The second U.S. Navy ship to honor the famous Revolutionary War battle of 2-3 January 1777 and the birthplace of Capt. Robert F. Stockton.
(CV-37: displacement 33,000 (full load); length 888'0"-; beam 93-; extreme width (flight deck) 147'6"; draft 28'7"; speed 33 knots cpl. 3,448; armament 12 5-inch-, 44 40 millimeter, 59 20 millimeter.; aircraft 80+; class Essex)
Valley Forge (CV-37) was laid down at the Philadelphia [Pa.} Navy Yard on 14 September 1943; renamed Princeton on 21 November 1944; launched on 8 July 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Harold Dodds; and commissioned on 18 November 1945, Capt. John M. Hoskins in command.
Following shakedown off Cuba, Princeton, with Air Group 81 embarked, remained in the Atlantic and operated with the Eighth Fleet until June 1946. Then transferred to the Pacific Fleet, she arrived at San Diego on the 31st, and departed again 3 July to carry the body of the late Philippine President Manuel Quezon back to Luzon for burial.
From Manila ,Princeton joined the Seventh Fleet in the Marianas, becoming flagship of TF 77. During September and October 1946 she operated in Japanese and Chinese waters, then returned to the Marianas where she remained until February 1947. Maneuvers in Hawaiian waters preceded her return to San Diego until 15 March. She cruised the west coast, Hawaiian waters, and the western Pacific (1 October-23 December) during 1948. She then prepared for inactivation and on 20 June was decommissioned and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Reactivated with the outbreak of hostilities in Korea fifteen months later, Princeton was recommissioned on 28 August 1950. Intensive training refreshed her reservist crew and on 5 December she joined TF 77 off the Korean coast, her planes and pilots (Air Group 19) making possible the reinstitution of jet combat air patrols over the battle zone. She launched 248 sorties against targets in the Hagaru area to announce her arrival, and for the next six days continued the pace to support marines fighting their way down the long, cold road from the Chosin Reservoir to Hungnam. By the 11th, all units had reached the staging area on the coast. Princeton-s planes with other Navy, Marine, and Air Force squadrons then covered the evacuation from Hungnam through its completion on the 24th.
Interdiction missions followed and by 4 April Princeton-s planes had rendered 54 rail and 37 highway bridges inoperable and damaged 44 more. In May they flew against the railroad bridges connecting Pyongyang with Sunchon, Sinanju, Kachon, and the transpeninsula line. Next they combined close air support with raids on power sources in the Hwachon Reservoir area and with the stabilization of the front there resumed interdiction. For much of the summer they pounded supply arteries, concentrating on highways, and in August Princeton got underway for the United States, arriving at San Diego on the 21st.
Eight months later, on 30 April 1952, Princeton rejoined TF 77 in the combat zone. For 138 days her planes flew against the enemy. They sank small craft to prevent the recapture of offshore islands; blasted concentrations of supplies, facilites, and equipment behind enemy lines; participated in air-gun strikes on coastal cities; pounded the enemy-s hydroelectric complex at Suiho on the Yalu to turn off power on both sides of that river; destroyed gun positions and supply areas in Pyongyan; and closed mineral processing plants and munitions factories at Sindok, Musan, Aoji, and Najin.
Reclassified CVA-37 (I October 1952), Princeton returned to California 3 November for a two month respite from the western Pacific. In February 1953 she was back off the Korean coast and until the end of the conflict launched planes for close air support, -Cherokee- strikes against supply, artillery, and troop concentrations in enemy territory- and against road traffic. She remained in the area after the truce, 27 July, and on 7 September got underway for San Diego.
In January 1954, Princeton was reclassified CVS-37 and, after conversion at Bremerton, took up antisubmarine/Hunter-Killer (HUK) training operations in the eastern Pacific. For the next five years she alternated HUK exercises off the west coast with similar operations in the western Pacific and, in late 1957-early 1958, in the Indian OceanPersian Gulf area. Reclassified again, 2 March 1959, she emerged from conversion as an amphibious assault carrier, LPH-5. Capable of transporting a battalion landing team and carrying helicopters in place of planes, Princeton's mission became that of vertical envelopment, the landing of Marines behind enemy beach fortifications and providing logistics and medical support as they attack from the rear to seize critical points, cut enemy supplies, sever communications, and link up with assault forces landed on the beaches.
From May until January, 1960, Princeton trained with Marine units from Camp Pendleton, then deployed to WestPac to train in Okinawan waters. For the next three years she followed a similar schedule, gaining experience in her primary mission. Interruptions came in October 1961 when she rescued survivors of merchantmen Pioneer, Muse and Sheik grounded on Daito Shims, and in April 1962 when she delivered Marine Corps advisors and helicopters to Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta area of the Republic of South Vietnam.
In October 1964 Princeton exchanged WestPac training for the real thing as she returned to Viet Nam and joined the Pacific Fleet's Ready Group in operations against North VietNamese and Viet Cong forces. Combat operations, interrupted in November for flood relief work, continued into the new year, 1965, and culminated in May off Chu Lai as she carried out her primary mission, vertical envelopment, for the first time in combat.
Returning to her homeport, Long Beach, after that operation, she transported Marine Air Group 36 to Viet Nam in August, and in February 1966 got underway for another tour in the combat zone. Relieving Okinawa as flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group, she engaged the enemy in operations "Jackstay," 26 March-6 April, to clear the Rung Sat Special Zone of Viet Cong guerillas, and "Osage" 27 April-4 May, to protect Viet-Namese in the Phu Loc area from Viet Cong "harassment."
Search and destroy missions against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army units followed as Princeton provided transportation, medical evacuation, logistics and communication support for the amphibious operation "Deckhouse I," 18-27 June, in the Song Cau district and the Song Cai river valley, then supported 1st Air Cavalry and 101st Airborne units engaged in Nathan Hale to the south of the "Deckhouse I" area. "Deckhouse II" and support for "Hastings" followed as Navy, Marine, and Army units again combined, this time to impede enemy infiltration from the DMZ.
After "Hastings," Princeton sailed for home, arriving 2 September. She deployed again to Viet Nam 30 January-19 June 1967 and again ranged along that long embattled, highly indented coast. In March she assisted in countering an enemy threat to the Marine artillery base at Gio Ling and evacuated wounded from Con Thien mountain. In April she participated in "Beacon Star," in the Khe Sanh area, and supported search and destroy operations in conjunction with "Shawnee." In May her helicopters lifted Marines to the DMZ to block enemy forces withdrawing across the Ben Hai river.
A much needed overhaul followed Princeton-s return to the west coast and in May 1968 she again sailed west to Viet Nam. There, as flagship for Amphibious Ready Group Alpha, she provided amphibious assault carrier services for operations "Fortress Attack" III and IV, "Proud Hunter," "Swift Pursuit," and "Eager Hunter." In December she returned to the United States and in April, 1969 she was designated the prime recovery ship for Apollo 10, the lunar mission which paved the way for Apollo II and the first landing on the moon. Completing that mission successfully, Princeton resumed exercises off the west coast.
Ultimately decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 January 1970, Princeton was sold to Zidell Explorations, Inc., of Portland, Oregon, in September 1972, to be broken up for scrap.
Princeton received eight battle stars for service during the Korean War, and six for her service in the Vietnam War.
Updated, Robert J. Cressman
26 August 2022