By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Achterling, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs
EAST CHINA SEA – Sailors assigned to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) with Marines of the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), celebrated the 234th anniversary of the ship’s namesake, Feb. 4.
Sailors and Marines honored the anniversary by gathering on the mess decks to share stories of the legacy of the Bonhomme Richard and enjoy a cake prepared by the ship’s culinary specialists.
“The history of this ship’s name goes back to the war that founded our country,” said Capt. Daniel Dusek, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer. “Carrying on the proud traditions of this ship, and her name, is something that all of the crew should take a great deal of pride in.”
The first ship to bear the name Bonhomme Richard was an East Indiaman merchant ship with the name Duc de Duras, given on loan by King Louis XVI of France and placed in service of the Continental Navy where it was renamed under the command of Capt. John Paul Jones during the American Revolutionary War.
While under the command of Jones, Bonhomme Richard battled the HMS Serapis off the coast of Great Britain in the Battle of Flamborough Head Sept. 23, 1779, of which the American’s emerged victorious. During the engagement, Jones responded to the request to surrender with the celebrated phrase, “I have not yet begun to fight!”
“Jones’s phrase symbolizes overcoming obstacles, and that is something that service members do every day,” said Master Chief Fire Controlman (SW/AW) Thomas Ward, Bonhomme Richard’s command historian. “The victory of the original Bonhomme Richard is a true tale of an underdog showing American resilience in the face of adversity, and how Sailors fighting side-by-side with Marines can accomplish any mission they are faced with.”
During today’s celebration, Sailors and Marines were told of actions taken by brothers-in-arms in the late 18th century.
Warships of the Continental Navy carried approximately three times as many Marines as their British counterparts. Marines helped shape the close-quarters combat that was common among the early engagements of the Navy.
“It has always been one team, one fight, in terms of Sailors and Marines working together,” said Gunnery Sgt. Leonel Lora, assigned to the 31st MEU. “The technology has changed over time, but the core goal remains the same.”
The second ship to bear the namesake, USS Bonhomme Richard (CV/CVA 31), earned one battle star for actions during World War II in the Pacific theater of operations, and five battle stars for events during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
The second Bonhomme Richard operated exclusively in the Pacific just as the current Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) now serves as the lead ship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) in the Western Pacific.
Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley and is currently conducting operations in the 7th Fleet area of operations.