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USS Bonhomme Richard formally decommissioned

The USS Bonhomme Richard was formally decommissioned Wednesday. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy
The USS Bonhomme Richard was formally decommissioned Wednesday. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

April 15 (UPI) -- The fire-damaged USS Bonhomme Richard was formally decommissioned in a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego on Wednesday.

Wednesday's ceremony highlighted the history of the ship, the Navy said in a press release.

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It was the third to bear the name Bonhomme Richard, which is a rough French translation of "Good man Richard," and is derived from Benjamin Franklin's pen name.

The ship's history includes deployments to East Timor in 2000 for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations as well as offloading Marines and their equipment into Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Navy.

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"[The original Bonhomme Richard] Sailors gave their all to prevail against seemingly impossible odds, and they won," Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, said in a Navy press release. "They taught us that you don't always save the ship, but you never stop fighting. The reputation of that fighting spirit began to proceed our Navy wherever we sailed and that same spirit persists today."

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship was commissioned in 1998 with an expected service life for 40 years, but was badly damaged in a July 2020 fire that burned for nearly five days.

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In November the Navy announced that the vessel was beyond affordable repair and would be decommissioned.

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Contractors began removing the ship's island in February.

Before the ship was decommissioned, most of its crew was transferred to new commands across the fleet, leaving a minimal-crew aboard for the decommissioning ceremony.

"As BHR sailors disperse throughout the fleet, take the teamwork, spirit, and unity to your next command," Capt. Gregory S. Thoroman, Bonhomme Richard's commanding officer, said. "For this crew and what we experienced together is the embodiment of our core values of honor, courage, and commitment.

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More than 400 Bonhomme Richard sailors assisted federal firefighters in fighting last summer's fire, which sent 63 people, including 40 sailors and 23 civilians, to the hospital for smoke inhalation and blanketed nearby communities with smoke containing toxic chemicals.

According to the Navy, the ship will now be towed to International Shipbreaking Limited, LLC's facility in Brownsville, Texas for dismantlement.

In November Navy officials estimated it will cost about $30 million and take about a year to harvest the parts and scrap the ship's hull.

Restoring the ship would have cost between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion and would have taken five to seven years, officials said.

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USNI News reported that there are four ongoing investigations into the fire: a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) criminal investigation, including the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; a command investigation led by Vice Adm. Scott Conn, the commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet; a Naval Sea Systems Command failure review board examining structural and design issues; and a NAVSEA safety investigation board to examine how the events that took place on the ship before the fire compare to existing policies and procedures.

In August defense officials told reporters that arson was suspected as the cause of the fire and that federal agents were questioning a sailor who was aboard the ship when it started, but no arrest has been announced.

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