BACK TO HISTORY-
After outfitting, the BON HOMME RICHARD CV-31 embarked Carrier Air Group 16 and conducted training exercises in the Chesapeake Bay. After training she proceeded to her primary mission, combat with the enemy, by the way of the Panama Canal, San Diego and Pearl Harbor. On June 4, 1945, BON HOMME RICHARD rendevoused with Fast Carrier Force 38 of the Caroline Islands, and her wartime career began.
As BON HOMME RICHARD was steaming towards her scheduled meeting with the Fast Carrier Striking Force, her mission almost altered.
The unexpected speed of the advance across the Pacific and the many facets of fast carrier activities outdistanced official Navy thinking on the roles and missions of the Fast Carrier Task Force. At the beginning of 1945, Washington -based officers were just starting to absorb the lessions of the recent carrier battles of the Philippine Sea and Cape Engano-Leyte. To these men, distruction of the Japanese fleet was still the paramount objective.
In March, during a visit to Washington, Admiral Halsey was amused to learn that "certain high officials" feared a possible Japanese carrier raid on San Francisco during the United Nations conference there. On 27 March, therefore, Admiral Nimitz appointed Halsey Commander Mid-Pacific Striking Force, "charged with interception and destruction of enemy raiding forces," comprised of carriers BON HOMME RICHARD and RANGER, and all available surface units at Hawaii and West Coast ports.
This might have been a tremendous success, but the Japanese were totally uncooperative- their surface fleet was dead. BON HOMME RICHARD continued on to her primary mission, joining Task Force 38.
During the period of her transit to her rendezvous with Task Force 38 BON HOMME RICHARD was welcomed to the Western Pacific by ideal weather conditions. As the days progressed, the men and aircraft were put through an extensive training and drill cycle. The time to be prepared was now and not when the enemy was close at hand. Flight operations were flown day and night; systems were checked and re-checked; men were drilled, and that fine edge of readiness was brought out.
There was still time for the time honored tradition of swapping sea stories over a cup of coffee and a hot game of acey-deucy in the wardroom. It was a time for briefings and celebration. There wouldn't be much free time in the next few weeks.
The time was June 1945; the place, Ulithi in the Caroline Islands; the mission, destroy the enemy.
BON HOMME RICHARD made her rendezvous with Task Force 38, just as TF38 was completing operations in support of the Okinawa campaign, and in the three remaining days BON HOMME RICHARD flew carrier air patrols and launched day and night strikes against Okino Daito Jima.
With the Task Force the ship proceeded to the new fleet anchorage at Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands, where she remained from June 13 thru June 30. This replenishment and rehabilitation period was interrupted by a four day training cruise during which time the ship conducted independent night flight operations, rejoining the Task Force in the daylight hours.
Day after day and night after night BON HOMME RICHARD's embarked air wing launched and recovered aircraft aimed at the Japanese home islands.
This was no easy task. There was no room for error. If an aircraft came in to high or to low there was no angled deck to bolter from; it meant crashing into the barricade or the aircraft that had already been recovered.
As a member of the Third Fleet, Bonnie Dick and her planes struck enemy installations on Hokkaido, Kyushu, Honshu and Shikiku. One of the interesting elements of this attack was the use of the carrier as an element of surface bombardment.
The attacks were divided into two periods from July 2 to August 15, 1945 and August 16 to September 2, 1945. During the latter interval the planes from the carrier flew no offensive strikes but were put aloft merely as a defensive measure. Negotiations were underway for the Japanese surrender, and all fleet units were ordered to engage only in passive measures. On August 23, 1945, Captain H.F. FICK relieved Captain RULE of command.
From August 31 through September 15, the ship operated off the south and east coasts of Honshu, flying CAP and airfield reconnaissance flights.
As the war was coming to an end, the men of BON HOMME RICHARD had to remain ready. For all intents and purposes the war was over, yet Task Force 38 had to maintain a constant vigil against any Japanese treachery. Admiral Halsey ordered BON HOMME RICHARD to "Area McCain," 100 to 200 miles southeast of Tokyo, where she maintained her normal wartime air patrols.
For over an hour on the 16th and 17th of August the ships of TF38 maneuvered in abnormally tight formations for aerial photographs to be taken of sprawling Fast Carrier Task Force. On the twenty-second and twenty-third the planes massed overhead for photos. On the nineteenth Admiral Ballentine, Commander Task Force 38, hauled down his flag and reported to Guam as Nimitz's liaison officer to General MacArther for the Japanese surrender, officially set for 2 September in Tokyo Bay.
On September 16, 1945, BON HOMME RICHARD entered Tokyo Bay after having been at sea for seventy-eight continuous days. After much needed rest and relaxation the ship proceeded to Apra Harbor, Guam, where she would begin a career as a member of operation "Magic Carpet." With a full load of returning veterans below deck she steamed from Guam on October 5 and headed for the United States.
On October 20, 1945, escorted by planes from the USS YORKTOWN and her own air groups, BON HOMME RICHARD passed under the Golden Gate Bridge after nearly seven months away from home. Her work was not yet done, ten days later she once again headed for the Western Pacific where, in Pearl Harbor, she would be outfitted for troop transport duty. Two cruises and almost 10,000 passengers later, Bonnie Dick was finally finished with her job as she headed fo Puget Sound and "mothballs."