Air Attack off Luzon
In preparation for the invasion of the Philippines Princeton, in TG 38.3, cruised off Luzon and sent her planes against airfields there to prevent Japanese land based aircraft attacks on Allied ships massed in Leyte Gulf. On the 24th however, enemy planes from Clark and Nichols fields found TG 38.3 and reciprocated. Shortly before 1000, a lone enemy dive-bomber came out of the clouds above Princeton. At 1500 feet the pilot released his bomb. It hit between the elevators , crashed through the flight deck and hanger, then exploded. Initial fires soon expanded as further explosions sent black smoke rolling off the flight deck and red flames along the sides from the island to the stern. Covering vessels provided rescue and fire-fighting assistance and shielded the stricken carrier from further attack. At 1524, another, much heavier explosion, possibly the bomb magazine, blew off Princeton's stern and with it the after flight deck. Birmingham (CL-62), alongside t o fight fires, suffered heavy damage and casualties. Efforts to save Princeton continued, but at 1604 the fires won. Boats removed remaining personnel and shortly after 1706, Irwin (DD-794) launched torpedoes at the burning hulk. At 1746, Reno (CL-96) relieved Irwin and at 1749 the last, and biggest, explosion occurred. Flames and debris shot up 1000-2000 feet. Princeton's forward section was gone. Her after section appeared momentarily through the smoke. By 1750 she had disappeared, but 1,361 of her crew survived.