USS Bonhomme Richard Decommissioned After Devastating Fire
The Navy held a ceremony marking the end of the line for the USS Bonhomme Richard, though several questions are still unanswered about July’s catastrophic fire.
The USS Bonhomme Richard burned while docked at Naval Base San Diego for nearly four days, beginning July 12. At times, smoke billowed over the San Diego. By November, the Navy determined that the damage was so extensive that it was not worth the cost of repairing the 22-year-old ship.
During a decommissioning ceremony held Wednesday, Capt. Scott Thoroman recalled the heroism of the crew as they tried to save the burning ship, comparing it to going into battle.
“To the sailors who deliberately went back in, again and again. We did not give up the fight,” he said.
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The Bonhomme Richard was undergoing maintenance in San Diego, when the fire broke out. The Wasp-class ship looks like a miniature aircraft carrier. It is designed to carry more than 1,000 Marines and their equipment. It was being upgraded to handle the new F-35 fighters when the fire broke out.
The Navy has not determined the cause of the fire. The Navy Criminal Investigative Service continues to look at the possibility that the fire may have been intentionally set. Last year, a sailor was taken in for questioning.
In November, Naval investigators estimated it would cost up to $3.2 billion and take seven years to rebuild the ship. Roughly 60% of the ship would have to be replaced. Instead, the ship will be towed to Texas to be cut up for scrap, possibly as early as Thursday, after it is formally decommissioned. Most of the crew has already been sent to other parts of the fleet.
The ship is named after the famous Revolutionary War vessel, commanded by John Paul Jones. The name is a tribute to Benjamin Franklin and his Poor Richard’s Almanac. At the time, Franklin was America’s ambassador to France. This Bonhomme Richard was used to land Marines and supply air cover during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. It also provided humanitarian relief after the tsunami in Japan, among other missions.