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Wikipedia

SS Normandie

For the French RO-RO ship operating for Brittany Ferries, see MV Normandie.

The SS Normandie was a French ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France, for the French Line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT). She entered service in 1935 as the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat, crossing the Atlantic in a record 4.14 days, and remains the most powerful steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship ever built.

SS Normandie at sea, circa 1936
History
France
NameSS Normandie
OwnerCompagnie Générale Transatlantique
Port of registryPort of Le Havre
BuilderChantiers de Penhoet, Saint-Nazaire, France
Laid down26 January 1931
Launched29 October 1932
Christened29 October 1932
Maiden voyage29 May 1935
Identification
FateCaught fire, capsized 1942. Scrapped October 1946
NotesBurned and capsized at the dockside during troopship conversion
General characteristics
TypeOcean liner
Tonnage
  • 79,280 GRT (1935–1936)
  • 83,423 GRT (post-1936)
Displacement68,350 tons (loaded)
Length
  • 1,029 ft (313.6 m) o/a
  • 962 ft (293.2 m) p/p
Beam117 ft 10 in (35.9 m);
Height184 ft (56.1 m)
Draught36 ft 7 in (11.2 m) (loaded)
Depth92 ft (28.0 m) to promenade (strength) deck
Decks12
Installed powerFour turbo-electric, total 160,000 hp (200,000 hp max).
PropulsionFour 3 bladed on launch – later 4 bladed
Speed
  • 29.5 knots (54.6 km/h; 33.9 mph) designed
  • 32.2 knots (59.6 km/h; 37.1 mph) recorded on trials
Capacity1,972: 848 First Class (cabin), 670 Tourist Class, 454 Third Class
Crew1,345

Normandie's novel design and lavish interiors led many to consider her the greatest of ocean liners. Despite this, she was not a commercial success and relied partly on government subsidy to operate. During service as the flagship of the CGT, she made 139 westbound transatlantic crossings from her home port of Le Havre to New York City. Normandie held the Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossing at several points during her service career, during which the RMS Queen Mary was her main rival.

During the Second World War, Normandie was seized by U.S. authorities at New York and renamed USS Lafayette. In 1942, the liner caught fire while being converted to a troopship, capsized onto her port side and came to rest on the mud of the Hudson River at Pier 88, the site of the current New York Passenger Ship Terminal. Although salvaged at great expense, restoration was deemed too costly and she was scrapped in October 1946.

Contents

The beginnings of Normandie can be traced to the Roaring Twenties, when shipping companies began looking to replace veteran liners. Those earlier ships had been designed to accommodate the huge numbers of steerage-class immigrants from Europe to the United States. When the U.S. put restrictions on most immigration in the early 1920s, steamship companies ordered vessels built to serve upper-class tourists instead, particularly Americans who traveled to Europe to escape the prohibition of alcohol. Companies like Cunard and the White Star Line planned to build their own superliners to rival newer ships of the day; such vessels included the record-breaking Bremen and Europa, both German. The French Line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT) began to plan its own superliner.

Adolphe Cassandre's famed 1935 depiction of the SS Normandie

The CGT's flagship was the Ile de France, which had modern Art Deco interiors but a conservative hull design. The designers intended their new superliner to be similar to earlier French Line ships. Then they were approached by Vladimir Yourkevitch, a former ship architect for the Imperial Russian Navy who had emigrated to France after the 1917 revolution. Yourkevitch's ideas included a slanting clipper-like bow and a bulbous forefoot beneath the waterline, in combination with a slim hydrodynamic hull. His concepts worked wonderfully in scale models, confirming the design's performance advantages. The French engineers were impressed and asked Yourkevitch to join their project. He also approached Cunard with his ideas, but was rejected because the bow was deemed too radical.

The CGT commissioned artists to create posters and publicity for the liner. One of the most famous posters was by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, another Russian emigrant to France. Another poster, by Albert Sébille, showed the interior layout in a cutaway diagram 15 feet long. This poster is displayed in the Musée national de la Marine in Paris.

Vladimir Yourkevitch working on design of SS Normandie
Normandie under construction, 1932

Work by the Société Anonyme des Chantiers de Penhoët began on the unnamed flagship on 26 January 1931 at Saint-Nazaire, soon after the stock market crash of 1929. While the French continued construction, the competing White Star Line ship (intended as Oceanic, and started before the crash) was cancelled and Cunard's RMS Queen Mary was put on hold. French builders also ran into difficulty and had to ask for government money; this subsidy was questioned in the press. Still, the ship's construction was followed by newspapers and national interest was deep, as she was designed to represent France in the nation-state contest of the great liners and was built in a French shipyard using French parts.

The growing hull in Saint-Nazaire had no formal designation except "T-6" ("T" for "Transat", an alternate name for the French Line, and "6" for "6th"), the contract name. Many names were suggested including Doumer, after Paul Doumer, the recently assassinated President of France; and originally, La Belle France. Finally Normandie was chosen. In France, boat prefixes properly depend on the boat name's gender, but non-sailors mostly use the masculine form, inherited from the French terms for boat, which can be "paquebot", "navire", "bateau", or "bâtiment", but English speakers refer to boats as feminine ("she's a beauty") and the GCT carried many rich American customers. The CGT wrote that their boat was to be called simply "Normandie", preceded by neither "le" nor "la" (French masculine/feminine for "the") to avoid any confusion.

The Normandie drydock in St. Nazaire which was built specifically for the new ship.

On 29 October 1932 – three years to the day after the stock market crash – Normandie was launched in front of 200,000 spectators. The 27,567-ton hull that slid into the Loire River was the largest launched and the wave washed up the shoreline and over several hundred spectators, but with no injury. The ship was dedicated by Madame Marguerite Lebrun, wife of Albert Lebrun, the President of France. She was outfitted until early 1935, her interiors, funnels, engines, and other fittings put in to make her into a working vessel. Finally, in May 1935, Normandie was ready for trials, which were watched by reporters. The superiority of Yourkevitch's hull was visible: hardly a wave was created off the bulbous bow. The ship reached a top speed of32+18 knots (59+12 km/h) and performed an emergency stop from that speed in 1,700 m (5,600 ft).

In addition to hull design which let her attain speed at far less power than other big liners, Normandie had a turbo-electric transmission, with turbo-generators and electric propulsion motors built by Alsthom of Belfort. The CGT chose turbo-electric transmission for the ability to use full power in reverse, and because, according to CGT officials, it was quieter and more easily controlled and maintained. The engine installation was heavier than conventional turbines and slightly less efficient at high speed but allowed all propellers to operate even if one engine was not running. This system also made it possible to eliminate astern turbines. An early form of radar was installed to prevent collisions. The rudder frame, including the 125-ton cast steel connecting rod, was produced by Škoda Works in Czechoslovakia.

Normandie's luxurious interiors were designed in Art Déco and Streamline Moderne style by architect Pierre Patout, one of the founders of the Art Deco style. Many sculptures and wall paintings made allusions to Normandy, the province of France for which the ship was named. Drawings and photographs show a series of vast public rooms of great elegance. Her voluminous interior spaces were made possible by having the funnel uptakes split to pass along the sides of the ship, rather than straight upward. French architect Roger-Henri Expert was in charge of the overall decorative scheme.

Most of the public space was devoted to first-class passengers, including the dining room, first-class lounge, grill room, first-class swimming pool, theatre and winter garden. The first-class swimming pool featured staggered depths, with a shallow training beach for children. The children's dining room was decorated by Jean de Brunhoff, who covered the walls with Babar the Elephant and his entourage.

The interiors were filled with grand perspectives, spectacular entryways, and long, wide staircases. First-class suites were given unique designs by select designers. The most luxurious accommodations were the Deauville and Trouville apartments, featuring dining rooms, baby grand pianos, multiple bedrooms, and private decks.

Normandie's main dining room, decorated with Lalique glass and compared to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Normandie's first-class dining hall was the largest room afloat. At 305 feet (93 m), it was longer than the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, 46 feet (14 m) wide, and 28 feet (8.5 m) high. Passengers entered through 20-foot-tall (6.1 m) doors adorned with bronze medallions by artist Raymond Subes. The room could seat 700 at 157 tables, with Normandie serving as a floating promotion for the most sophisticated French cuisine of the period. As no natural light could enter it was illuminated by twelve tall pillars of Lalique glass flanked by 38 matching columns along the walls. These, with chandeliers hung at each end of the room, earned the Normandie the nickname "Ship of Light" (similar to Paris as the "City of Light").

A popular feature was the café grill, which would be transformed into a nightclub. Adjoining the café grill was the first-class smoking room, which was paneled in large murals depicting ancient Egyptian life. The ship also had indoor and outdoor pools, a chapel, and a theatre which could double as a stage and cinema.

The machinery of Normandie's top deck and forecastle was integrated within the ship, concealing it and releasing nearly all the exposed deck space for passengers. As such it was the only ocean liner to have a regulation-sized open air tennis court on board. The air conditioner units were concealed along with the kennels inside the third, dummy, funnel.

The triumphant arrival of Normandie in New York harbor in June 1935 on her maiden voyage.
Normandie at sea

Normandie's maiden voyage was on 29 May 1935. Fifty thousand saw her off at Le Havre on what was hoped would be a record-breaking crossing. She reached New York City after four days, three hours and two minutes, taking away the Blue Riband from the Italian liner Rex. This brought great pride for the French, who had not won the distinction before. Under the command of Captain René Pugnet, Normandie's average on the maiden voyage was around 30 knots (56 km/h) and on the eastbound crossing to France, she averaged over 30 knots (56 km/h), breaking records in both directions.

During the maiden voyage, the CGT refused to predict that their ship would win the Blue Riband. However, by the time the ship reached New York, medallions of the Blue Riband victory, made in France, were delivered to passengers and the ship flew a 30-foot-long (9.1 m) blue pennant. An estimated 100,000 spectators lined New York Harbor for Normandie's arrival. All passengers were presented with a medal celebrating the occasion on behalf of the CGT.

Cunard contemporary rivals

Normandie had a successful year but Queen Mary, Cunard White Star Line's superliner, entered service in the summer of 1936. Cunard White Star said Queen Mary would surpass 80,000 tons. At 79,280 tons, Normandie would no longer be the world's largest. The CGT increased Normandie's size, mainly through the addition of an enclosed tourist lounge on the aft boat deck. Following these and other alterations, she measured 83,423 gross register tons. Exceeding Queen Mary by 2,000 tons, she would soon become the world's largest in terms of overall measured gross registered tonnage and length once again, claiming it off Queen Mary who only held it for a short amount of time.

On 22 June 1936, a Blackburn Baffin, S5162 of A Flight, RAF Gosport, flown by Lt Guy Kennedy Horsey on torpedo-dropping practice, buzzed Normandie a mile (2 km) off Ryde Pier and collided with a derrick which was transferring a motor car belonging to Arthur Evans, MP, onto a barge alongside the ship. The aircraft crashed onto Normandie's bow. The pilot was taken off by tender, but the wreckage of the aircraft remained on board Normandie as she had to sail due to the tide. It was carried to Le Havre. A salvage team from the Royal Air Force later removed the wreckage. Horsey was court-martialled and found guilty on two charges. Evans' car was wrecked in the accident, which was brought up in Parliament.

In August 1936, Queen Mary captured the Blue Riband, averaging 30.14 knots (55.82 km/h), starting a fierce rivalry. Normandie held the size record until the arrival of RMS Queen Elizabeth (83,673 gross tons) in 1940.

During refit, Normandie was modified to reduce vibration. Her three-bladed screws were replaced with four-bladed ones, and structural modifications were made to her lower aft section. These modifications reduced vibration at speed. In July 1937 she regained the Blue Riband, but Queen Mary took it back next year. After this the captain of Normandie sent a message saying, "Bravo to the Queen Mary until next time!" This rivalry could have gone on into the 1940s, but was ended by the Second World War.

Normandie carried distinguished passengers, including the authors Colette and Ernest Hemingway; the wife of French President Albert Lebrun; songwriters Noël Coward and Irving Berlin; and Hollywood celebrities such as Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, and James Stewart. She also carried the von Trapp family singers of The Sound of Music from New York to Southampton in 1938, and from Southampton, the family went to Scandinavia for a tour before returning to the U.S.

While Normandie rarely was occupied at over 60% of her capacity, her finances were such that she did not require government subsidies every year. She never repaid any of the loans that made her construction possible. The CGT considered a sister ship, SS Bretagne, which was to be longer and larger. There were two competing designs for this ship – one conservative, one radical. The conservative design was essentially Normandie with two funnels, possibly larger as well. The radical one was from Normandie's designer, Vladimir Yourkevitch, and was super-streamlined with twin, side-by-side funnels just aft of the bridge. The more conservative design won, but the outbreak of the war halted the plan indefinitely.

Although Normandie was a critical success in her design and decor, ultimately North Atlantic passengers flocked to the more traditional Queen Mary. Two of the ship's greatest attributes, in reality, turned out to be two of her biggest faults.

Normandie depicted on a token
Overhead view of Normandie at sea

Part of Normandie's problem lay in the fact that the majority of her passenger space was devoted solely to first class, which could carry up to 848 people. Less space and consideration were given to second and tourist class, which numbered only 670 and 454 passengers respectively. As a result, the consensus among North Atlantic passengers was that she was primarily a ship for the rich and famous. In contrast, in Queen Mary, Cunard White Star had placed just as much emphasis on decor, space, and accommodation in second and tourist class as in first class. Thus Queen Mary accommodated American tourists, who had become numerous in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of these passengers could not afford first-class passage yet wanted to travel with much of the same comfort as those experienced in first. As a result, second and tourist class became a major cash source for shipping companies at that time. Queen Mary would accommodate these trends and subsequently the liner achieved greater popularity among North Atlantic travellers during the late thirties.

Another of the CGT's greatest triumphs also turned out to be one of Normandie's greatest flaws: her decor. The ship's slick and modern Art Déco interiors proved to be somewhat intimidating and uncomfortable for her travellers, with some claiming that interiors gave them migraines. It was also here that Queen Mary triumphed over her French rival. Although also decorated in an Art Déco style, Queen Mary was more restrained in her appointments and was not as radical as Normandie, and proved ultimately to be more popular with travellers.

Normandie at C.G.T.'s pier 88 in New York

As a result, Normandie at many times throughout her service history carried less than half her full complement of passengers. Her German rivals Bremen and Europa, and Italian rivals Rex and Conte di Savoia also suffered from this problem; despite their innovative designs and luxurious interiors, they made little profit for their respective companies. Contributing to this were international boycotts against Germany and Italy as the European geopolitical situation deteriorated through the 1930s. The Italian liners were relying heavily on government subsidies, while the German Lloyd liners never received funding. In comparison, Normandie did not require government subsidies in service, with her income covering not only her operating expenses but generating revenue of 158,000,000 francs.

In contrast, Cunard White Star's Britannic III, Georgic II, and much older Aquitania, along with the Holland America Line's SS Nieuw Amsterdam, were among the few North Atlantic liners to make a profit, carrying the lion's share of passengers in the years preceding the Second World War.

The outbreak of the war found Normandie in New York harbor. Looming hostilities in Europe had compelled Normandie to seek haven in the U.S. The federal government interned her on 3 September 1939, the same day France declared war on Germany. Soon Queen Mary, later refitted as a troopship, moored nearby. Then, two weeks later, Queen Elizabeth joined Queen Mary. For five months, the three largest liners in the world were tied up side by side. Normandie remained in French hands, with French crewmembers on board, led by Captain Hervé Lehuédé, into the spring of 1940.

On 15 May 1940, during the battle of France, the U.S. Treasury Department detailed about 150 agents of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to go aboard the ship and Manhattan's Pier 88 to defend it against possible sabotage. (Under then-current U.S. law, the Coast Guard was a part of the Treasury during peacetime.) When the USCG became a part of the United States Navy on 1 November 1941, Normandie's USCG detail remained intact, mainly observing while the French crew maintained the vessel's boilers, machinery, and other equipment, including the fire-watch system. On 12 December 1941, five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USCG removed Captain Lehuédé and his crew and took possession of Normandie under the right of angary, maintaining steam in the boilers and other activities on the idled vessel. However, the elaborate fire-watch system which ensured that any fire would be suppressed before it became a danger was abandoned.

Lafayette conversion

Normandie docked in New York harbor at Pier 88, site of attempted troopship conversion.

On 20 December 1941, the Auxiliary Vessels Board officially recorded President Franklin D. Roosevelt's approval of Normandie's transfer to the U.S. Navy. Plans called for the vessel to be turned into a troopship ("convoy unit loaded transport"). The Navy renamed her USS Lafayette, in honor of both Marquis de la Fayette, the French general who fought on the Colonies' behalf in the American Revolution, and the alliance with France that made American independence possible. The name was a suggestion of J. P. "Jim" Warburg, advisory assistant to Colonel William J. Donovan, Coordinator of Information, which was passed through multiple channels including Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox; Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO); and Rear Adm. Randall Jacobs, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. The name La Fayette (later universally and unofficially contracted to Lafayette) was officially approved by the Secretary of the Navy on 31 December 1941, with the vessel classified as a transport, AP-53.

Earlier proposals included turning Lafayette into an aircraft carrier, but this was dropped in favor of immediate troop transport. The ship remained moored at Pier 88 for the conversion. A contract for her conversion to a troop transport was awarded to Robins Dry Dock and Repair Co., a subsidiary of Todd Shipyards, on 27 December 1941. On that date, Capt. Clayton M. Simmers, the 3rd Naval District Materiel Officer, reported to the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) his estimate that the conversion work could be completed by 31 January 1942, and planning for the work proceeded on that basis.

Capt. Robert G. Coman reported as Lafayette's prospective commanding officer on 31 January 1942, overseeing a skeleton engineering force numbering 458 men. The complicated nature and enormous size of the conversion effort prevented Coman's crew from adhering to the original schedule; crew familiarization with the vessel was an issue, and additional crew members were arriving to assist the effort. On 6 February 1942, a request for a two-week delay for the first sailing of Lafayette, originally scheduled for 14 February, was submitted to the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations. On that day, a schedule extension was granted due to a design plan change: elements of the superstructure were to be removed to improve stability, in work that was expected to take another 60 to 90 days. However, on 7 February, orders came from Washington that the reduction of the top-hamper had been abandoned and Lafayette was to sail on 14 February as planned. This abrupt reversal necessitated a frantic resumption of conversion work, and captains Coman and Simmers scheduled 9 February[clarification needed] meetings in New York and Washington to lobby for further clarification of conversion plans; ultimately, these meetings would never take place.

Fire and capsizing

Lafayette (AP-53) afire at New York harbor on 9 February 1942

At 14:30 on 9 February 1942, sparks from a welding torch used by workman Clement Derrick ignited a stack of life vests filled with flammable kapok that had been stored in Lafayette's first-class lounge. The flammable varnished woodwork had not yet been removed, and the fire spread rapidly. The ship had a very efficient fire protection system, but it had been disconnected during the conversion and its internal pumping system was deactivated. The New York City Fire Department's hoses, unfortunately, did not fit the ship's French inlets. Before the fire department arrived, approximately 15 minutes after fire broke out, all onboard crew were using manual means in a vain attempt to stop the blaze. A strong northwesterly wind blowing over Lafayette's port quarter swept the blaze forward, eventually consuming the three upper decks of the ship within an hour of the start of the conflagration. Capt. Coman, along with Capt. Simmers, arrived about 15:25 to see his huge prospective command in flames.

USS Lafayette capsized in New York harbor

As firefighters on shore and in fire boats poured water on the blaze, Lafayette developed a dangerous list to port due to water pumped into the seaward side by fireboats. Vladimir Yourkevitch, the ship's designer, arrived at the scene to offer expertise but was barred by harbor police. Yourkevitch's suggestion was to enter the vessel and open the sea-cocks. This would flood the lower decks and make her settle the few feet to the bottom. With the ship stabilised, water could be pumped into burning areas without the risk of capsizing. The suggestion was rejected by the commander of the 3rd Naval District, Rear Admiral Adolphus Andrews.

Between 17:45 and 18:00 on 9 February 1942, authorities considered the fire under control and began winding down operations until 20:00. Water entering Lafayette through submerged openings and flowing to the lower decks negated efforts to counter-flood, and her list gradually increased to port. Shortly after midnight, Rear Adm. Andrews ordered Lafayette abandoned. The ship continued to list, a process hastened by the 6,000 tons of water that had been sprayed on her. New York fire officials were concerned that the fire could spread to the nearby buildings. Lafayette eventually capsized during the mid watch (02:45) on 10 February, nearly crushing a fire boat, and came to rest on her port side at an angle of approximately 80 degrees. Recognising that his incompetence had caused the disaster, Rear Adm. Andrews ordered all pressmen barred from viewing the moment of capsize in an effort to lower the level of publicity.

Normandie, renamed USS Lafayette, lies capsized in the frozen mud of her New York pier in the winter of 1942

One man died in the tragedy — Frank "Trent" Trentacosta, 36, of Brooklyn, a member of the fire watch. Some 94 USCG and Navy sailors, including some from Lafayette's pre-commissioning crew and men assigned to the receiving ship Seattle, 38 fire fighters, and 153 civilians were treated for various injuries, burns, smoke inhalation, and exposure.

Saboteur (film)

The ruined Lafayette after the fire can be seen briefly in the film Saboteur (1942). The ship is not identified in the film, but the antagonist smiles when he sees it, suggesting that he was responsible. The film's director, Alfred Hitchcock, later said that "the Navy raised hell" about the implication that their security was so poor. The eastern seaboard of the U.S. was being attacked by German U-boats at the time of the film's release, but information was suppressed by the Navy.

Investigation and salvage

U.S. Coast Guard Grumman Widgeon flies over wreck of Lafayette in New York 1943

Enemy sabotage was widely suspected, but a congressional investigation in the wake of the sinking, chaired by Representative Patrick Henry Drewry (D-Virginia), concluded that the fire was completely accidental. The investigation found evidence of carelessness, rule violations, lack of coordination between the various parties on board, lack of clear command structure during the fire, and a hasty, poorly-planned conversion effort.

Members of organized crime have retrospectively claimed that it was they who sabotaged the vessel. The alleged arson would have been organized by mobster Anthony Anastasio, who was a power in the local longshoremen's union, for the purpose of providing a pretext for the release from prison of mob boss Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano's end of the bargain would be that he would ensure that there would be no further "enemy" sabotage in the ports where the mob had strong influence with the unions.

In one of the largest and most expensive salvage operations of its kind, estimated at $5 million dollars at the time, the ship was stripped of superstructure and righted on 7 August 1943. She was renamed Lafayette and reclassified as an aircraft and transport ferry, APV-4, on 15 September 1943 and placed in drydock the following month. However, extensive damage to her hull, deterioration of her machinery, and the necessity for employing manpower on other more critical war projects prevented resumption of the conversion program, with the cost of restoring her determined to be too great. Her hulk remained in the Navy's custody through the end of the war.

Lafayette was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 11 October 1945 without having ever sailed under the U.S. flag. President Harry Truman authorized her disposal in an Executive Order on 8 September 1946, and she was sold as scrap on 3 October 1946 to Lipsett, Inc., an American salvage company based in New York City, for US$161,680 (approx. $1,997,000 in 2017 value). After neither the Navy nor French Line offered a plan to salvage her, Yourkevitch, the ship's original designer, proposed to cut the ship down and restore her as a mid-sized liner. This plan also failed to draw backing. She was cut up for scrap beginning in October 1946 at Port Newark, New Jersey, and completely scrapped by 31 December 1948.

Designer Marin-Marie gave an innovative line to Normandie, a silhouette which influenced ocean liners over the decades, including Queen Mary 2. The ambience of classic transatlantic liners like Normandie (and her chief rival, Queen Mary) was the source of inspiration for Disney Cruise Line's matching vessels, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy.

The Normandie Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Normandie also inspired the architecture and design of the Normandie Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The hotel's roof sign is one of the two signs that adorned the top deck of Normandie but were removed from it during an early refitting. It also inspired the nickname 'The Normandie' given to the International Savings Society Apartments in Shanghai, one of the most fashionable residential buildings during the city's pre-revolutionary heyday and home to several stars of China's mid-20th century film industry.

Items from Normandie were sold at a series of auctions after her demise, and many pieces are considered valuable Art Déco treasures today. The rescued items include the ten large dining-room door medallions and fittings, and some of the individual Jean Dupas glass panels that formed the large murals mounted at the four corners of her Grand Salon. One entire corner is preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The dining room door medallions are now on the exterior doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn.

Dining room door medallions

Also surviving are some examples of the 24,000 pieces of crystal, some from the massive Lalique torchères that adorned her dining salon. Also extant are some of the room's table silverware, chairs, and gold-plated bronze table bases. Custom-designed suite and cabin furniture as well as original artwork and statues that decorated the ship, or were built for use by the CGT aboard Normandie, also survive today.

The eight-foot-high, 1,000-pound bronze figural sculpture of a woman named "La Normandie", which was at the top of the grand stairway from the first class smoking room up to the grill room café, was found in a New Jersey scrapyard in 1954 and was purchased for the then-new Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. It was first displayed outside in the parterre gardens near the formal pool and later indoors near the then-Fontainebleau Hilton's spa. In 2001, the hotel sold the statue to Celebrity Cruises, which placed it in the main dining room of their new ship Celebrity Summit. The cruise ship also had a separate Normandie Restaurant, designed to reflect the interiors of the liner, and containing gold lacquered panels from the Normandie's First Class Smoking Room. The Normandie Restaurant and associated ocean liner decor was removed in 2015. The statue "La Paix", which stood in the First Class Dining Room, now stands in the Pinelawn Memorial Park, a cemetery in New York.

The three-note chime steam whistle, after salvage, was sent to the Bethlehem Steel factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where it was used to announce shift changes. It later resided in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and was used in their New Year's Eve steam whistle ceremony until 2014. This whistle is now at SUNY Maritime's Fort Schuyler.[citation needed]

Pieces from Normandie occasionally appear on the BBC television series Antiques Roadshow and also on its American counterpart. A public lounge and promenade was created from some of the panels and furniture from Normandie in the Hilton Chicago. The dining room "Normandie" on the Carnival Cruise ship Carnival Pride was also inspired by the ocean liner, per the ship's designer Joseph Farcus.

Starboard and side elevation diagram of Normandie's streamlined profile. The third funnel was a dummy employed to balance the ship aesthetically and contain the air conditioning machinery. This third funnel also was known to contain the dog kennels.
Side elevation and cutaway, revealing the vast internal spaces devoted to Normandie's public compartments.
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  36. Ardman 1985, pp. 91–92.
  37. Catherine Donzel (2006). Luxury Liners Life on Board. Harry Abrams. pp. 109–111.
  38. Maxtone-Graham 1972, pp. 273–275.
  39. Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 284.
  40. Ardman 1985, p. 147.
  41. Ardman 1985, p. 137.
  42. Ardman 1985, pp. 166–170.
  43. Hooks, Mike (2010). "Buzzing the Normandie". Aeroplane. No. November 2010. IPC Media. p. 60.
  44. "ROYAL AIR FORCE (ACCIDENT, SOLENT)". Hansard. Retrieved13 October 2010.
  45. Ardman 1985, p. 221.
  46. Ardman 1985, pp. 172–173.
  47. Maxtone-Graham 1972, pp. 286–287.
  48. Ardman 1985, pp. 325–326.
  49. Ardman 1985, pp. 147, 184–185, 205, 218, 238.
  50. Ardman 1985, pp. 237, 423.
  51. Williams & De Kerbrech 1982, p. [page needed].
  52. "TGOL – Normandie". www.thegreatoceanliners.com.
  53. Maxtone-Graham 1972, pp. 360–361.
  54. Braynard 1987, p. 87.
  55. Ardman 1985, pp. 274–276.
  56. Ardman 1985, p. 299.
  57. Maxtone-Graham 1972, pp. 367–368.
  58. Ardman 1985, pp. 272, 304–314.
  59. Maxtone-Graham 1972, pp. 373–374.
  60. Braynard 1987, p. 97.
  61. Spoto 1999, p. 253.
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  64. Bondanella 2004, p. 200.
  65. Gosch & Hammer 1974, pp. 260–262.
  66. Schenk 2013, p. [page needed].
  67. Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 392.
  68. "Imagination Creates Atmosphere On Disney Wonder, UK". British Design Innovation. 27 May 2003. Archived from the original on 29 May 2009. Retrieved22 November 2008.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  69. Ardman 1985, pp. 418–420.
  70. "'History of Navigation' Mural – Jean Dupas – 1934". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1976.414.3a-ggg.
  71. "History of Our Lady of Lebanon". Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral. Retrieved8 January 2014.
  72. "Summit Gallery". www.thecaptainslog.org.uk.
  73. "Celebrity To Replace Ocean Liner-Themed Restaurants".
  74. ""La Paix" from the Normandie Oceanliner". wikimapia.org.
  75. "History's Headlines: Doomed ocean liner's whistle lived on at Bethlehem Steel". WFMZ. 10 February 2015.
  76. "New Year's Eve 2014 Marked Final Year of Steam Whistle Tradition". Pratt Institute. 21 December 2015.
  77. Rueb, Emily S. (4 June 2010). "The Normandie Breathes Again". City Room. Retrieved31 July 2019.
  78. Crafton, Luke. "The Normandie: A Legend Undiminished". Antiques Roadshow. Retrieved1 May 2016.
  79. "Carnival Dream – An Interview with Designer Joe Farcus". www.beyondships.com.

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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Records
Preceded by
Blue Riband (Westbound record-holder)
1935–1936
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Blue Riband (Eastbound record-holder)
1935–1936
Preceded by
Blue Riband (Westbound record-holder)
1937–1938
Succeeded by
Blue Riband (Eastbound record-holder)
1937–1938
Preceded by
Holder of the Hales Trophy
1935–1952
Succeeded by

SS Normandie
SS Normandie Language Watch Edit For the French RO RO ship operating for Brittany Ferries see MV Normandie The SS Normandie was a French ocean liner built in Saint Nazaire France for the French Line Compagnie Generale Transatlantique CGT She entered service in 1935 as the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat crossing the Atlantic in a record 4 14 days and remains the most powerful steam turbo electric propelled passenger ship ever built 4 5 SS Normandie at sea circa 1936HistoryFranceNameSS NormandieOwnerCompagnie Generale Transatlantique 1 Port of registryPort of Le Havre 1 BuilderChantiers de Penhoet Saint Nazaire France 1 Laid down26 January 1931Launched29 October 1932Christened29 October 1932Maiden voyage29 May 1935 2 IdentificationCall sign PNSK 1 FateCaught fire capsized 1942 Scrapped October 1946NotesBurned and capsized at the dockside during troopship conversionGeneral characteristicsTypeOcean linerTonnage79 280 GRT 1935 1936 83 423 GRT post 1936 Displacement68 350 tons loaded Length1 029 ft 313 6 m o a 962 ft 293 2 m p p 1 Beam117 ft 10 in 35 9 m 1 Height184 ft 56 1 m Draught36 ft 7 in 11 2 m loaded Depth92 ft 28 0 m to promenade strength deckDecks12Installed powerFour turbo electric total 160 000 hp 200 000 hp max 3 PropulsionFour 3 bladed on launch later 4 bladedSpeed29 5 knots 54 6 km h 33 9 mph designed 32 2 knots 59 6 km h 37 1 mph recorded on trialsCapacity1 972 848 First Class cabin 670 Tourist Class 454 Third ClassCrew1 345 Normandie s novel design and lavish interiors led many to consider her the greatest of ocean liners 6 7 Despite this she was not a commercial success and relied partly on government subsidy to operate 7 During service as the flagship of the CGT she made 139 westbound transatlantic crossings from her home port of Le Havre to New York City Normandie held the Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossing at several points during her service career during which the RMS Queen Mary was her main rival During the Second World War Normandie was seized by U S authorities at New York and renamed USS Lafayette In 1942 the liner caught fire while being converted to a troopship capsized onto her port side and came to rest on the mud of the Hudson River at Pier 88 the site of the current New York Passenger Ship Terminal Although salvaged at great expense restoration was deemed too costly and she was scrapped in October 1946 8 Contents 1 Origin 2 Construction and launch 3 Interior 4 Career 5 Planned running mate SS Bretagne 6 Popularity 7 World War II 7 1 Lafayette conversion 7 2 Fire and capsizing 7 2 1 Saboteur film 7 3 Investigation and salvage 8 Legacy 9 Profile views 10 See also 11 Notes 12 References 13 Bibliography 14 External linksOrigin EditThe beginnings of Normandie can be traced to the Roaring Twenties when shipping companies began looking to replace veteran liners 9 Those earlier ships had been designed to accommodate the huge numbers of steerage class immigrants from Europe to the United States When the U S put restrictions on most immigration in the early 1920s steamship companies ordered vessels built to serve upper class tourists instead particularly Americans who traveled to Europe to escape the prohibition of alcohol 7 Companies like Cunard and the White Star Line planned to build their own superliners 10 to rival newer ships of the day such vessels included the record breaking Bremen and Europa both German 7 The French Line Compagnie Generale Transatlantique CGT began to plan its own superliner 9 Adolphe Cassandre s famed 1935 depiction of the SS Normandie The CGT s flagship was the Ile de France which had modern Art Deco interiors but a conservative hull design 9 The designers intended their new superliner to be similar to earlier French Line ships Then they were approached by Vladimir Yourkevitch a former ship architect for the Imperial Russian Navy who had emigrated to France after the 1917 revolution 9 Yourkevitch s ideas included a slanting clipper like bow and a bulbous forefoot beneath the waterline in combination with a slim hydrodynamic hull His concepts worked wonderfully in scale models confirming the design s performance advantages 11 12 The French engineers were impressed and asked Yourkevitch to join their project He also approached Cunard with his ideas but was rejected because the bow was deemed too radical 7 The CGT commissioned artists to create posters and publicity for the liner One of the most famous posters was by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre another Russian emigrant to France 13 Another poster by Albert Sebille showed the interior layout in a cutaway diagram 15 feet long This poster is displayed in the Musee national de la Marine in Paris 14 Construction and launch Edit Vladimir Yourkevitch working on design of SS Normandie Normandie under construction 1932 Work by the Societe Anonyme des Chantiers de Penhoet began on the unnamed flagship on 26 January 1931 at Saint Nazaire soon after the stock market crash of 1929 While the French continued construction the competing White Star Line ship intended as Oceanic and started before the crash was cancelled and Cunard s RMS Queen Mary was put on hold 10 French builders also ran into difficulty and had to ask for government money this subsidy was questioned in the press Still the ship s construction was followed by newspapers and national interest was deep as she was designed to represent France in the nation state contest of the great liners and was built in a French shipyard using French parts 15 The growing hull in Saint Nazaire had no formal designation except T 6 T for Transat an alternate name for the French Line and 6 for 6th the contract name 16 Many names were suggested including Doumer after Paul Doumer the recently assassinated President of France and originally La Belle France 17 Finally Normandie was chosen In France boat prefixes properly depend on the boat name s gender but non sailors mostly use the masculine form 17 inherited from the French terms for boat which can be paquebot navire bateau or batiment but English speakers refer to boats as feminine she s a beauty and the GCT carried many rich American customers The CGT wrote that their boat was to be called simply Normandie preceded by neither le nor la French masculine feminine for the to avoid any confusion 12 The Normandie drydock in St Nazaire which was built specifically for the new ship On 29 October 1932 three years to the day after the stock market crash Normandie was launched in front of 200 000 spectators 18 The 27 567 ton hull that slid into the Loire River was the largest launched and the wave washed up the shoreline and over several hundred spectators but with no injury 19 The ship was dedicated by Madame Marguerite Lebrun wife of Albert Lebrun the President of France She was outfitted until early 1935 her interiors funnels engines and other fittings put in to make her into a working vessel Finally in May 1935 Normandie was ready for trials which were watched by reporters 20 The superiority of Yourkevitch s hull was visible hardly a wave was created off the bulbous bow The ship reached a top speed of 32 1 8 knots 59 1 2 km h 21 and performed an emergency stop from that speed in 1 700 m 5 600 ft In addition to hull design which let her attain speed at far less power than other big liners 22 Normandie had a turbo electric transmission with turbo generators and electric propulsion motors built by Alsthom of Belfort 1 The CGT chose turbo electric transmission for the ability to use full power in reverse 4 and because according to CGT officials it was quieter and more easily controlled and maintained 4 The engine installation was heavier than conventional turbines and slightly less efficient at high speed but allowed all propellers to operate even if one engine was not running This system also made it possible to eliminate astern turbines 4 An early form of radar was installed to prevent collisions 23 24 The rudder frame including the 125 ton cast steel connecting rod was produced by Skoda Works in Czechoslovakia Interior EditNormandie s luxurious interiors were designed in Art Deco and Streamline Moderne style by architect Pierre Patout one of the founders of the Art Deco style 25 Many sculptures and wall paintings made allusions to Normandy the province of France for which the ship was named 26 Drawings and photographs show a series of vast public rooms of great elegance Her voluminous interior spaces were made possible by having the funnel uptakes split to pass along the sides of the ship rather than straight upward 18 French architect Roger Henri Expert was in charge of the overall decorative scheme 27 Most of the public space was devoted to first class passengers including the dining room first class lounge grill room first class swimming pool theatre and winter garden The first class swimming pool featured staggered depths with a shallow training beach for children 28 The children s dining room was decorated by Jean de Brunhoff who covered the walls with Babar the Elephant and his entourage 29 30 The interiors were filled with grand perspectives spectacular entryways and long wide staircases First class suites were given unique designs by select designers The most luxurious accommodations were the Deauville and Trouville apartments 31 featuring dining rooms baby grand pianos multiple bedrooms and private decks 28 Normandie s main dining room decorated with Lalique glass and compared to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles Normandie s first class dining hall was the largest room afloat At 305 feet 93 m it was longer than the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles 32 33 46 feet 14 m wide and 28 feet 8 5 m high Passengers entered through 20 foot tall 6 1 m doors adorned with bronze medallions by artist Raymond Subes 34 The room could seat 700 at 157 tables 32 with Normandie serving as a floating promotion for the most sophisticated French cuisine of the period As no natural light could enter 32 it was illuminated by twelve tall pillars of Lalique glass flanked by 38 matching columns along the walls 32 These with chandeliers hung at each end of the room earned the Normandie the nickname Ship of Light 28 similar to Paris as the City of Light A popular feature was the cafe grill which would be transformed into a nightclub 35 Adjoining the cafe grill was the first class smoking room which was paneled in large murals depicting ancient Egyptian life The ship also had indoor and outdoor pools a chapel and a theatre which could double as a stage and cinema 33 36 The machinery of Normandie s top deck and forecastle was integrated within the ship concealing it and releasing nearly all the exposed deck space for passengers As such it was the only ocean liner to have a regulation sized open air tennis court on board 37 The air conditioner units were concealed along with the kennels inside the third dummy funnel 38 Career Edit The triumphant arrival of Normandie in New York harbor in June 1935 on her maiden voyage Normandie at sea Normandie s maiden voyage was on 29 May 1935 Fifty thousand saw her off at Le Havre on what was hoped would be a record breaking crossing She reached New York City after four days three hours and two minutes taking away the Blue Riband from the Italian liner Rex 39 This brought great pride for the French who had not won the distinction before Under the command of Captain Rene Pugnet Normandie s average on the maiden voyage was around 30 knots 56 km h and on the eastbound crossing to France she averaged over 30 knots 56 km h breaking records in both directions 40 During the maiden voyage the CGT refused to predict that their ship would win the Blue Riband 7 However by the time the ship reached New York medallions of the Blue Riband victory made in France were delivered to passengers and the ship flew a 30 foot long 9 1 m blue pennant 7 39 An estimated 100 000 spectators lined New York Harbor for Normandie s arrival 41 All passengers were presented with a medal celebrating the occasion on behalf of the CGT Cunard contemporary rivals RMS Queen Mary RMS Queen Elizabeth Normandie had a successful year but Queen Mary Cunard White Star Line s superliner entered service in the summer of 1936 Cunard White Star said Queen Mary would surpass 80 000 tons 42 At 79 280 tons Normandie would no longer be the world s largest The CGT increased Normandie s size mainly through the addition of an enclosed tourist lounge on the aft boat deck Following these and other alterations she measured 83 423 gross register tons 42 Exceeding Queen Mary by 2 000 tons she would soon become the world s largest in terms of overall measured gross registered tonnage and length once again claiming it off Queen Mary who only held it for a short amount of time 42 On 22 June 1936 a Blackburn Baffin S5162 of A Flight RAF Gosport flown by Lt Guy Kennedy Horsey on torpedo dropping practice buzzed Normandie a mile 2 km off Ryde Pier and collided with a derrick which was transferring a motor car belonging to Arthur Evans MP onto a barge alongside the ship The aircraft crashed onto Normandie s bow The pilot was taken off by tender but the wreckage of the aircraft remained on board Normandie as she had to sail due to the tide It was carried to Le Havre A salvage team from the Royal Air Force later removed the wreckage Horsey was court martialled and found guilty on two charges Evans car was wrecked in the accident 43 which was brought up in Parliament 44 In August 1936 Queen Mary captured the Blue Riband averaging 30 14 knots 55 82 km h starting a fierce rivalry 7 Normandie held the size record until the arrival of RMS Queen Elizabeth 83 673 gross tons in 1940 45 During refit Normandie was modified to reduce vibration Her three bladed screws were replaced with four bladed ones and structural modifications were made to her lower aft section These modifications reduced vibration at speed 46 47 In July 1937 she regained the Blue Riband but Queen Mary took it back next year After this the captain of Normandie sent a message saying Bravo to the Queen Mary until next time This rivalry could have gone on into the 1940s but was ended by the Second World War Normandie carried distinguished passengers including the authors Colette and Ernest Hemingway 48 the wife of French President Albert Lebrun 39 songwriters Noel Coward and Irving Berlin and Hollywood celebrities such as Fred Astaire Marlene Dietrich Walt Disney Douglas Fairbanks Jr and James Stewart 49 She also carried the von Trapp family singers of The Sound of Music from New York to Southampton in 1938 and from Southampton the family went to Scandinavia for a tour before returning to the U S Planned running mate SS Bretagne EditWhile Normandie rarely was occupied at over 60 of her capacity her finances were such that she did not require government subsidies every year She never repaid any of the loans that made her construction possible The CGT considered a sister ship SS Bretagne which was to be longer and larger There were two competing designs for this ship one conservative one radical The conservative design was essentially Normandie with two funnels possibly larger as well The radical one was from Normandie s designer Vladimir Yourkevitch and was super streamlined with twin side by side funnels just aft of the bridge The more conservative design won but the outbreak of the war halted the plan indefinitely 50 51 Popularity EditAlthough Normandie was a critical success in her design and decor ultimately North Atlantic passengers flocked to the more traditional Queen Mary Two of the ship s greatest attributes in reality turned out to be two of her biggest faults Normandie depicted on a token Overhead view of Normandie at sea Part of Normandie s problem lay in the fact that the majority of her passenger space was devoted solely to first class which could carry up to 848 people Less space and consideration were given to second and tourist class which numbered only 670 and 454 passengers respectively As a result the consensus among North Atlantic passengers was that she was primarily a ship for the rich and famous In contrast in Queen Mary Cunard White Star had placed just as much emphasis on decor space and accommodation in second and tourist class as in first class Thus Queen Mary accommodated American tourists who had become numerous in the 1920s and 1930s Many of these passengers could not afford first class passage yet wanted to travel with much of the same comfort as those experienced in first As a result second and tourist class became a major cash source for shipping companies at that time Queen Mary would accommodate these trends and subsequently the liner achieved greater popularity among North Atlantic travellers during the late thirties 52 Another of the CGT s greatest triumphs also turned out to be one of Normandie s greatest flaws her decor The ship s slick and modern Art Deco interiors proved to be somewhat intimidating and uncomfortable for her travellers with some claiming that interiors gave them migraines It was also here that Queen Mary triumphed over her French rival Although also decorated in an Art Deco style Queen Mary was more restrained in her appointments and was not as radical as Normandie and proved ultimately to be more popular with travellers 52 Normandie at C G T s pier 88 in New York As a result Normandie at many times throughout her service history carried less than half her full complement of passengers Her German rivals Bremen and Europa and Italian rivals Rex and Conte di Savoia also suffered from this problem despite their innovative designs and luxurious interiors they made little profit for their respective companies Contributing to this were international boycotts against Germany and Italy as the European geopolitical situation deteriorated through the 1930s The Italian liners were relying heavily on government subsidies while the German Lloyd liners never received funding In comparison Normandie did not require government subsidies in service with her income covering not only her operating expenses but generating revenue of 158 000 000 francs In contrast Cunard White Star s Britannic III Georgic II and much older Aquitania along with the Holland America Line s SS Nieuw Amsterdam were among the few North Atlantic liners to make a profit carrying the lion s share of passengers in the years preceding the Second World War World War II EditThe outbreak of the war found Normandie in New York harbor Looming hostilities in Europe had compelled Normandie to seek haven in the U S The federal government interned her on 3 September 1939 the same day France declared war on Germany Soon Queen Mary later refitted as a troopship moored nearby Then two weeks later Queen Elizabeth joined Queen Mary For five months the three largest liners in the world were tied up side by side 53 Normandie remained in French hands with French crewmembers on board led by Captain Herve Lehuede into the spring of 1940 On 15 May 1940 during the battle of France the U S Treasury Department detailed about 150 agents of the United States Coast Guard USCG to go aboard the ship and Manhattan s Pier 88 to defend it against possible sabotage Under then current U S law the Coast Guard was a part of the Treasury during peacetime When the USCG became a part of the United States Navy on 1 November 1941 Normandie s USCG detail remained intact mainly observing while the French crew maintained the vessel s boilers machinery and other equipment including the fire watch system On 12 December 1941 five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor the USCG removed Captain Lehuede and his crew and took possession of Normandie under the right of angary maintaining steam in the boilers and other activities on the idled vessel However the elaborate fire watch system which ensured that any fire would be suppressed before it became a danger was abandoned 54 Lafayette conversion Edit Normandie docked in New York harbor at Pier 88 site of attempted troopship conversion On 20 December 1941 the Auxiliary Vessels Board officially recorded President Franklin D Roosevelt s approval of Normandie s transfer to the U S Navy Plans called for the vessel to be turned into a troopship convoy unit loaded transport The Navy renamed her USS Lafayette in honor of both Marquis de la Fayette the French general who fought on the Colonies behalf in the American Revolution and the alliance with France that made American independence possible The name was a suggestion of J P Jim Warburg advisory assistant to Colonel William J Donovan Coordinator of Information which was passed through multiple channels including Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox Admiral Harold R Stark Chief of Naval Operations CNO and Rear Adm Randall Jacobs Chief of the Bureau of Navigation The name La Fayette later universally and unofficially contracted to Lafayette was officially approved by the Secretary of the Navy on 31 December 1941 with the vessel classified as a transport AP 53 Earlier proposals included turning Lafayette into an aircraft carrier but this was dropped in favor of immediate troop transport 55 The ship remained moored at Pier 88 for the conversion A contract for her conversion to a troop transport was awarded to Robins Dry Dock and Repair Co a subsidiary of Todd Shipyards on 27 December 1941 On that date Capt Clayton M Simmers the 3rd Naval District Materiel Officer reported to the Bureau of Ships BuShips his estimate that the conversion work could be completed by 31 January 1942 and planning for the work proceeded on that basis Capt Robert G Coman reported as Lafayette s prospective commanding officer on 31 January 1942 overseeing a skeleton engineering force numbering 458 men The complicated nature and enormous size of the conversion effort prevented Coman s crew from adhering to the original schedule crew familiarization with the vessel was an issue and additional crew members were arriving to assist the effort On 6 February 1942 a request for a two week delay for the first sailing of Lafayette originally scheduled for 14 February was submitted to the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations On that day a schedule extension was granted due to a design plan change elements of the superstructure were to be removed to improve stability in work that was expected to take another 60 to 90 days However on 7 February orders came from Washington that the reduction of the top hamper had been abandoned and Lafayette was to sail on 14 February as planned This abrupt reversal necessitated a frantic resumption of conversion work and captains Coman and Simmers scheduled 9 February clarification needed meetings in New York and Washington to lobby for further clarification of conversion plans ultimately these meetings would never take place Fire and capsizing Edit Lafayette AP 53 afire at New York harbor on 9 February 1942 At 14 30 on 9 February 1942 sparks from a welding torch used by workman Clement Derrick ignited a stack of life vests filled with flammable kapok that had been stored in Lafayette s first class lounge 56 57 The flammable varnished woodwork had not yet been removed and the fire spread rapidly The ship had a very efficient fire protection system but it had been disconnected during the conversion and its internal pumping system was deactivated 58 The New York City Fire Department s hoses unfortunately did not fit the ship s French inlets Before the fire department arrived approximately 15 minutes after fire broke out all onboard crew were using manual means in a vain attempt to stop the blaze A strong northwesterly wind blowing over Lafayette s port quarter swept the blaze forward eventually consuming the three upper decks of the ship within an hour of the start of the conflagration Capt Coman along with Capt Simmers arrived about 15 25 to see his huge prospective command in flames USS Lafayette capsized in New York harbor As firefighters on shore and in fire boats poured water on the blaze Lafayette developed a dangerous list to port due to water pumped into the seaward side by fireboats Vladimir Yourkevitch the ship s designer arrived at the scene to offer expertise but was barred by harbor police 48 59 Yourkevitch s suggestion was to enter the vessel and open the sea cocks This would flood the lower decks and make her settle the few feet to the bottom With the ship stabilised water could be pumped into burning areas without the risk of capsizing The suggestion was rejected by the commander of the 3rd Naval District Rear Admiral Adolphus Andrews Between 17 45 and 18 00 on 9 February 1942 authorities considered the fire under control and began winding down operations until 20 00 Water entering Lafayette through submerged openings and flowing to the lower decks negated efforts to counter flood and her list gradually increased to port Shortly after midnight Rear Adm Andrews ordered Lafayette abandoned The ship continued to list a process hastened by the 6 000 tons of water that had been sprayed on her New York fire officials were concerned that the fire could spread to the nearby buildings Lafayette eventually capsized during the mid watch 02 45 on 10 February nearly crushing a fire boat and came to rest on her port side at an angle of approximately 80 degrees Recognising that his incompetence had caused the disaster Rear Adm Andrews ordered all pressmen barred from viewing the moment of capsize in an effort to lower the level of publicity 60 Normandie renamed USS Lafayette lies capsized in the frozen mud of her New York pier in the winter of 1942 One man died in the tragedy Frank Trent Trentacosta 36 of Brooklyn a member of the fire watch Some 94 USCG and Navy sailors including some from Lafayette s pre commissioning crew and men assigned to the receiving ship Seattle 38 fire fighters and 153 civilians were treated for various injuries burns smoke inhalation and exposure Saboteur film Edit The ruined Lafayette after the fire can be seen briefly in the film Saboteur 1942 The ship is not identified in the film but the antagonist smiles when he sees it suggesting that he was responsible The film s director Alfred Hitchcock later said that the Navy raised hell about the implication that their security was so poor 61 The eastern seaboard of the U S was being attacked by German U boats at the time of the film s release but information was suppressed by the Navy Investigation and salvage Edit U S Coast Guard Grumman Widgeon flies over wreck of Lafayette in New York 1943 Enemy sabotage was widely suspected but a congressional investigation in the wake of the sinking chaired by Representative Patrick Henry Drewry D Virginia concluded that the fire was completely accidental 62 63 The investigation found evidence of carelessness rule violations lack of coordination between the various parties on board lack of clear command structure during the fire and a hasty poorly planned conversion effort Members of organized crime have retrospectively claimed that it was they who sabotaged the vessel The alleged arson would have been organized by mobster Anthony Anastasio who was a power in the local longshoremen s union for the purpose of providing a pretext for the release from prison of mob boss Charles Lucky Luciano Luciano s end of the bargain would be that he would ensure that there would be no further enemy sabotage in the ports where the mob had strong influence with the unions a In one of the largest and most expensive salvage operations of its kind estimated at 5 million dollars at the time the ship was stripped of superstructure and righted on 7 August 1943 66 She was renamed Lafayette and reclassified as an aircraft and transport ferry APV 4 on 15 September 1943 and placed in drydock the following month However extensive damage to her hull deterioration of her machinery and the necessity for employing manpower on other more critical war projects prevented resumption of the conversion program with the cost of restoring her determined to be too great Her hulk remained in the Navy s custody through the end of the war Lafayette was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 11 October 1945 without having ever sailed under the U S flag President Harry Truman authorized her disposal in an Executive Order on 8 September 1946 and she was sold as scrap on 3 October 1946 to Lipsett Inc an American salvage company based in New York City for US 161 680 approx 1 997 000 in 2017 value After neither the Navy nor French Line offered a plan to salvage her Yourkevitch the ship s original designer proposed to cut the ship down and restore her as a mid sized liner 67 This plan also failed to draw backing She was cut up for scrap beginning in October 1946 8 at Port Newark New Jersey and completely scrapped by 31 December 1948 Legacy EditDesigner Marin Marie gave an innovative line to Normandie a silhouette which influenced ocean liners over the decades including Queen Mary 2 The ambience of classic transatlantic liners like Normandie and her chief rival Queen Mary was the source of inspiration for Disney Cruise Line s matching vessels Disney Magic Disney Wonder Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy 68 The Normandie Hotel in San Juan Puerto Rico Normandie also inspired the architecture and design of the Normandie Hotel in San Juan Puerto Rico The hotel s roof sign is one of the two signs that adorned the top deck of Normandie but were removed from it during an early refitting It also inspired the nickname The Normandie given to the International Savings Society Apartments in Shanghai one of the most fashionable residential buildings during the city s pre revolutionary heyday and home to several stars of China s mid 20th century film industry Items from Normandie were sold at a series of auctions after her demise 69 and many pieces are considered valuable Art Deco treasures today The rescued items include the ten large dining room door medallions and fittings and some of the individual Jean Dupas glass panels that formed the large murals mounted at the four corners of her Grand Salon 69 One entire corner is preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York 70 The dining room door medallions are now on the exterior doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn 71 Dining room door medallions Also surviving are some examples of the 24 000 pieces of crystal some from the massive Lalique torcheres that adorned her dining salon Also extant are some of the room s table silverware chairs and gold plated bronze table bases Custom designed suite and cabin furniture as well as original artwork and statues that decorated the ship or were built for use by the CGT aboard Normandie also survive today The eight foot high 1 000 pound bronze figural sculpture of a woman named La Normandie which was at the top of the grand stairway from the first class smoking room up to the grill room cafe was found in a New Jersey scrapyard in 1954 and was purchased for the then new Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach Florida It was first displayed outside in the parterre gardens near the formal pool and later indoors near the then Fontainebleau Hilton s spa In 2001 the hotel sold the statue to Celebrity Cruises which placed it in the main dining room of their new ship Celebrity Summit 69 The cruise ship also had a separate Normandie Restaurant designed to reflect the interiors of the liner and containing gold lacquered panels from the Normandie s First Class Smoking Room 72 The Normandie Restaurant and associated ocean liner decor was removed in 2015 73 The statue La Paix which stood in the First Class Dining Room now stands in the Pinelawn Memorial Park a cemetery in New York 74 The three note chime steam whistle after salvage was sent to the Bethlehem Steel factory in Bethlehem Pennsylvania where it was used to announce shift changes 75 It later resided in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and was used in their New Year s Eve steam whistle ceremony until 2014 76 77 This whistle is now at SUNY Maritime s Fort Schuyler citation needed Pieces from Normandie occasionally appear on the BBC television series Antiques Roadshow 78 and also on its American counterpart A public lounge and promenade was created from some of the panels and furniture from Normandie in the Hilton Chicago The dining room Normandie on the Carnival Cruise ship Carnival Pride was also inspired by the ocean liner per the ship s designer Joseph Farcus 79 Profile views Edit Starboard and side elevation diagram of Normandie s streamlined profile The third funnel was a dummy employed to balance the ship aesthetically and contain the air conditioning machinery This third funnel also was known to contain the dog kennels Side elevation and cutaway revealing the vast internal spaces devoted to Normandie s public compartments See also EditSS Paris 1916 SS Ile de France SS Liberte SS France 1961 Compagnie Generale Transatlantique RMS Queen Mary Pierre Marie Poisson RMS Queen Elizabeth Oceanic III The Big Broadcast of 1938 a 1938 film that featured the fictional ocean liner S S Colossal based upon the NormandieNotes Edit The evidence that the fire was caused by arson comes from Meyer Lansky and Luciano themselves 64 65 References Edit a b c d e f g Lloyd s Register Steamers amp Motorships PDF London Lloyd s Register 1935 Retrieved 20 May 2013 Bathe 1972 p 236 Latest Triumphs In Electric Ships Popular Science November 1933 a b c d Ardman 1985 pp 46 47 Colossus into Clyde Time 1 October 1934 Archived from the original on 25 January 2009 Retrieved 19 November 2008 Ardman 1985 p 2 a b c d e f g h Floating Palaces 1996 A amp E TV Documentary Narrated by Fritz Weaver a b Maxtone Graham 1972 p 391 a b c d Ardman 1985 p 36 a b Maxtone Graham 1972 pp 268 269 Ardman 1985 pp 42 47 a b Maxtone Graham 1972 p 273 Reif Rita 26 June 1988 Antiques A Proliferation Of Poster Art The New York Times Retrieved 19 November 2008 Maxtone Graham 1972 p 267 Maxtone Graham 1972 pp 269 272 T 6 The Latest Giant Of The Sea Popular Mechanics December 1932 a b Maxtone Graham 1972 p 272 a b Maxtone Graham 1972 p 275 Ardman 1985 pp 7 17 20 Maxtone Graham 1972 p 281 Ardman 1985 p 111 Ardman 1985 p 171 Ardman 1985 p 160 Radio Waves Warn of Obstacles in Path Popular Mechanics December 1935 p 844 Oudin Bernard Dictionnaire des Architectes Sechiers Paris 1994 in French page 372 Ardman 1985 p 80 Moonan Wendy 17 June 2005 Art Deco Relics of the Normandie The New York Times a b c Maddocks 1978 pp 80 83 Cech John 10 December 2004 Jean de Brunhof and Babar the Elephant Recess Archived from the original on 13 May 2008 Retrieved 19 November 2008 Maxtone Graham 1972 p 372 Maxtone Graham 1972 p 279 a b c d Ardman 1985 pp 86 87 a b Maxtone Graham 1972 p 276 Ardman 1985 pp 85 86 Ardman 1985 p 88 Ardman 1985 pp 91 92 Catherine Donzel 2006 Luxury Liners Life on Board Harry Abrams pp 109 111 Maxtone Graham 1972 pp 273 275 a b c Maxtone Graham 1972 p 284 Ardman 1985 p 147 Ardman 1985 p 137 a b c Ardman 1985 pp 166 170 Hooks Mike 2010 Buzzing the Normandie Aeroplane No November 2010 IPC Media p 60 ROYAL AIR FORCE ACCIDENT SOLENT Hansard Retrieved 13 October 2010 Ardman 1985 p 221 Ardman 1985 pp 172 173 Maxtone Graham 1972 pp 286 287 a b Ardman 1985 pp 325 326 Ardman 1985 pp 147 184 185 205 218 238 Ardman 1985 pp 237 423 Williams amp De Kerbrech 1982 p page needed a b TGOL Normandie www thegreatoceanliners com Maxtone Graham 1972 pp 360 361 Braynard 1987 p 87 Ardman 1985 pp 274 276 Ardman 1985 p 299 Maxtone Graham 1972 pp 367 368 Ardman 1985 pp 272 304 314 Maxtone Graham 1972 pp 373 374 Braynard 1987 p 97 Spoto 1999 p 253 Ardman incomplete short citation sfn error no target CITEREFArdman help Maxtone Graham incomplete short citation sfn error no target CITEREFMaxtone Graham help Bondanella 2004 p 200 Gosch amp Hammer 1974 pp 260 262 Schenk 2013 p page needed Maxtone Graham 1972 p 392 Imagination Creates Atmosphere On Disney Wonder UK British Design Innovation 27 May 2003 Archived from the original on 29 May 2009 Retrieved 22 November 2008 CS1 maint unfit URL link a b c Ardman 1985 pp 418 420 History of Navigation Mural Jean Dupas 1934 The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1976 414 3a ggg History of Our Lady of Lebanon Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral Retrieved 8 January 2014 Summit Gallery www thecaptainslog org uk Celebrity To Replace Ocean Liner Themed Restaurants La Paix from the Normandie Oceanliner wikimapia org History s Headlines Doomed ocean liner s whistle lived on at Bethlehem Steel WFMZ 10 February 2015 New Year s Eve 2014 Marked Final Year of Steam Whistle Tradition Pratt Institute 21 December 2015 Rueb Emily S 4 June 2010 The Normandie Breathes Again City Room Retrieved 31 July 2019 Crafton Luke The Normandie A Legend Undiminished Antiques Roadshow Retrieved 1 May 2016 Carnival Dream An Interview with Designer Joe Farcus www beyondships com Bibliography EditThis article incorporates text from the public domainDictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Ardman Harvey 1985 Normandie Her Life and Times New York Franklin Watts ISBN 0531097846 Bathe Basil W 1972 Seven Centuries of Sea Travel from the Crusaders to the Cruises London Barrie amp Jenkins ISBN 0 214 66811 8 Bondanella Peter E 2004 Hollywood Italians Dagos Palookas Romeos Wise Guys and Sopranos New York Continuum International Publishing Group ISBN 0 8264 1544 X Braynard Frank O 1987 Picture History of the Normandie With 190 Illustrations New York Dover Publications ISBN 0486252574 Brinnin John Malcolm 1971 The Sway of the Grand Saloon a Social History of the North Atlantic New York Delacorte Press Coleman Terry 1977 The liners a history of the North Atlantic crossing Harmondsworth Penguin Books Cressman Robert J 2 May 2007 Lafayette AP 53 ex Normandie Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships U S Naval Historical Center Retrieved 21 June 2008 Fox Robert 1999 Liners The Golden Age Die Grosse Zeit der Ozeanriesen L Age d or des paquebots Cologne Konneman Foucart Bruno Robichon Francois 1985 Normandie Queen of the Seas New York Vendome Press ISBN 0865650578 Gosch Martin A Hammer Richard 1974 The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano Boston Little Brown and Company Kludas Arnold 2000 Record breakers of the North Atlantic Blue Riband Liners 1838 1952 London Chatham Publishing Maddocks Melvin 1978 The Great Liners Alexandria VA Time Life Books Maxtone Graham John 1972 The Only Way to Cross New York Collier Books ISBN 0020960107 Maxtone Graham John 2007 Normandie France s Legendary Art Deco Ocean Liner New York W W Norton amp Co ISBN 9780393061208 Miller William H 2013 SS Normandie Classic Liners series Stroud Gloucestershire The History Press ISBN 9780752488080 Priolo Gary P 25 April 2008 Lafayette AP 53 Service Ship Photo Archive NavSource Online Retrieved 21 June 2008 Schenk Paul 2013 The Silent Front Tales of Our Navy Salvage Divers Blurb Retrieved 9 October 2013 Smith Daniella Ohad March 2011 Legendary Interiors and Illustrious Travelers aboard the SS Normandie Interior Design Architecture Culture 2 1 128 131 doi 10 2752 204191211X12980384100274 S2CID 194098328 Spoto Donald 1999 The Dark Side of Genius The Life of Alfred Hitchcock Da Capo ISBN 0 306 80932 X Williams David L De Kerbrech R P 1982 Damned by Destiny Brighton Teredo Books ISBN 978 0 90366209 3 Streater L 2005 5 volume series of books from construction to salvage Maritime Publishing via marpubs com Missing or empty title help clarification needed Boks W Holland 1935 photo of the model boat SSNormandie clarification needed External links EditWikimedia Commons has media related to Normandie ship 1935 T 6 The Latest Giant Of The Sea December 1932 Popular Mechanics early article on beginning of construction of what became the SS Normandie How Biggest Ship Was Safely Launched February 1933 Popular Science slipway and launching of French passenger liner Normandie in 1933 excellent drawing and illustrations showing basics of process The Queen Of The Seven Seas Popular Mechanics June 1935 Normandie a Marvel in Speed and Comfort Popular Mechanics August 1935 detailed drawings on steam electric drive system Across the Atlantic in a Blue Ribbon Winner Popular Mechanics October 1935 The Normandie virtual reality tour of the Art Deco masterpiece Pictures in the official French Lines Archives SS Normandie French captions The Great Ocean Liners Normandie Salvage Of The USS Lafayette AP 53 1944 United States Navy Educational Documentary on YouTube Hommage Au Normandie Exhibition New York SS Normandie Ocean Liner Museum Exhibit in New York City 1937 Brochure SS NormandieRecordsPreceded by Rex Blue Riband Westbound record holder 1935 1936 Succeeded by Queen MaryPreceded by Bremen Blue Riband Eastbound record holder 1935 1936Preceded by Queen Mary Blue Riband Westbound record holder 1937 1938 Succeeded by Queen MaryBlue Riband Eastbound record holder 1937 1938Preceded by Rex Holder of the Hales Trophy 1935 1952 Succeeded by United States Retrieved 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