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The USS Bon Homme Richard was launched on November 26, 1944 after hundreds of workers at the New York Navy Yard worked for over a year to build this 872-foot ship. In 1944, the Bon Homme Richard set sail on her maiden voyage, conducting training exercises in the Chesapeake Bay.
By 1945, the vessel was ready for battle, traveling through the Panama Canal to San Diego and then Pearl Harbor. From there, she traveled on to the Caroline Islands where the ship became part of the Fast Carrier Force 38. The Bon Homme Richard flew carrier air patrols and led air strikes against Okino Daito Jima.
The entire fleet then moved and anchored at Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands. The USS Bon Homme Richard remained there until June 30, 1945, conducting night flights, training troops and replenishing forces on the Japanese home islands. This ship also participated in operations against Hokkaido, Kyushu, Honshu and Shikiku during the fall of 1945.
Negotiations for Japan's surrender were taking place at this time, so the fleet's missions were mainly passive. In August of this year, Captain H.F. Fick took over leadership of the USS Bon Homme Richard CVA-31. Until the Japanese officially surrendered, Task Force 38, including the USS Bon Homme Richard CVA-31, continued patrolling the Far East's waters.
In late 1945, the Bon Homme Richard became part of the "Magic Carpet" mission, in which ships carried troops from Guam and other Far East posts to the United States. She returned to San Francisco in October 1945 and after a brief trip to Pearl Harbor, returned to Puget Sound and was inactivated.
The USS Bon Homme Richard was inactive as part of the Pacific reserve fleet for over five years. In 1951, she was activated under the command of Captain Cecil B. Gill. After a few months of training and a shakedown cruise and repairs, the ship joined Task Force 77 to aid troops in the Wonsan area during the Korean Conflict. During this time, the Bon Homme Richard was involved in air strikes against North Korea's railroads, bridges, truck convoys, trenches, warehouses and troop barracks. Over 150 offensive and defensive sorties flew from her decks in the East China Sea.
Following another brief inactive period, the USS Bon Homme Richard became one of the select World War II ships to also take part in the Vietnam War. She was reactivated in 1964 and sent to the coast of Vietnam. In 1966, the ship was sent to Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a complete overhaul, which included installation of an air conditioning system and automatic data processing system.
Her landing flight deck was resurfaced in aluminum and after over a year, the USS Bon Homme Richard left the United States again for Vietnam. She was involved in strikes against North Vietnam's Red River Valley and a number of enemy cities, destroying 14 interceptor aircrafts and launching a record 73 strikes against enemies.
In 1968, the ship returned to Yankee Station and joined Task Force 77's support campaigns in both North and South Vietnam. While there, she played a major role with her flights responsible for destroying 750 enemy trucks, 600 logistic crafts, 93 bridges, 31 railroad cars, 40 river crossings and 3 more MIG aircrafts. After routine repairs and upkeep, the ship left on voyages again in 1969 and 1970. The USS Bon Homme Richard CVA-31 was the first carrier to deploy to Vietnam's combat waters six separate times.
The ship was retired and dry docked in San Francisco. She was decommissioned in July of 1971 and later, like most ships from this time period, sold for scrap metal. As an interesting piece of trivia, lead singer of the Doors Jim Morrison's father, RADM (then Captain) George S. Morrison served as Commanding Officer of this ship from November 23, 1963 to November 25, 1964. He spoke at the ship's decommissioning ceremony on July 2, 1971, just hours before his son's death in Paris.