BON HOMME RICHARD, CVA 31, July 11, 1992, The Final Tour
By Robert Cooper, ACSG, written for Aircraft Carrier Study Notes, Sept. 1992
Having been notified of the BON HOMME RICHARD (BHR) public farewell I was in line at 985 South Seaside Avenue, Terminal Island, Long Beach, CA at 9:45 am on July 11, 1992. The people in line with me were ex0-crew members both during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The rumor was passed down the line that Southwest Recycling Inc. paid $501,000 for her. This included the fuel oil it had on board.
At the base of the hangar deck gangway you paid a $10.00 fee, $15.00 if you wanted lunch. Entering the hangar deck my first impression was sadness. The paint of the overhead bulkheads had paint peeling badly. Most of the doors were closed and a few lights were on making it rather dark. There were several piles of items from the ship they wanted to sell including battle lamps, stainless steel sinks, telephones, etc. Also, several piles of old ship's maintenance logs they maintained. This was to buy or show to their family.
One area was roped off for tables and chairs where there were going to serve lunch. The part that interested me most was a couple of tables manned by ex-crew members. One table was selling a BHR poster and two scrapbooks that covered a lot of her history. A second table belonged to a photographer assigned to BHR during the Korean War. He had three good shots for sale but most of his pictures were of crewmen and Miss America visits, etc. They allowed you to ring cameras as for only inside ship pictures, with no flash. All hangar deck doors were closed even in front of the side elevators. One door gave access to the flight deck and bridge via the escalator. This was quite a narrow-width problem with two-way traffic.
The flight deck has been scraped so that the surface was metal and looked terrible. Access to this deck was restricted to the immediate are around the island. The trip up to the bridge was a waste. All equipment was gone or trashed. Again, two-way traffic on the ladders impeded passage.
I talked to almost everyone. Most were there with their families or friends to show them where or what they had done. I noticed a new table where they were selling decommissioning booklets. I brought one for Rudy (our Editor). I left the ship for a while and returned for the 5:00 p.m. memorial service. Steven King, now a past of the Hosanna Christian Church, Bellflower, CA gave the service. He commented on how coming aboard changed the lives of each and every one of the crew. He saluted all who had served aboard. He remembered those who gave their lives. He commented on church service in the forecastle and the chaplains evening messages. He gave a final prayer.
I left at 6:00 p.m. still feeling sad. Several of the ex-crewmen with whom I had talked seemed reluctant to discuss their service on BHR
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