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Bon Homme Richard

Photo of Bon Homme Richard

Adaptation of US Navy photo
Displacement 38,000 tons
Armament 8 x 1 5" DP
Numerous 40mm, 20mm AA
Aircraft 98 + deck park
Speed 33 knots
VTS Rating  1   4   7 (5)

Similar in silhouette to an enlarged USS Yorktown class carrier, and sharing some characteristics with the upcoming Essex Class, the Bon Homme Richard was the "Cadillac" of the American carrier fleet. "He" was known to sailors as the "Biggest Dick in the Pacific" (or "Deck" when among polite company, with knowing looks from fellow crewmembers). BHR was built on the lengthened hull of the canceled 'large cruiser' Hawaii to bring her to just under 1,000 feet long.

The the world's navies all had carriers whose flight deck had the same axis as the ship, but a British liaison officer, impressed by the large decks of American aircraft carriers, suggested that there might be room for "two runways" if approaching planes could angle in from a few degrees off-center. This allowed landings without risk to aircraft parked forward or being launched. Combined with faith that catapults would be the coming means to get heavy strike craft airborne rather than long, full-deck takeoffs, the time was ripe for the then-radical idea of a canted flight deck for BHR. From abaft amidships the flight deck was extended to port to form an 8-degree angle with the keel, and deck-edge elevators appeared for the first time on any carrier. The success of the installation led to the eventual fitting of a canted deck to the proposed Midway-class CVB's, and the British Malta's. With war breaking out, the total number of flight decks put to sea was more important than time-consuming alterations to incorporate a yet-untried angled deck, so the axial-deck 'Model A' Essex-class took precedence over other envisioned BHR-class ships.

BHR and Lexington turned back a Japanese landing attempt at Guadalcanal by having BHR constantly operating both carriers' new F6F Hellcat fighters while Lexington attacked the troop convoy with the combined squadrons of new Helldiver dive bombers. BHR was damaged and on fire forward, but still used her canted after deck for limited operations. Japanese reconnaisance planes had rescued a downed American pilot and he had told them, under torture, that the BHR could both land on and fly off aircraft simultaneously. Word of this reached Imperial Japanese Navy Headquarters and resulted in the novel concept of the catamaran carrier Nibai. Repaired just in time for the big Central Pacific drive, BHR was sunk in the massive carrier battles for the Marianas by 'Grace' torpedo bombers from the IJN Shinano. Bon Homme Richard remains the only angled-deck carrier ever sunk by enemy action.

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