USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)
Commissioning in Pensacola, Florida -
Chapter 2

by Ted Brown

The morning of August 15, 1998, was a typical Florida August Dog Days morning in Pensacola. It was hot, sunny, cloudy, and threatening thunderstorms. The big day was here and the Bonhomme Richard was all decked out in her finest clothes.
Pensacolians had turned out by the thousands for the party! Scheduled for a 10:00 a.m. start, the ceremony was delayed because people wouldn't stop coming in the gate! Finally things settled down, and the ceremony began. And what a ceremony it was! Admirals, Generals, Senators, Congressmen, Distinguished Dignitaries, and last but certainly not least.... the Secretary of the Navy. Wonderful things were said about both Pensacola and the new ship, and comments concerning the difference in training helicopter pilots over water versus over land reflected on nearby NAS Whiting Field, where the Navy trains its helicopter pilots. (The Army tries to mess with this setup on occasion.)
The Commissioning Ceremony held on the Navy Pier Saturday, August 15, 1998

Members of the Crew during the ceremony
Finally it was time for the big event! Joyce Bell Murtha, wife of the Congressman from Pennsylvania, and who is the official sponsor of the ship, gave the crew the command to "bring this ship to life" and with that command the entire ship's company double-timed into the ship to assume their stations and the ship came "alive" with the sounds of horns, sirens, and bells accompanied by the hoisting of flags and the revolving of radar scanners. The ship had officially become the USS Bonhomme Richard and had joined the United States Navy to follow in a proud and honorable tradition that began with the immortal words of Captain John Paul Jones, who commanded the first USS Bonhomme Richard: "I have not yet begun to fight."

Looking forward in the Well Deck where the amphibious landing vehicles are kept.

A reception was held in the hangar deck after the ceremony
After the ceremony, everyone was invited into the ship for a reception and a self-guided tour. Even though there were over 5000 visitors that day, they all fit nicely into what is really a floating city. Designed to carry over 4000 personnel including a compliment of Marines, she didn't seem to mind at all. The first stop was the well-deck in the stern where the hover craft is kept and the Marines would keep their amphibious assault vehicles. This area can be flooded, the stern opened up and boats floated in and out! The next stop was the FOOD! The crew had set up tables in the hangar deck where they would normally keep those cute but deadly attack and transport helicopters and Harrier jets. Veggies, cookies and sandwiches kept us going and the cakes were works of art!
The Ship's bell

The Flight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard
Next stop was the flight deck via the elevator that is used by the aircraft. It holds one helicopter or a LOT of folks. The weather had cooperated and was quite pretty now with a light sea breeze and partly cloudy skies. The view from the flight deck was terrific and you could see for miles in all directions. The photos taken from the flight deck will give you some great views of Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound, beaches, and the waterfront. All sizes of power boats and sailboats turned out on what had become a beautiful balmy summer day in Pensacola, "the Western gate to the Sunshine State where thousands live the way millions wish they could." (This is an excerpt from the official greeting given by Mr. Vince Whibbs, former Mayor of Pensacola and still called upon to present it as only he can!)
The USS Bonhomme Richard is the second ship to be commissioned in Pensacola by the Navy, and we know it won't be the last. Pensacola is good for the Navy, and the Navy is good for Pensacola. It's events like these that show the strong relationship that exists between the Navy and Pensacola, also affectionately known as the "Cradle of Naval Aviators," but then Trader Jon's is another story........
View of beautiful Pensacola Sound from the Flight Deck.

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Since August 20, 1998