder if he remembers my uncle, a S1C named Russell Carl Blomstrom. His records indicate he was KIA on the USS Princeton on 10/24/44. I am most interested in any personal information such as his duties and how he died (bomb blast, fighting the fire, etc.).

      I have found several good articles and recounts of that day and plan to read Carrier Down.

      I am collecting information to pass down to the younger family members so they do not forget.

      I agree that we owe all veterans and those currently serving a great debt. Please thank your uncle for his service and sacrifice.

  28. Janet Bernstein says:

    It’s Memorial Day weekend and I am thinking about my cousin Sam (Sonny) Tarullo WT3c who served and survived the USS Princeton”s sinking. He never spoke of it until the 80s and 90s…and went to the reunions. I was only 5 yo when the Princeton went down but I remember the panic in my family because there was no information on the men. It was the only time during WW II that the loss of men was reported in the press before the families were notified! I, too,have read “Carrier Down”. I was told to never ask Sonny any questions about what happened. He did tell us in later years about his attempts to reboard the ship to put out the fires and the loss of life in the shark infested waters. He has died and I miss him always…he was the one of the best people I have ever known…Did anyone know him?

  29. Robert Pulaski says:

    My father, Norman Pulaski, (everyone on board called him “Ski”) enlisted in the USNR in July of ’43, 1 month after his 16th birthday. He changed the date on his birth certificate. It worked. In January of of ’44, he joined Princeton at Pearl Harbor and stayed with her until her final day. He was a S2c and his general quarters station was gunner’s mate on the aftermost 20mm mount on the starboard side. He said that he saw the bomb, and, as it dropped, the Princeton seemed no larger than a postage stamp, with no safe place to run. He talks much about his service days and is very proud to have been a part of protecting our freedom that we enjoy today. Dad abandoned ship over the bow within 1/2 an hour after the bombing and was picked up about 3 hours later by the destroyer Morrison. Dad is 84 now, not in great shape, but still loves to comment about his Princeton days.

    • Robert Pulaski says:

      It is with sadness that I inform all , my father, Norman Pulaski, passed away on 11/16/11, after a 2 year illness. Just 5 months after my first entry. He still talked of the Princeton days up to just a few weeks before he passed. He is surely loved and will be missed. Rest easy sailor, rest well.

  30. Steve Gifford says:

    My Fathers brother (obviously my uncle) was one of those killed on the Birmingham. His name was Winferd Gifford. My father died in 2008 and he served in the Navy as well and was in from 1944 to 1966. He was very active in the American legion he served as a vice commander until just before his death. Needless to say we are a very patriotic family.

  31. Francis Busa says:

    My dad, Hugo Busa was a Machinist Mate 3rd aboard Birmingham the day Princeton was lost. He was standing with a volunteer fire party somewhere in the vicinity aft of Turret 2 preparing to board the carrier when the world exploded.
    He was thrown perhaps 40 ft. and woke up under Turret 1 with dead and other wounded on and around him. He couldn’t remember anyone he was with in that party that survived. Medical staff wanted to take off his right arm, but he wouldn’t let them. He is still living, but very ill with Parkinsons.
    He loved the sea. My uncles were also in the Navy, so when Vietnam came along, my brother and I kept up our proud family tradition of wartime naval service by enlisting too. Until recently I was able to still ask him questions about the Princeton incident.
    Lessons learned from the Princeton tragedy were used in subsequent aircraft carrier design.

    • Tom D says:

      I see your dad received a Purple Heart for his actions that day. My Godfather was Adam M. Puc, COX and received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions fighting the fires. Thank your dad for his services!

  32. Stephen J. Snyder says:

    Hi Everyone,

    My Great Uncle, Robert Wayne Trotte,r passed away two days ago, Tuesday, August 23, 2011at 5:15 P.M. in Davenport, Florida . Uncle Bob was one of the survivor of the attack which sank the U.S.S. Princeton and the last surviving member of his immediate family.

    I’m not sure how many U.S.S. Princeton survivors are still living, and I hate being the deliverer of bad news, but I thought those of you who are still out there would want to know about Uncle Bob.

    It’s important to me that all of you know that I appreciate, thank, and salute each and everyone of you for answering America’s call-to- arms. Thank you for defending our country and our home. I salute all of you.

    Take care and God Bless You All.


    Stephen J. Snyder

  33. gene williams says:

    My uncle Henry Ricketts was killed in that tragedy.

    • Carla White Denham says:

      Henry Thomas Ricketts was my Grandmother Goldie (Ricketts) Postlewait’s brother.

  34. Jim Baker says:

    My father, Barney Baker, survived the sinking of the Princeton. He wrote a letter to his old workmates at Chase Bank while on the ship home. It was published in the Chase newsletter. If anyone wants to read it, I put it up at http://www.aikidonorfolk.com.customers.tigertech.net/Luckey%20Barney/
    There was an episode of “Victory at Sea” on the battle of Leyte Gulf in which I recently discovered a very young Barney strolling through the scene of the aftermath of the sinking. That was quite a surprise.

  35. Yvette Baca says:

    Hello…..I am very interested in finding a list of names of the military men that survived the USS Princeton. My interest is because my Uncle Leonard Pacheco served on her and servived that fateful day. I have been doing some research on my family and I am most interested to find the names of those that passed that day and those that survived. Thank you to those that served and gave their all that day. Your services is greatly appreciated, I come from a long line of service men and women and understand the sacrifice.

    Greatfully ……………….Yvette Baca

    • Larry Moody says:

      My father, William (Bill) Moody was at his battle station, the morning the bomb hit. He was a loader on the 40mm Bofors, port side of the forward elevator. He was 18 years old at the time. He got off on the USS Irwin. He did get the chance to go to some of the reunions before his death in 2003.

  36. Irene Brady says:

    I’m writing to inform the USS Princeton reunion group that my father, Frank J. Loiacono, passed away on September 21, 2011 after a year-long illness. He was 84 and had lived in Florence, New Jersey for 25 years.

    Dad was a USS Princeton Plank Owner, serving from 1945-1946, and very proud of his service to our country. He sometimes spoke of his time in Havana when the Princeton was docked there. He and my mother attended many reunions and said they always had a great time.

    He leaves behind his wife of 61 years, 6 children, 11 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren. We are all very sad at his passing.

    If any of Dad’s shipmates would like to share their memories of him we’d be very grateful.

  37. tim coughlin says:

    My Uncle, Al DeVita served on Princeton and was on board when she sunk. He srved his entire career in the Navy and now lives in Pensacola FL. He is in his 90’s. I hope to visit him again soon.

  38. Steven Pulis says:

    My Grand Father, Ray Bridgeman, served as a Seabee on the USS Princeton during the War and the last conversation I had with him was in ’93, He opening up for the first time and told me this story. He passed in ’94. He was rescued but lost many friends and shipmates that day. All of those who served both past and present need to be thanked for their service to this country.

  39. Gary Gray says:

    This is an incredible account of what happened that day. My great uncle (Gary Andrew Hauser) was killed aboard the Princeton that day. If anyone is still around that remembers him I would very much appreciate hearing from them. May God bless all who served our country during this terrible time.

    Gary Gray
    LTC USA (Ret)

  40. Diane Wilkins says:

    My uncle, George Ragan, served aboard the Princeton (and prior, the Hornet) both lost. He did not talk about the war and is now gone. Is there anyone who remembers him and what his duties were on the Princeton? Just finished “Carrier Down” and it is an amazing story.

  41. Ernie Martinez says:

    My father Ernesto Martinez Jr , known as “ERNIE” served aboard the USS Princeton as a signalman bringing in the Hellcats as they landed on deck. He was only 18 that tragic October day in 1944 when she was sunk and did not talk much about what happened until his later years. He told me how he made it down the anchor chain and once in the water he saw some of his shipmates attacked by sharks. He was picked up by a destroyer and made it home for Christmas that year.He died December 7, 2004 “Pearl Harbor Day” at the age of 79 after a long battle with cancer. If there is anyone out there still alive that might have know him, it would be great to hear from you.


  42. Renee Lewis says:

    Hi, does anyone know how I could learn more about what my Grandpa did in the Navy or how long he served? He like many of the stories I read above would never talk about it to my Mom and especially not to me.

    He survived the USS Princeton, but I have no idea what he did or any information regarding his service.

    Thanks for any help!


  43. tim coughlin says:

    My uncle Alfred DeVita served on this ship. He still lives in Pansacola Florida. He finished his tour on many other carriers. He is an amazing man. We hope to visit him again.

  44. Tom Desorcy says:

    knew a Tim Coughlin, where are you from? Twin Cities area?

    • tim coughlin says:

      No, I live in Lexington MA. My uncle Al DeVita was from my hometown Cambridge MA.

  45. Susan Bartush says:

    My father, James T. Moreland, was the damage control officer on the Princeton. He and the Capt. were the last two off the ship and he was in the water for 6 hours before being rescued. As with The Greatest Generation, he rarely spoke of the Princeton and then only humorous tales of days at sea Is there anyone who is familiar with the evacuation of the ship?


  46. G. E."MAC" MCGOWAN says:

    I was not on the Princeton but on the Reno. I was on the bridge all the time-Signalman 2/c petty officer. I was bridge talker for the Captian and my friend M. E. King was standing by me when he, looking up over the Princeton, said a Jap plane at 12 O’clock over the Princeton and coming down. We loaded our guns-no loaded at the time our planes were coming back in–and we saw the bomb drop and the plane came over our bow low on the water–we threw 5 inch timed shots at it and the last we saw it hit the water. I witnessed the death on the B’ham and our ship was damaged pretty bad as we were caught under the port fantail of the Princeton as we tried to fight the fire. We got bogies coming in and our job was to shoot down planes and protect the carriers. We went around the B’ham and was off the starboard side of the bow when the Princeton exploded. We picked up some of the people and if my memory serves right we had Capt. Hoskins aboard our ship when we nailed it with torpedoes and it went down. It was a terrible sight–we got torpedoed on the night of the battle of Leyte Gulf at midnight. We were lucky–we saved our ship and brought it home. I was one of the ones who had to abandon ship the next day and was picked up by the Caperton. Would love to hear from any of you guys that survived.

    • Don Sargent says:

      Hello Mac. My name is Don Sargent and the son of Clarence David Sargent. My pop served and was on the Princeton when she was hit. His rank was a chief and a radioman while serving on her.
      My dad is still alive @ 93 and just very recently in the final stages of Althzeimers. I only wish that I had found this site a few years ago. He would have loved nothing more than to discuss w/ a fellow sailor those historic days in Americas history. He is like every other sailor, soldier or airman of that time part of the greatest generation that this country has ever seen, and never to be repeated. He is such a proud American and wore his service hats so proudly and still does.
      He didn’t talk much about those days, but wouldn’t think about leaving the house without his Princenton Hat. Like a proud peacock strutting his life story. There was magic in that hat and rightfully so.
      My mother and father are still together in a Nursing Home and married 67 years. He fathered four children 3 boys and 1 daughter. I am the second oldest son and have his uniforms from the days. My intention is to have them join him in the end. I was actually just tonight discussing w/ my sister the thought of holding on to them for myself. Would you consider that selfish of me to do so. If that is my final choice, they will most definately be shown proudly the day of his viewing. He is a tough SOB and the finest of men, true to God and his country. It’s taken 6 years since his diagnosis to get him to buckle at the knees. I truly believe his war days and his also being on the Hornet when sunk made him the God loving, fair and reasonable man that he is. I could go on and on about them, and how they met while he was @ the Philly Navy Yard and fell in love. Him from Massachussets and my mom from Philly, and still together. We had my folks sit down a few years ago and tell their entire story and taped it. We all knew the history, but now we all have copies to cherish.
      Well enough of that.
      Anyone out there who may remember my pop or have anything to share, please do. I would love to incorporate anything on his final farewell.
      Thanks, for taking the time to read.

      • Leslie H says:

        My Grandfather, Neil Wirick, served on the USS Princeton CVL 23. He is still living and does not remember Clarence Sargent as he is younger than your father, about six-seven years younger but like your father he wears his USS Princeton hat proudly and never goes out without it on. He is dying from bone cancer and we hope to have all his memories preserved as well. It made me smile to read your story.

  47. G. E. "MAC" MCGOWAN says:

    I was not on the Princeton but was on the Reno who was also assisting with the damage control. we got hung under the fantail and lost one of our gun mounts and our radar spotted jap planes coming in and our job was to stop themB’ham and Reno got three of them and then the explosion. It was something I would not want to see ever again. Bodies on the B’ham stacked like cord wood. Our medics went to them to do what they could. Our Reno had to finish the Princeton. We rejoined the fleet and a torpedo got us at midnight on the 3rd after we worked the Battle of Leyte Gulf. We were hit at midnight and some of us abandoned ship the next day my e-mail is 08mac25@knology.net if anyone wishes to correspond.; I live in Columbus Ga. age 87 Mac

  48. Kelly says:

    My father -n- law Kenneth Garrett was on the Princeton when she was sunk. My husband had asked me to look up info on the Princeton. I do not know what is rank or battle station was. He passed away in ’96. I never met him. We would like more information if anyone new him. My email is kellyanngarrett@hotmail.com

  49. Rob Mitchell says:

    My step father Virgil “Bill” Wittler was on the Princeton when it sank, Bill passed away on Nov. 1, 2012 at 86 yrs old. I don’t know where he was at the time of the attack but would like to find more about it. It took alot to get him to talk about that day and I never pressed the questions. If anyone knew him please let me know. I can be reached at rmitch2174@gmail.com



  50. Patrick Robert Easter says:

    Hi Harry,

    My dad served aboard the Birmingham. AM1 Daren Easter. He passed of a stroke, come this April, six years ago, now. His mother told me she just never understood what happened to him in the Navy, and he never told me much, except when I showed up at breakfast wearing Vitalis hair groom. He told me a bit about the stench from that kamikaze’s damage, the mixture of burning flesh from the sick bay, and the stuff in the ship’s store, at least enough to keep me from using that groom again!

    Can you give me any information about him and his time on board? Looking back, I don’t know what it was he lost there, but it cost me a whole lot of a Dad I really loved.

    Thanks, and I hope you’re doing real well.

  51. Henry Leis says:

    My Uncle, Chester Lewis , served in Birmingham from 1943, until 24 October 1944. He was one of the sailors who was sent over onto Princeton to fight the fires. He was resting on the deck as Birmingham re positioned close to Princeton when she blew up. He was thrown across the deck, and was almost cut in tow. A severe shrapnel wound to his right side,just below his rig cage. He was given up for dead. A friend , seaman Stanley , found my uncle, shoved a pillow into the wound and saved his life…. My uncle will be 87 this July , my father ,his brother, was in the Marines, and wounded at Kwajellene, he passed in. 2010, god bless them all, truly American heroes H.G.Lewis. 2013

  52. Kevin Folkman says:

    I had a very distant relative, Leon J. Folkman, who was serving as a Storekeeper 3C on board the Birmingham that day. Unfortunately, he died in the explosion, and apparently was buried at sea. He had married only the previous December, but did not leave any children, and his wife remarried. He has no direct descendants, but I’ve been fascinated with learning about his service since finding his name on the wall at the American Memorial Cemetery in Manila this summer as MIA.

    Apparently, with more survivors aboard the Princeton than the Birmingham, it has been hard to find more information. What I have learned here and at some other sites on the web is both fascinating, and also horrifying. The pictures showing the shrapnel damage to the Birmingham are particularly frightening.

    If anyone who had relatives that served on the Birmingham, and have any letters, journals, or pictures that say anything about my relative, I would love to get copies. I’m glad to learn that at this late date, there are still some survivors from both the Birmingham and Princeton out there. This all reminds me of my wife’s father, who is 90 years old, and flew B-25 bombers over Italy during the war. What a great man he is, and what a great father he has been to his family.

  53. Leslie H says:

    My Grandfather, Neil W. Wirick served on the USS Princeton C.V.L 23. He tells a riveting story about what happened at 10:00 am right before the dive bomber hit that saved his life. He was about to go to the hanger deck to check on his plane when he an experience which stopped him from going on deck. He is still living and I should ask him more about those he worked with and how they were rescued as he states they were swimming in the water for quite a bit before they were rescued.

  54. Jim Baker says:

    Ask him if he remembers Barney Baker from Brooklyn who worked as a clerk on-board. Worked at Chase Manhattan Bank in civilian life. He also bobbed around the ocean for a long time before being picked up.

  55. Diane W says:

    I hope you will talk with your Grandfather. My Uncle George Ragan died before I had even heard of the Princeton. He was an office worker so I doubt that your Grandfather would have known him – unless he didn’t get paid !
    Thanks for posting

  56. Diane P says:

    Just now found this site. My Father, Varon Robert Kindt was on the
    Princeton. He of course made it off, as four children were born after the war. I didn’t have any conversations with him about the ship, so any information you could reply with would be appreciated.
    He passed away in November, 1996.
    Thank you all

  57. Tim Coughlin says:

    My uncle Al DeVita died in Pensacola last September. We visited him in August last year and loved the Naval Air Museum at Pensacola.
    He swam in the Pacific after the Princeton was sunk. My favorite relative. A GREAT man.

  58. John Brown says:

    My uncle David Cardoza MM3C fist born to my Grand Parents worked down in the lower decks of Engineering on 10-24-1944. He was among other seamen that were never found and was officially missing from the battle at Leyte. My family say he was kind and a dedicated-loyal American like his Father who fought in the Spanish American War and WWI. It was the first family tradition to hit home. His brothers followed his lead proudly and fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

  59. John Matheson Jr. says:

    My dad, John Matheson, was a CPO 1st Machinist Mate aboard the Princeton on that day in Leyte Gulf. He was on her from the beginning shake-down cruise; boarded her in Philadelphia. He died May of 2001 at 82 in good health but unable to make a comeback from an auto crash. He is my hero. He retired in ’58 and worked 22 years for Pratt&Whitney. He worked in the hanger deck on the hellcats, SBDs, etc. He never talked much about that day or any of his service time. I did hear him say he never wanted to go to sea again. He told me he was in the officers mess at around 4 am that morning where the bomb passed through and exploded later that morning. (I understand it went off in the bakery). I don’t know where he was located at the moment of the blast, but he told me a piece of wet laundry saved his life as he made his way to the flight deck using it as a filter from the smoke. Once topside, the aircrew personnel were ordered to abandon ship. Guys were throwing empty ammo cans, anything that would float, overboard to retrieve for flotation once they hit the water. Shoes were lined up at the edge of the deck. He spent seven hours in the sea by himself, mostly, and could hear guys getting attacked by the sharks. They were mostly in groups so I guess he figured he was better off alone; smaller target. He was picked up by the Morrison and I still have the Mae West he wore that day. I also have his uniforms, belts, and hats, a shore patrol billy club and a service knife. Though he never talked much he was very proud of his service and deservedly so. He knew the P&W radials like the back of his hand. He attended a good many reunions and was a member of the local Fleet Reserve in Columbia, S.C. Now as i have begun to do more research on the Mighty \P\, I see all those men on the Princeton and Birmingham as my heroes. What a great generation who gave us the America we are having to now defend from forces within. Sad and maddening. I know it’s a long shot, but anyone out there who knew anything about my dad, please feel free to contact me: http://www.piratefamily7@hotmail.com

  60. Sharon eregud Vincent says:

    My Uncle Harry Peregud was among those LOST AT SEA, October 24, 1944.

  61. Sharon eregud Vincent says:

    Sorry,.Peregud is my maiden name.

  62. Sharon Peregud Vincent says:

    Hello~ If anyone has any information on Harry Peregud S-2-C who was LOST AT SEA on October 24, 1944 and was 18 years old, please email me

    Thank You,.

    Sharon Peregud Vincent

  63. Marla Roche says:

    My grandfather, Arthur Afdahl, was aboard the USS Birmingham on that fateful day in October 1944. He is about to turn 100 years old in July of this year. Despite profound hearing loss in one ear, he is still sharp as a tack mentally. Ironically, he is a resident in one of the nursing care units at the VAMC that I work as a Clinical Social Worker. I sat down with him recently and got a fairly good account of his experience on that day, though some of it has left his memory. He does remember pulling up alongside the USS Princeton to render aid, after it was struck the first time. While on the ship, Art had an ear infection that worsened and subsequently turned into a fungal infection and required hospitalization. At present, he is 10% service connected for 7th cranial nerve damage. One of the most vivid memories he has was a good friend of his getting severely injured and his leg getting severed in the groin area. He could not remember his name but described in detail the incident, how he himself was injured but helped render aid to several that were more seriously injured, and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness he felt seeing so many hurt or killed that day.

    I am hoping to find anyone who has any information or knowledge of Arthur (Art). His MOS was Electrician. I have several pictures, as his wife and daughter put together a wonderful scapbook.

  64. Susan Bruno says:

    My father, Henry Bruno, served aboard the USS Reno. I remember the stories he told about the day the Princeton was attacked. Every October 24th he would fly the American Flag in memory and honor of the men who lost their lives that day.

  65. Wanda Graham-Twellman says:

    My father, Robert Louis Graham was on the Princeton CVL-23 when she was sunk. The first I ever knew about it was one night when I was a small child and I woke up hearing my father screaming into the night. My older sister told me that he had been on a ship that sunk. Over the years, piece by piece, I finally managed to get the story together. But never anything from Daddy. He refused to talk about his time in the Navy. Period. Exclamation Point!!

    He died August 9, 2012. Up until just a couple of days before he died, he was still having those nightmares and waking every body in his wing up. He didn’t know where he was, who my sister and/or I were, who he was but he was still waking up in the middle of the night screaming.

    I have just contacted the Military Records Center in St. Louis asking for his military records. I’m anxiously waiting for them. There is so much about his life before our Mother that we know nothing about. Hopefully his records will give us some more information.

  66. Lisa Vissering Hovde says:

    My Dad, Victor M. Vissering was on the USS Irwin when the Princeton was hit. When you would ask about the war and the Princeton, he would say the seas were a little heavy and there was fire and oil every where but you did what had to be done. It wasn’t until we started to read Carrier Down that we got a good understanding of how horrific it was.

    He was a little understated.

  67. Joe says:

    I just found this site today. Thanks to everyone that has come here to tell their stories. I envy the ones of you that still have a living relative that can tell the story. I hope you’ll write down their stories and post them here or where others can find them!

    I recently learned that a distant cousin David M Rigdon Jr was on the Princeton when she was hit and sunk. The military says that he died at Ft McKinley in Manila on NOVEMBER 24th and is buried in the Manila cemetery. But I’ve looked and he isn’t. Today I found an official record that still says that he is \Missing\. Why would the military list him as dying in November when he was killed on Oct 24th and why would they say that he is buried in Manila cemetery? And why tell everyone that he’s dead but list him as missing?

    David had just joined the Princeton in January straight from boot camp and was only 17 years old when he was killed.

    Does anyone else have a relative that died on the Princeton but that is listed as dying in Manila in November????

    I haven’t read the book yet but it’s on the top of my to-do list!

  68. Tami S. says:

    In response to Diane p.(my sister). I just found this site too. Our father’s name was Varon Robert Kindt. He was a cook aboard the Princeton. He talked of his horrific experience a few times (when I asked). He was 29 years old at the time of the attack. He was badly burned on his upper back. He jumped off the fan tail of the ship and the salt water was added pain on the burns. He tread water for 6 hours until small rescue boats arrived. He talked of the agonizing screams he heard from shipmates in the surrounding waters, as they succumbed to shark attacks and their injuries. He received the purple heart and was very proud of it. Our father Varon Robert Kindt was a very brave man as were all the rest of the men who were involved in the catastrophe of that day. May the memory of the sacrifices made never be forgotten. Thank You

  69. Tami S. says:

    Varon Robert Kindt passed away Nov. 8th 1995. He is very much loved and greatly missed.

  70. […] 108 men died on the Princeton but casualties were ben heavier on the Birmingham, 233 dead and 426 wounded. Read the whole account at History Net […]

  71. Mary Collins Bacon says:

    My father, H M \Stokey\ Collins, Jr served on the USS Birmingham. He was young ( I recall my grandmother telling me he was only 17) when he went to serve his country. He died 21 years ago of lung cancer. He has four children and we know very little of what took place as he did not discuss this time in his life.

  72. Francis Busa says:

    Hello Everyone,
    My dad, Hugo Busa, who was wounded aboard Birmingham while preparing to go aboard Princeton to fight fires, passed away 27 November, 2013 from a long battle with Parkinsons. To all who had relatives involved with this tragic and heroic operation, God bless you and yours. May all who served, both in WW II and after know of our deepest gratitude for all their sacrifices.

  73. Bill Schneider says:

    Bernard Moon (17 or 18 years old) was KIA on the USS Princeton during Leyte Gulf…would appreciate some information about personnel lists, etc.

  74. Francis Busa says:

    Your cousin’s name, Robert P. Carl, seaman first class, appears about ten spaces below my dad’s name, Hugo Busa, in the list of Purple Heart recipients in the ship’s book which was written by Birmingham’s officers and men right after the war. This book can be obtained on CD on line.
    Go on Amazon and look for USS Birmingham CL 62 WWII Cruise Book Great Naval Images.
    Good luck.

  75. Aaron Trail says:

    My grandfather was on the Princeton during her full campaign my grandfather is still alive. I’m proud to say that I’ve had the privilege of talking to a true hero and a piece of American history. He was wounded in two different places in he’s body we have a hard time getting him thru airport security because the metal in he’s body still goes of in the metal detector. He’s name is curly Bunfill and he will be 102 on Mother’s Day of this year !! If any of you would like to speak with him call me at
    (602) 448 1858 he would love to talk to anyone who is interested ore knew sombody who was on the Princeton

  76. Jena Raska says:

    My grandfather, Wayne Gould was on the USS Birmingham. He passed away Dec. Of 2009. He was and always will be my hero. he didn’t like to speak about this very often. I grew up with him always telling me that he was living on borrowed time. I never understood what that meant tell I was i was older.

  77. Steve Robertson says:

    My Dad, SKC Harry Robertson Jr, served onboard USS Birmingham and was present the day the Princeton was lost. He, like so many others, didn’t talk much about that day, but fortunately he did start to open up when I was 16 and developed a big interest in the war (still do to this day). I recently found some pics of him and would love to know if there is anyone around who might have known him? I know this is a long shot, he passed in 2004 but I figure it’s worth a shot!

  78. Don Simkovich says:

    My mother’s father, Donald McCormick, was on the USS Birmingham and was killed. I’ve seen the ship’s book, stored at my dad’s house, but I never knew the full story — nor did I appreciate the anguish and extent of battles the Birmingham fought. The details provided here are amazing.

  79. Robin says:

    Is your dad still alive?

  80. Denise Trowsdale says:

    My uncle Michael Byrne (born Bunclody, County Wexford, Ireland) was chief cook on the Princeton and was one who did not survive. He received a purple heart.
    I would like to know who to contact regarding when he enlisted. Apparently he enlisted in California.
    Any help would be so welcome

  81. Joe says:


    Your best bet to to write and get a copy of his military records. Instructions are easily found on the internet.

    Ancestry.com has some military records with limited data but they frequently list the enlistment date and location and branch of service. The good news is that they will give you a free limited time membership for free! You may also find that someone else on Ancestry has already documented him so you work may already be done for you.

  82. jena says:

    To Steve … or anyone else interested. I have a pic of the few men from the USS Birmingham that survived the attack. If interested I can email it to you. My email is jenaraska@yahoo.com
    I would love to know who some of the guys names that are in the pic with my grandfather, Wayne Gould.

  83. Mindi Weikert-Kauffman says:

    I just found this site today! I have been looking through my dads things recently. My Father, William A. Weikert, Jr., died at a young age in 1986. Massive heart attack while sleeping. I was lucky enough to be born 13 and 16 years after my brother and sister. The really neat thing was that in the 70’s, my parents were contacted and there was to be a Navy Reunion for those who served on the USS Birmingham. There was always a large reunion in summer and a smaller “regional” reunion in the winter months. Because my parents were “older” parents, I was the only kid in attendance….rather than be bored, I absolutely loved to sit and listen to these stories told first hand. My dad often talked with me about the war….he was just 17 when his parents signed him in. I was fortunate to be given a lot of photos from his service and the reunions. My dad shot the 2nd and 3rd guns on deck….Interestingly enough, I found some of those deck photos online (of course they didn’t carry cameras as much as we do today, so old photos are limited). The most awesome reunion we attended was in Birmingham, AL. Boy, did that town roll out the red carpet for the boys of the Mighty B! The ship’s bell, silver punchbowl, and replica were at city hall. There were reporters capturing the accounts from these heros. The greatest generation, they were! I think I enjoyed hearing the stories of them in various ports as much as the war stories. I truly have my dad’s sense of humor…lol. All I can say is they loved Australia!
    I see on another site that you can register your relative for the “roster” and I will do that soon.
    Forgive me as I’ve had a concussion from a car accident recently and recall of names is till pretty rough….I do remember these last names: Perkins, Ducar, Grimes, Marocchi (sp?), Montis, and Walker. If there isn’t a facebook group started, we should start one. I would love to know if any of these men are still alive. My dad was a young “60” when he passed over 20 years ago. I remember him complaining about his dr. wanting him to modify his diet, etc to get his blood pressure under control. My dad said “I told him, when you survive what I did as a kid and ate what we had to, I promised myself if I lived through it, when I got out, I would eat what I want when I want!’
    Ironically, my dad died 9 mos after my wedding. There were many Navy “uncles” in attendance. My dad had a blast….he had a mini reunion the week of my wedding. I sent all the extra food and beer to the hospitality suite for them…..bride and groom exhausted crashed after such a big day. The next day, we were checking out….I asked what all the ruckus was all night in the hotel…..The clerks laughed and said it was my dad and the “Navy Gang!.” Funny!

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