The U.S. Navy held a decommissioning ceremony for amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego April 14. The ceremony highlighted the history of the ship, its crew, and their legacy. Bonhomme Richard was the third ship to bear the name. It was named in honor of John Paul Jones’ famous frigate, named the French equivalent for “Good man Richard.” This was in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the U.S. Ambassador to France at the time. The name Bonhomme Richard is derived from Franklin’s pen name.
Like the previous five Wasp-class ships, Bonhomme Richard was designed to embark, deploy, and land elements of a Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft, or amphibious vehicles.Throughout its history, Bonhomme Richard projected power and maintained presence by serving as the cornerstone of Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) or Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESG). It transported and landed elements of the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) or Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) with a combination of aircraft and landing craft.
“As BHR [Bonhomme Richard] Sailors disperse throughout the fleet, take the teamwork, spirit, and unity to your next command,” said Capt. Gregory S. Thoroman, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer. For this crew and what we experienced together is the embodiment of our core values of honor, courage, and commitment. The resiliency I saw—man or woman, seaman and up to our highest ranks, united in our common cause and strength to depend on each other—lived up to my motto of train to fight and fight to win. It has been my honor and absolute privilege to serve as your commanding officer.”
Not long after commissioning, the ship was called to action for Operation Stabilize in February 2000, providing peacekeeping and humanitarian operations of the coast of East Timor. This made Bonhomme Richard the first U.S. Navy ship to make a Western Pacific deployment in the 2000s.
Bonhomme Richard’s following deployment put it in the spotlight of Operation Iraqi Freedom. More than 500 of those were combat launches. On April 23, 2012, Bonhomme Richard replaced USS Essex (LHD 2) as the ESG Strike Group 7 command ship and switched homeports from San Diego to Sasebo, Japan. After six years as the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy amphibious operations in the forward-deployed naval forces, Bonhomme Richard returned to San Diego in May 2018 in a homeport change.
On 12 July 2020, a fire started on a lower vehicle storage deck while the ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego. It took four days for firefighters to extinguish the fire, which injured at least 63 sailors and civilians and severely damaged the ship; the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Navy leaders decided to decommission and scrap the ship because repairs were estimated to take up to seven years and cost up to $3.2 billion. Some of the ship’s salvageable parts will be removed and stored for use in other ships. She was decommissioned on 14 April 2021.