This is PRINCETON (CVL-23) in October 1944 as lost at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She is camouflaged in Measure 32/7A. This scheme used a pattern of Light Gray (5-L), Ocean Gray (5-O), Dull Black (BK), and White (5-U) on the vertical surfaces, with Deck Blue (20-B) on the horizontal surfaces. The flight deck was stained with the early formula of #21 Flight Deck Stain, which was almost identical to Ocean Gray when new and unweathered. Flight deck markings are in white. Interestingly, no photos of PRINCETON indicate the presence of the ship's hull number in large numerals on the flight deck.
PRINCETON was lost with only a few wartime modifications from her "as built" appearance. The ship retains its full 20mm Oerlikon fit, with mounts below the overhanging ends of the flight deck fore and aft. Only one catapult has been fitted (late-war mods would add a second catapult, offsetting the additional weight by removing the aforementioned Oerlikon mounts fore and aft). The ship shows the standard radar fit for the CVLs as commissioned: SK air search on a sponsoned mast between the funnels, with a backup SC-2 air search antenna on the tower above the island, and an SG surface search set on a small platform at the masthead. The main top mounts a YE homing beacon. The small cylindrical objects fore and aft of the island structure are high-power reproducers - large loudspeakers to allow flight deck crews to hear commands from the bridge over the roar of aircraft engines. A series of folding antenna masts on the port side of the flight deck carry long radio wire antennas for the TBM, TDE, TBK, and TAQ radios - these would be folded down 45 degrees outboard during flight operations.
Embarked aboard PRINCETON in late 1944 was Air Group 27 (CVLG 27), made up of Fighter Squadron 27 (VF-27) and Torpedo Squadron 27 (VT-27). VF-27 was notable for the "shark mouth" nose art of its F6F Hellcats, a scheme not usually in the US Navy. VF-27's aircraft complement was eighteen F6F-3 and seven F6F-5 Hellcats, while VT-27 was built around nine TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bombers. The aircraft show a mix of the mid-war "tricolor" scheme and the later overall Glossy Sea Blue.
PRINCETON was lost in this configuration at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, when a bomb hit ignited a fire below deck that was unable to be extinguished. With the carrier burning fiercely, several escorting ships came alongside to assist in firefighting, but a secondary explosion several hours later doomed the ship. The light cruiser BIRMINGHAM (CL-62) took heavy casualties to its firefighting crews during the second explosion, losing 233 killed and 426 wounded. Efforts to save the PRINCETON were abandoned shortly thereafter, with the destroyer IRWIN (DD-794) and the cruiser RENO (CL-96) both firing torpedoes into PRINCETON to scuttle the ship. Despite the intensity of the fires aboard PRINCETON, casualties aboard the ship were considered "light", with only 108 killed in action. 1,361 crewmen were rescued by nearby vessels.