Sailor Charged in Fire That Destroyed USS Bonhomme Richard

August 2, 2021Matt White
Bonhomme Richard sailor charged

The USS Bonhomme Richard burns in San Diego in July 2020. A member of the crew was formally charged in December 2021 with starting the fire on the warship. US Navy photo.

The Navy formally charged a sailor with setting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship that served as a landing pad at sea for helicopters and Harrier jets and that was scheduled to carry F-35s. The Wasp-class ship is estimated to have cost $750 million to build and was undergoing a $250 million upgrade when the fire broke out.

In April the ship was permanently decommissioned from the fleet, after the Navy determined that it would cost over $2 billion to repair.

The identity of the accused sailor has not been released. The fire on the Bonhomme Richard raged for four days across its 14 decks, fed, the Navy said, by flammable material onboard and strong winds, leaving fire crews sometimes helpless.

“I’m not going to lie — I was scared,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Hayley Craig told The Washington Post in September. “I think everybody was. You couldn’t really see nothing. It was incredibly hot. I didn’t know your body could take that much heat.”

Sailors and Marines conduct vertical replenishment operations on the flight deck aboard forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard in 2016 with the cruiser USS Shiloh. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeanette Mullinax.

The charged sailor was a member of the Bonhomme Richard’s crew. The announcement means that the sailor could now face a court-martial. Under UCMJ rules, the charges will be heard at a formal hearing, after which an official will recommend to Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, commander of the 3rd Fleet, whether or not a court-martial is in order.

With its exit from active duty, the Bonhomme Richard became just the fourth ship the Navy has been forced to retire from the fleet due to damage since 2000, and the second lost to an intentionally set fire. The Miami, a fast attack submarine, was scrapped after it burned at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine in 2012 when a shipyard worker set a fire in an effort to get off work.

The other ships lost since 2000 were both to groundings, according to the US Naval Institute. The La Moure County, a tank landing ship, ran aground in Chile in 2000. The Guardian, ​​a mine countermeasures ship, ran aground in 2013, on the Tubbataha reef system near the Philippines, and was disassembled in place.

The Bonhomme Richard was named for John Paul Jones’ flagship during the American Revolution. Jones’ ship was named by its French builders — it translates roughly as “Good Man Richard” — in honor of then-US ambassador to France Benjamin Franklin, who often wrote under the pen name Richard.

Read Next: Navy Graduates First Female Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman

Matt White
Matt White

Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military Moves To Cut Suicides, But Defers Action on Guns

In a memo released Thursday, Austin called for the establishment of a suicide prevention working gro...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
us military drills japan-south korea
US, Partners Stage Military Drills Amid Japan-South Korea Talks

The Sea Dragon 23 exercises that started on Wednesday will culminate in more than 270 hours of in-fl...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
leo jenkins a word like god
‘A Word Like God’: New Book From Army Ranger Leo Jenkins

In his latest poetry collection, Ranger-turned-writer Leo Jenkins turns away from war to explore cosmic themes of faith, fatherhood, and art.

March 16, 2023Mac Caltrider
us drone
Pentagon Video Shows Russian Jet Dumping Fuel on US Drone

The Pentagon on Thursday released video of what it said was a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a ...

March 16, 2023Associated Press
10th Mountain Division
‘Climb to Glory’ — A History of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division

From the mountains of Italy to the mountains of Afghanistan, the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division built its legendary reputation by fighting in some of the most inhospitable places in the world.

March 16, 2023Matt Fratus
iraq invasion 20 years later
Why US Troops Remain in Iraq 20 Years After 'Shock and Awe'

The roughly 2,500 U.S. troops are scattered around the country, largely in military installations in Baghdad and in the north.

March 15, 2023Associated Press
Ohio train derailment
First Responders
BRCC Donates Coffee to Towns Ravaged by Train Wreck and Historic Storms

Americans living in East Palestine, Ohio, and central Oklahoma are recovering from February disaster...

March 15, 2023Jenna Biter
Coffee Or Die Photo
DOD Official Says Sub Agreement Will Help Guarantee Free, Open Indo-Pacific

Mara E. Karlin, performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said the agree...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved