USS Princeton WWII Letter December 23, 1943

This letter was written by a sailor, who served aboard the USS Princeton. All letters were censored during the war, so this sailor mailed this letter while on shore. He did the same thing after the Princeton was sunk, the next year. From the letter…..

   Well honey, it has been a long time since I wrote you a “good” letter hasn’t it? It was because of the censor that I didn’t. The guy that censors my letters is my division officer you understand I am sure. Many the time I longed to tell you how much I loved you and how well I would like to be with you.
   I imagine you are wondering where all I have been and what I have done, but you must keep it deathly quiet as I will be behind bars in a Naval Prison. I left Philly July the 21st and went to Pearl Harbor. From there we went South West of Pearl 1200 miles to a little Island called Baker Island (Holland Group) where we protected Army engineers while they built a landing field, our planes got 4 Japanese long range bombers while we were there. We went back to Pearl, and then down to Esparito Santos, (New Hebredes Islands). We separated out of their with another carrier. Our first mission from there was Ruka (Northern tip of Bougainville) We destroyed their airfield. We went from their directly to Rabaul. We lost heavy there, but they lost heavier. We lost 7 planes and crews, and they lost 10 zeroes, 1 heavy cruiser, and 1 tanker to our credit. The other carrier got about the same. We got quite a name in the Navy for that operation, as we were certainly asking for trouble. All this time we were between Bougainville and Rabaul, with Jap controlled waters in front of us, in other words we had them on 3 sides of us. That left only one way out and that was the way we came. We had one plane after us once, but our destroyers drove it off. Baby, I am not ashamed to admit it I was plenty nervous while we were in there. I think everyone was. Naturally wee were in on this last attack on  Tarawa. We had a torpedo thrower at us there, but our little ship is fast and managed to dodge it. We attacked  Tarawa during the Baker operation. There  wasn’t a hell of a lot there. We got 11 bombers, but their shore installations wasn’t much at the time. All in all, we have 23 planes and 1 cruiser, and one tanker for our 4 months operations. Not bad huh? I have crossed the equator 40 times, and the international date line 4 times. That made my thanksgiving the day before yours, but yet it was the same date, screwy isn’t it?
   Honey you probably remember how anxious I was to get out there in it when I was in Chicago. I lost a lot of that after I seen what it was like. It’s true, I have no part in the actual battle, but I have seen what happens, and believe me it’s bad. My work all pertains to assembling bombs and preparing them before they are put on planes. It is pretty ticklish as it is handling high explosives. One slip and the whole ship might go up in one big boom. My work is all 5 decks below topside, and 2 decks below the water line, so I will never see much action there. I remember one plane came in from Rabaul. I will never forget it. It had practically been shot to pieces. It had over 300 holes in it. Both tires flat, and it’s landing flaps had been shot off. The pilot’s legs were full of shrapnel and his face cut up from the flying glass of his windshield. I heard he was gong to try to land so I went topside to see it. He brought tit in at better than 100 miles and hour and set her down on the flight deck which is quite a stunt itself. Just to explain, the ship was traveling about 30 miles and hour, he had about 300 feet of flight deck 15 feet wide to set his plane down which was traveling better than 100 miles per hour and on flat tires. Such as that make my part in this damn war seem awful small. But I guess someone has to do it. Whoever said “war is hell” certainly knew what they were talking about.
   I would have certainly liked to have been with you for Christmas, but it was impossible. Anyway, merry Christmas and I hope you have a good time. I will probably be drunk, for I haven’t anything better to do. If I don’t get to write anymore letters like this before I leave the states again, don’t’ forget I still love you as much as ever even though I can’t say so.

Lots of love,         

Those wanting more detailed information about the USS Princeton may be interested in the following resources:
Carrier Down: The Sinking of the USS Princeton in World War II

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