Dragon 1/350 USS Princeton (CVL-23)
KIT #: 1055
PRICE: $175.00 SRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Smart kit


The USS Princeton was an Independence class light carrier that was lost at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

On 20 October, landings were made at Dulag and San Pedro Bay, Leyte. Princeton, in Task Group 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, the task group was found by enemy planes from Clark and Nichols fields. Shortly before 10:00 a.m. Princeton was attacked by a lone Yokosuka D4Y 'Judy'. The dive bomber dropped a single bomb, which struck the carrier between the elevators, crashing through the flight deck and hangar before exploding.

A fire broke out as a result of the hit; it quickly spread and caused further explosions. Other vessels then came alongside to provide assistance. USS Irwin (DD-794) approached and attempted to fight the fire in the forward section of the hangar deck. The cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62) also assisted in the fire fighting.

At 15:24 a second and larger explosion shook the Princeton, possibly caused by an explosion of one or more bombs in the magazine. The Birmingham was heavily damaged by the explosion and suffered casualties. Irwin was also damaged, but stayed close and launched boats to rescue survivors from the sea. Irwin rescued 646 crewmen from the Princeton; the ship later received a Navy Unit Commendation award for her actions. Ironically Princeton (as CL-61 Tallahassee) andBirmingham had been planned as consecutively-numbered sister ships.

Efforts to save the carrier continued, but at 16:00 the fires were out of control. The remaining personnel were evacuated and at shortly after 17:06 Irwin commenced firing torpedoes at the burning hulk. However, Irwin abandoned this effort due to torpedo malfunctions and was relieved by USS Reno (CL-96) at 17:46.

Three minutes later an even larger explosion occurred onPrinceton, destroying the entire forward section and sending flames and debris up to 10002000 feet into the air. Princeton sank at approximately 17:50.


Dragon Models has one again provided the ship enthusiast with a superb kit. Totaling over 1300 parts, this is by no means a quick build, however, many of the parts total comes from duplicate sprues for things like guns, rafts, aircraft and other multiple items. I was particularly impressed that the aircraft were segregated by a cardboard wall from the rest of the kit. The major hull pieces and deck were also well protected in a form-fitting clear vacuformed tray to keep them from being loose in the box and damaging other sprues.

Though it very much appears to be a full hull model, complete with base, it also seems like one could leave off the lower hull section and do this one as a waterline. The kit comes with a full complement of weapons and one can do the early shakedown version with the 3 inch guns (that is what they look like to me) or its combat version where those were replaced by what appear to be quad 40mm anti-aircraft guns.

The kit has three very nicely done photo etch frets that include radar antennas, railings, catch nets, seats and sights for the AA guns, and many other small detail parts. No need for aftermarket for this one. You also get six each aircraft for the air wing, including SBDs, TBDs and F6Fs. The Avengers and Hellcats come with three aircraft that have folded wings and three that have them extended. Even the simplest aircraft has 13 parts with the most complex at 20, so this does add to the parts count. The kit includes hangar deck detail as well and you can pose the elevators either raised or lowered. There are three excellently done photo etch frets and a sheet of flags.

Here is a full list of features:

- Newly tooled platform on side of CVL-23
- Photo-etched railings below island are newly produced
- Waterline or full-hull version can be assembled
- Delicate funnel w/great details
- Intricate bridge w/finest detail
- Extra-thin shield wall reproduced for accurate 1/350 scale appearance
- Delicate bilge keels are represented on lower hull by slide-mold technology
- One-piece slide-molded upper hull w/undercut details realistically presented
- Slide-molded upper and lower hull accurately produced
- Hanger bay walls w/great detail
- Hangar interior w/fine frames
- Flight deck elevators can be posed in either raised or lowered position
- True-to-scale ultra-thin propellers
- Rudder can be easily assembled
- Finest tread pattern on flight deck of CVL-23
- Finest tread patterns on CVL-23 flight deck elevators
- Accurately shaped flight deck side w/slide-mold technology
- 10 realistic 1/350 scale aviators and 8 realistic groundcrew
- 4 delicate tractor tugs included
- 2 delicate 1/4-ton 4x4 trucks included
- 6 TBF and 6 F6F are conveniently constructed in transparent plastic
- Wings of TBF and F6F can be folded
- Detailed island is finely produced via slide-mold technology
- Delicate tower structure is accurately produced
- Realistic radars on tower structure
- Radars on flight deck side are truly reproduced
- Slide-molded crane boom w/details
- Slide-molded radar array reproduced
- Delicate paravane is realistically produced
- Rectangular life rafts look authentic
- Delicate whaleboat w/fine detail
- Photo-etched safety net
- Antenna on deck side has option of being folded
- Twin 40mm Mk4 guns reproduced w/delicate detail
- Finely detailed quadruple 40mm Mk4 mount
- Finely represented Mk51 gun director

The kit can be built in one of two camouflage schemes. One is the initial 1943 Measure 21 scheme that is basically an Ocean Grey for the side stuff and Deck Blue when looking down on the ship. The flight deck is stained a color the Dragon thinks should be Medium Sea Grey. The other option is from 1944 when she was sunk. This is a Measure 33/7A which is a dazzle scheme for the sides of the ship.

Decals are for the deck as well as for the embarked planes. The markings include the mid-1943 red surround insignia and the shark mouths for the F6Fs.

Speaking of instructions, those are superbly done with 10 major construction steps, most of which are made up of smaller sub-assembly steps. This includes the aircraft markings and assembly as well as the painting of the figures. The kit provides 18 deck figures in styrene as well as six vehicles (two trucks and four tow tractors) to add a bit of additional life to your ship.


This is the second light carrier done by Dragon and I see no reason why the rest of them will not eventually be included in their catalogue. It is a fine size for those who want an aircraft carrier in their collection, but do not have the room for the bigger Essex class ships.



April 2012

Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. Get this one at your local shop.

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