The Bonhomme Richard and Other Failures


Welcome back to the Scuttlebutt, you’re gonna want something strong, this is going to piss you right off.


Alright, listen up! This is going to be profane, if you can’t handle that, move the hell on.  Nothing less than profanity is going to get across the amount of rage and loathing I feel about this.


The investigation report on the Bonnie Dick’s fire is out and public.  You can find it here: and I’m about to summarize it for you, if you don’t want to wade through it.


“Bonhomme Richard was a ship splayed open for the shipyard availability ” That’s a quote from the investigator.  Translation, this was not so much rape, as an invitation to get fucked. An invitation that some stupid little bastard took them up on.


Just after 8:00 a.m., a junior sailor walked through the upper vehicle deck as she headed out to a vending machine after her watch. She noticed a “hazy, white fog” in the lower vehicle deck around 8:10 a.m. But she didn’t report it, the investigation found, noting that “because she did not smell smoke, (the sailor) continued to her berthing.”   This is the start of the problem.  “She did not smell smoke!!!” Get this stupid broad the fuck out of the Navy.  She killed people and cost the Navy a ship, because “I didn’t smell smoke, so I didn’t tell anyone…” What the ACTUAL FUCK is wrong with you, girl? 


EVERY SAILOR is or should be (and was back in my day) taught “if you don’t know what’s going on, if it doesn’t seem quite right, CALL IT AWAY.  It’s like smelling almonds… Call that shit away before you die, because you are about to die of cyanide poisoning, you moron.


“Around that time, another sailor who stopped at a sideport door in the Upper V to chat with a sentry “observed white smoke rising from the Lower V ramp into Upper V,” according to the report. One of them ran up the ramp and through the hangar to reach the quarterdeck, telling the officer-of-the-deck about the smoke.”  You “ran up the ramp and through the hanger?!”  Mother fucker this is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth!  why the fuck did you not use the emergency reporting communications equipment???


“At about 8:15 a.m. the engineering duty officer ran into a civilian contractor who told him of smoke near the mess decks. The EDO went to investigate and met another crew member who was also investigating a report of smoke.”


“Crew members who spoke with investigators described some confusion in communication among the watch teams as they scrambled to sort out the reports of smoke and get a solid picture and location of the growing blaze so they could organize and attack the fire. Investigators found inconsistent statements from crew members about the actions to investigate the reports of smoke and fire alarms and why there was a delayed reporting of the fire over the ship’s intercom system – the 1MC.”


“Numerous sources agree to having heard a rapid ringing of a bell but disagree on whether the casualty was announced as ‘white smoke’ ‘black smoke,’ or ‘fire,’ as well as the location of the casualty: ‘Lower V,’ ‘Upper V,’ or ‘Hangar bay,'” the investigation found. “At 0820, the Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW) noted in his log: ‘Fire reported in Lower V.'”


TEN MINUTES! Ten minutes after someone first noticed something wrong, before the fire was even called away as a fire.  Ten minutes is the difference between “I can put that shit out with a couple of fire bottles, and MAYBE a hose,” and “Mr. President, we regret to inform you that we just lost one of your most expensive ships, just after refurbishing her to handle our newest aircraft.”  Ask anyone who knows anything about fire and firefighting. they will tell you that how fast you respond is DIRECTLY responsible for how hard it is to put out.


“The OOD stated that the [Damage Control] Central watchstander informed him that they already made a 1MC announcement. Having not heard any announcement, at 0820, the OOD called away the casualty over the 1MC,” the report found. The officer told investigators “he delayed calling away the casualty due to the possibility of a benign reason for the smoke (such as starting an Emergency Diesel Generator).” 


Now first off, that’s ANOTHER ten minutes! Second off, the OOD on a ship in port is NOT an OFFICER, whoever wrote this article is an idiot.  The OOD is a senior petty officer.  I know, I stood OOD in port a few thousand times.  Again, we’re at: IF IN DOUBT, CALL IT OUT!


“That 1MC call was the first time the ship’s command duty officer, who was in his stateroom, learned of the fire. He reached the hangar, where the crew was organizing an initial suppression effort, at 8:24 a.m.” 


THIS IS WHY you call it away early!


“At 8:22 a.m. the sound of the ship’s bell could be heard from a nearby parking lot.


Minutes later, crews aboard destroyers USS Russell (DDG-59) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), which were also berthed on Pier 1, reported black smoke coming from Bonhomme Richard. Both destroyers “assembled their duty sections and began equipping Rescue and Assistance (R&A) teams,” with a team of 11 from Russell and eight from Fitzgerald reaching BHR’s hangar. But neither team was directed to join in the fire attack, according to the investigation.”


“In those early minutes, the sailors had no radios so they used their own cellphones to communicate,” the lead investigator found. And the 1MC “did not work in many areas of the ship to include DC Central; and there was a lack of urgency. When initial responders from Ship’s Force descended into Lower V, no one shared the same understanding of what firefighting capability was online, contributing to their failure to apply agent to the fire or set fire boundaries, which enabled smoke and heat to intensify.”


“Attack teams had trouble finding serviceable fire stations. In fact, 187 of the ship’s 216 fire stations – 87.5 percent – were in Inoperable Equipment Status condition at the time of the fire, the report said.”


“Worse, the ship’s installed AFFF systems weren’t put into action “in part because maintenance was not properly performed to keep it ready and in part, because the crew lacked familiarity with capability and availability,” the lead investigator wrote. Many of the ship’s hatches and doors – a critical first line of defense to isolate a fire and slow the spread – couldn’t be shut without disconnecting temporary utilities in place for the maintenance availability work.


Two crew members told Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigators that ‘they stated it was not possible to set boundaries in Lower V because it was such a large space. Additionally, they reported the fire spread too fast to set effective boundaries. However, most Duty Section 6 Sailors aboard at this time stated in interviews they neither knew how to set boundaries nor operate the quick-disconnects. Limited quick-disconnect training was conducted early in the availability, but was not repeated nor reemphasized.'”


This report goes on at great length about the considerable failures, physical, mental, psychological, and genetic, that plagued the firefighting effort. 


“The considerable similarities between the fire on USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and the USS Miami (SSN-755) fire of eight years prior are not the result of the wrong lessons being identified in 2012, it is the result of failing to rigorously implement the policy changes designed to preclude recurrence,” Conn (former 3rd FLT commander and the chief investigator: Vice Adm. Conn) wrote in his report.


Of the CDO involved the report says in part: “This officer was standing his first watch ever as CDO, as the Assistant Damage Control Assistant, he had raised concerns about the readiness of the crew and the material condition of the ship in the months prior to the fire but the Bonhomme Richard Leadership did not take effective mitigating nor corrective actions.”  


OK, he screwed up (bad) but his chain of command failed him in the worst possible way, and then left him holding the burning bag of shit.  The Admiral rips a total of 34 morons new assholes in this report, in many cases naming names, (they’re history) from Vice Adm. Rich Brown (retired, which probably means he was told to retire before they court-martialed his ass) down to the most junior man named, the Command Master Chief. And a bunch of “unidentified” sailors of various ranks.


I will not even get into the complete and total INSANITY that reined for the next five freaking days, as bureaucratic dick beating contests took the place of competent response to a fully involved burning ship.  The civilian firefighting organizations seemed to treat this as if it were a structural fire in a residential development, quoting a manual that said they weren’t supposed to enter a dangerous situation except to save lives.  There are 17 paragraphs scourging the incompetents for their many failures.


I was prepared to rip the entire Navy a new one for the way that we have, and continue to fail to train and prepare for events of this type.  And I still believe that we could do MUCH better, in terms of training, preparation, and maintenance; as well as collaboration between the shore-based firefighting teams in our various maintenance facilities, and the crews of the vessels that MUST be the first line of defense against a catastrophe, in port as well as at sea. (If you’re not the first line of defense, what the hell are you even doing onboard?)


However, after reading this report, my scorn rests mostly with the crew of the Bonny Dick.  Frankly, every single crew member that was in that first day’s duty section should be reduced in rank, and retrained or discharged… A couple of them should spend some time at one of my old commands, the Naval Regional BRIG.


The next asshole to step up to the whipping post would be Colin H. Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy.  If you remember back a few weeks (which the MSM would really like you to NOT do) in the closing hours of the cowardly evacuation from Afghanistan, we took out a guy (and his family) with a drone strike.  


The president and the pentagon assured us that this was a righteous kill… Until we determined that it wasn’t and that in fact, the dude worked for Nutrition & Education International, an NGO aid group.


Look we owe this family for that, and the fact that the pentagon by way of Undersecretary Kahl, wants to pay them blood money is fair and reasonable.  HOWEVER, I have huge questions about Kahl’s offering to relocate the family HERE in the US.


Look, the people of Afghanistan, and the whole region from Thailand west to probably Austria, invented feuds.  These folks make the Hatfields and McCoys look like Quakers!  The family has every reason to consider that the US owes them a debt of BLOOD, not money, and we’re going to bring them to AMERICA?  Really? 


I understand why the family would be angry, and why they would want revenge.  


Let’s not make it easy for them, huh? 


Dr. Kahl, you have just about guaranteed that Americans will die in a revenge killing.  Sleep well, you bastard.  While we are arranging to get this family out, according to the volunteer organizations that are trying to get AMERICANS out of Afghanistan, there are still at least 60 Americans, 140 Green Card holders, and several other people of various categories that we ABANDONED. 




Not just on the Pentagon, my old enemies from Foggy Bottom, the State Department is in this up to their bloody shoulders, and in this case, I don’t mean the British version of bloody, I mean literally dripping with American blood.  Secretary Blinken, their blood will be on your hands.


The only good thing about Afghanistan is that now that the Taliban is in charge, they’re like the dog that caught the car… And the rest of the terrorist world is blowing THEIR people up.  With any luck, they’ll blow each other to Allah for the next century or so, and leave the rest of the world alone.


Next, we have a “Florida Man” story: Eric Pierson 54, a convicted killer released from prison last year, confessed last Saturday to killing a 33-year-old single mother who has been missing since Sept. 24.  Pierson stabbed her with a screwdriver.  He had been released after serving 25 years of a 40-year sentence for killing a 17-year-old girl.  


But WAIT, there’s MORE.  In 1985 he plead guilty to attempted first-degree murder, after breaking into a woman’s house and cutting her throat and hands with a kitchen knife.  She lived, he was sentenced to 18 years, served FOUR.


People wonder why I support the death penalty. The families of Kristina Whitaker and Erika Verdecia don’t wonder, their mothers, daughters, sisters, whatever, would still be alive, if this fucker had tested Ohm’s law with 50KV.  


It’s not about punishment, it’s not about can he be reformed. 


Twice he convinced parole boards that he HAD reformed.  


Twice more people died.  


Dead men don’t kill again!  How can you justify to the children of Erika that their mommy is dead because a group of bleeding heart bastards believed that Mr. Pierson was reformed?


OK, on to the lighter side, for the last piece of the day.


It seems that in Spain there is a literary prize given out called the Planeta Prize.  It’s worth $1.16 Million dollars.  It seems that there is this “brilliant” author, a professor and single mom, who was considered THE rising star woman writer, lauded to the skies for “Helping us understand the reality and experiences of women” and other such “enlightened” sexist drivel about how wonderful she was at portraying the female condition.


Except when it came time to accept the prize three middle-aged GUYS walked up to the podium.  The pseudonym “Carmen Mola” (always pictured on the book covers from the back) was not actually some Professor, but a set of three guys, established scriptwriters in their 40s and 50s, who decided to combine their talents and write novels.  


Well, the leftists are beside themselves.  HOW DARE THEY?  It seems it was OK when women wrote under a male, or androgynous name, because “fuck the patriarchy.”  


Well, these guys showed that “hey, the shoe is on the other foot now, and a man can’t get published as easy as a woman can.”  This, of course, will NOT do!  History has an arrow!  Women should be ruling and men should shut the fuck up!


Seems to me that I want you to write entertaining stories, and I don’t care what sort of plumbing you have, or how you get through the night… And that’s the difference between me and fourth-wave feminists.  I find this shit funny. 


Until next time I remain,

Yours in service.

William Lehman.


  1. Been out for a while. Seems like if I was in DC Central, I would have been on the S/P phone to the quarterdeck. Maybe send the MOOW or someone to find the CDO if no joy via 1MC. Surely DCC had all the fouled watertight doors logged.
    Very good post.

  2. Thanks. I’ve been out for a while too, but I still work for the Navy (for another 8 days, then I retire a second time) I agree that this whole casualty seems to have ignored sound-powered phones, and all of the various other methods of communication. It’s not that they no longer exist, but it seems as if no one thought of them… yet another failure, in a series of complete and abject failures.

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