Sailor Charged in Arson Fire that Destroyed $1.5 Billion Warship USS Bonhomme Richard

Photo of Firefighters putting out the Bonhomme Richard fire / U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Christina Ross

When the Bonhomme Richard caught fire in port in San Diego last July, it was at the end of two years of expensive upgrades supporting the full integration of the F-35B vertical and short take-off and landing (VSTOL) stealth strike fighters. It was preparing to play a big role in the Navy’s plan to expand its tactical aviation assets in the Pacific.

The comprehensive $250 million overhaul it had just completed would have allowed the Bonhomme Richard to become one of a handful of ships capable of operating the F-35B.

That plan was sunk with the apparently deliberate sabotage by one of its own crew.

On Thursday the Navy said an unnamed sailor has been charged with setting the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard last July that burned for days and led to the scuttling of the ship at an added cost of $30 million. Defense One reported:

A criminal investigation into the blaze revealed enough evidence to bring charges against the sailor, who was a member of the ship’s crew at the time of the fire, according to a U.S. 3rd Fleet statement. 

“Evidence collected during the investigation is sufficient to direct a preliminary hearing in accordance with due process under the military justice system,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a spokesman for U.S. 3rd Fleet, said in the statement.

That hearing, ordered by 3rd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, will lead to recommendations about whether the sailor should stand trial by court martial, Robertson said in the statement. 

The fire aboard the amphibious assault ship started July 12, 2020, while it was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego. It burned for four days before it was finally extinguished. The blaze burned through 11 of the ship’s 14 decks and destroyed its forward mast and superstructure. About 40 sailors and 23 civilians were treated for minor injuries.

This may be one of the worst cases of sabotage in US military history. As American Defense News (ADN) reported last July, Defense News stated:

The loss of Bonhomme Richard, whether a total loss or just lost for extensive repairs, deals a significant blow to the Navy’s plans to have F-35Bs continually deployed in the Pacific. And with Monday’s announcement that the United States had formally rejected China’s claims about the South China Sea, any accompanying boost in naval presence could be slowed by the fire.

ADN also noted that “Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer now at the Hudson Institute said, according to Defense News,  ‘It’s a big problem, considering the F-35B is the … Navy’s only fielded and deployable 5th Generation fighter…We will want those deployed most of the time.’”

ADN continued:

Clark added, “Only half of [our 10 amphibious assault ships] are able to carry F-35B…So the loss of Bonhomme Richard will impact the Navy’s ability to provide Combatant Commanders sea-based F-35s…” Clark was also quoted in the Wall Street Journal explaining another factor – “You are losing one of the few platforms that you could use to fill in for a carrier in the Middle East when our attention is focused on the Pacific.”

Cost of replacing the destroyed warship is estimated at about $4 billion. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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John Kociuba
John Kociuba
1 month ago

San Diego? Arson? Clandestine Communist Operatives heavily penetrated U.S. Military, Education, Banking, Political Offices not seen since Nazi Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.

“Simple Sabotage” by William John Donovan [O.S.S.]

Jim
Jim
1 month ago

That sailor should be punished to the fullest extent, including death. What kind of a fool would do something like that. He or she should at least be put where they will never see the light of day again.

Gene Ralno
Gene Ralno
1 month ago

I wonder if sabotage of an active naval vessel would be considered treason while the nation isn’t engaged in war. If so, this unnamed sailor is in a heap of trouble. Doubtlessly, the U.S. Navy won’t execute anyone during peace time regardless of the charge. Click bait media are far too critical of everything conservative to make it worth the trouble.

KURT Sutinen
KURT Sutinen
1 month ago

The sailor responsible should suffer the same fate as Mel Gibson in Braveheart! Start punishing traitors!!!.

William Bailey
William Bailey
1 month ago

How did the fire start and engulfed four decks without being attacked by seaman at the ignition point? It’s hard to believe it took four days to extinguish, maybe they should investigate the fire fighting techniques and chemicals use. Water from fire boats doesn’t seem to be the most effective methods. What if the ship was out at sea at the time of the fire? Was there fire watches on duty at the time? There are so many questions concerning security aboard the ship. Maybe all ships should have a special automatic fire suppressive systems which would not damage sensitive equipment.

CashGirl
1 month ago
Reply to  William Bailey

Agree, William. And I will be very interested in the reason the sailor committed this devastating crime, and who else and what country may have been complicit, if applicable. Hard to conceive of someone so evil as to dream up such a devious act. 🙁

R W
R W
1 month ago
Reply to  William Bailey

It was under repairs so I’m not sure there would have been a ton of navy personnel present but I don’t know.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  William Bailey

Because the ship was in for repairs, the fire system was turned off.

Ben Matthews
Ben Matthews
1 month ago

So ‘Bon-homie’ ‘dick’ caught fire…maybe, it’s because of all-this CRT-training, that’s going-on in the navy…if BLM & Antifa can burn-down, cities after CRT-training…why can’t sailors set-fire to ships❓That ‘4-star dick-head’ in-charge of the Joint Chiefs, should take a good, long 👀 at this incident…

Allen
Allen
1 month ago

Something is very very wrong with this situation. I was in the Navy onboard several ships and everyone on board each ship had to know how to fight fires – of all kinds. Besides being trained in fighting onboard fires prior to ever being assigned to one, periodic surprise fire drills were held onboard at any time of the day or night. Unless the ship was carrying an incendiary chemical that is designed to burn below water, and that chemical was (criminally) NOT protected in every which way possible from sabotage, then there is absolutely NO REASON WHATSOEVER that any fire onboard a US ship would ever burn for more than several hours – even it the source of the fuel is the fuel oil. There’s a lot that’s not being said here, and what’s not being said makes the story stink to the high heavens. And because of that, it’s also very possible the sailor charged with the crime could well be a scapegoat to cover up the REAL source of the sabotage.

EMW70
EMW70
1 month ago

The scuttlebutt is that this was a BLM-driven event. The BLM supporting sailor wanted to stick it to the “rigged, racist system”.
Who would be the domestic terrorists then? Hence the slow roll on this, so that the sailor’s social media could be cleaned up.

TheMadMan
TheMadMan
1 month ago

That sailor should be sent to prison for the rest of his life!

Chauncey M. Freeman
Chauncey M. Freeman
1 month ago
Reply to  TheMadMan

What about we just go to sea and have the Guilty Party WALK THE PLANK? WE could make it a Triple Deal and include Nancy and Joe, that way we get rid of Three Rats with one stone.

Senior Chief, U.S. Navy Retired

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

Don’t for the 4th! Leave her and we are still in trouble.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

Don’t forget the 4th, she is a huge threat. Get them all while you are cleaning our House.

R W
R W
1 month ago

This guy should be burned in a public square, alive. This is what happens when liberals teach citizens to hate the great United States of America. They need to make an example of this guy.

John merck
John merck
1 month ago
Reply to  R W

They also need to punish the person in charge of enforcing people to hate America

Jim
Jim
1 month ago

Lemme tick through the choices…
China …. Iran….BLM….
We have not seen a picture of the offender…..

Grampa Mullan
Grampa Mullan
1 month ago

While I agree with jim in part that the sailor should be punished I suggest a different method. make him don a bright yellow jump suit daily that says coward and tarator to America a to stand at attention holding our flag in front of a different large chain store each day. be hid him a placard telling all of his deeds. sadly we would need two large MP’s to guard this crud he would be accompanied by a portable cell which would contain the pot he must relive himself in and be allowed fifteen minuets break every hour to placate all the bleeding hearts who would feel sorry for him. at the end of the day he would be required to sing god bless America and roused at day break every day to stand at attention as our flag is raised. this to continue rain or shine for the rest of his life. time to show America what we do to traitors or politicians who destroy America.———–Grampa

Francie
Francie
1 month ago
Reply to  Grampa Mullan

If true that it was BLM behind this, they should be designated a terrorist organization and members jailed in Gitmo. Unfortunately, our government only jails Trump supporters who are put in solitary confinement without charges against them. Our government is out of control!

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 month ago

Video the Court Martial for Court TV, TruTV alone to Educate

Bull Winkle
Bull Winkle
1 month ago

I wonder if he was an American or an asylum seeker. AKA a muzz rat.

Keith Clark
Keith Clark
1 month ago

So, let’s hear the rest of the story. China is the likely Country behind this. They plan to hit Taiwan while the senile Joe Biden is occupying the White House. How are they connected? Or was it the usual Muslims? Or just a random nut? One this is for sure. We will not know the truth until 50 years passes.

Ima Enyurphase
Ima Enyurphase
1 month ago

The perp should be courts martialed and if convicted dishonorably discharges and sent to prison HARD LABOR.Sabotage even in peacetime your still a traitor.He/she should not be let off easy like some others-like where is Bo Berkdyl?

sam hill
sam hill
1 month ago

I am curious as to why the sailor wasn’t named. I have my suspensions though.

Joe
Joe
1 month ago

This sick,no good,worthless, traitor sailor, should be prosecuted to the fullest, which is death. this pos didn’t give a dam about other’s that would die in this act of espionage. He destroyed one of the most important ships in our fleet ,amphibious assault ships, this dirt=bag pos needs to be executed, life in prison is to good, for this zero.


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