When people on Second Life construct a build, it’s generally something such as a simple home, or maybe a store. Henry Borgnine, Dave Brouchoud in real-life, chose to do something different and much grander. He set out to recreate the heavy cruiser he served on during the Korean War - the USS Helena (CA-75).
Dave Brouchoud had joined the US Navy at age 17, in September 1951. After Navy Boot camp, he was assigned to the Helena. In 1952, he was stationed in one of the 5” gun mounts. When he was released in May 1955, he had been doing duty as a Radar Operator. He would later serve in the US Army, and his avatar wears an Army uniform.
Henry had been talked into Second Life by his nephew, “I soon realized that ANYTHING is possible in SL. I talked about ‘my dream,’ to once again walk the decks of my ship - and here she is.” Behind him in the water was the Helena, “Much work needs to be done, but I am pleased with what has already happened.”
“A point,” Henry stated, “I am NOT the builder. At first it was my nephew Keystone Brouchard. But he told me about a great builder named RJ Kikuchiyo. He worked on the ship for some time.” Unfortunately, Henry was having trouble staying in the grid, “Second Life kept crashing on me, (there were) hardware problems on my four year old computer.” Reluctantly, he eventually had to stop logging on.
But after some time, he got a new computer, “About a month ago, the computer went south and we now have a nice new Dell with a high end video card. I couldn’t wait to again try SL and bingo. It now works perfectly. I contacted RJ and learned that a new builder was taking over (the building), Bobcatt Nielson.”
The ship isn’t quite complete yet. After seeing the HMS Titanic in Second Life with it’s interior rooms, he hoped to do the same with the Helena, a walk-on bridge, an engine room, and more, “be able to see many of the compartments below decks.” He also hoped to get other features, such as “guns that will turn, radios that will work.” The ship will also be enlarged a little for a more realistic size, “In real life, this ship is a little over 700 feet long.” He was also getting a little help besides from Bobcat, “the owner of this sim is also helping with the build. At the moment I know he is working ... on the ship’s anchors.”
The Helena’s most prominent feature are her cannons, “the big guns you see are 8" the smaller are 5" the real ship also had 3" guns in 7 gun tubs. The 3" are not yet available.”
As the interview was conducted, the ship was getting visitors. Henry politely excused himself for a minute to greet one looking around, then returned, “I like to be here often to meet visitors and answer questions.”
Henry has heard about the Veterans’ groups in Second Life, “(I) was a member of one group. They now know about this ship and have been most helpful in passing the word.” Every comment everyone’s made, Henry told me, “has been positive.”
He’s also heard a little about other military in Second Life, such as the battleship Yamato, and historical combat RP groups, such as the Flying Tigers, “I have visited many military sites with many historical aircraft in display, including one of the B29 Super Fortresses that dropped the atomic bomb.”
When I dropped by the next day, builder Bobcatt Neilson was there. He and Henry talked about using blueprints and images from cruisebooks to help with further building. Bobcat also talked some with me, saying building the ship was a pleasure, “something cool in Second Life that’s not involved with sex or gambling.” He had seen other warships in SL, such as a recreation of the Yamato built by members of the real-life Japanese Defense Force.
Bobcatt had been in the US Army, serving in the first Gulf War, Kuwait, The invasion of Panama, and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, “still kinda recovering from Afghanistan’s offroad extravaganzas. ... on canes, but still in rehabilitation, and very stubborn.”
Bobcatt pointed out the region had plenty to see besides the cruiser., such as art galleries and a Jazz club. There’s also the Balsa Regional Airport and the Grayling Army Airfield, “There’s a vet center in Balsa, but it’s just getting built back up. A lot of folks from these regions are vets on deployment.” West Memorial Park is dedicated to former real life residents who have passed away, which recently had a chapel installed. Grayling Army Airfield has a huge variety of aircraft, warplanes and others, but most aren’t flyable to visitors. One that is is the shuttle rocket ride, which will take a visitor up in the air.
Henry also needs some donations for the area the ship is berthed, so a sign next to the ship is available for those wanting to chip in a few Lindens, “In order for the ship to continue to be here, contributions need to keep coming in.”
Henry/Dave Brouchoud also maintains a website for the Helena, at http://www.usshelena.org/
The Helena is at the Trees sim at (77, 233, 29)
“The ship has a fine history and served her country well.”