SS Normandie

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Colorized photo of the Normandie at sea, c. 1935-1936
OwnerCompagnie Générale Transatlantique[1]
Port of registryPort of Le Havre[1]
RouteLe Havre-Southampton-New York
BuilderChantiers de Penhoet, Saint-Nazaire, France[1]
Laid down26 January 1931
Launched29 October 1932
Christened29 October 1932
Maiden voyage29 May 1935[2]
In service1935–1942
Out of service1942
FateCaught fire, capsized 1942. Scrapped October 1946
General characteristics
TypeOcean liner
  • 79,280 GRT (1935–1936)
  • 83,423 GRT (post-1936)
Displacement68,350 tons (loaded)
  • 313.6 m (1,029 ft) o/a
  • 293.2 m (962 ft) p/p[1]
Beam35.9 m (117 ft 10 in);[1]
Height56.1 m (184 ft)
Draught11.2 m (36 ft 7 in) (loaded)
Depth28.0 m (92 ft) to promenade (strength) deck
Installed powerFour turbo-electric, total 160,000 hp (200,000 hp max).[3]
PropulsionFour 3 bladed on launch – later 4 bladed
  • 29.5 kn (54.6 km/h; 33.9 mph) designed
  • 32.2 kn (59.6 km/h; 37.1 mph) recorded on trials
Capacity1,972: 848 First Class (cabin), 670 Tourist Class, 454 Third Class

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.[4][5]

Normandie's novel design and lavish interiors led many to consider her the greatest of ocean liners,[6][7] and she would go on to heavily influence the French arm of the Streamline Moderne design movement (called the style paquebot, or "ocean liner style").[citation needed] 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, while being converted to a troopship, the liner caught fire and capsized onto her port side and came to rest, half submerged, on the bottom 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]


The origins of Normandie can be traced to the 1920s, when the U.S. put restrictions on immigration, greatly reducing the traditional market for steerage-class passengers from Europe, and placing a new emphasis on upper-class tourists, largely Americans, many of them wanting to escape prohibition.[7] Companies like Cunard and the White Star Line planned to build their own superliners[9] to rival newer ships of the day; such vessels included the record-breaking Bremen and Europa, both German.[7] The French Line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT) began to plan its own superliner.[10]

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.[10] 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.[10] 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 convinced by Yourkevitch and asked him 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 Sébille, showed the interior layout in a cutaway diagram 4.5 metres (15 ft) long. This poster is displayed in the Musée national de la Marine in Paris.[14]

Construction and launch[edit]

Vladimir Yourkevitch working on design of the 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's planned Oceanic which quickly cancelled and Cunard's RMS Queen Mary which was put on hold.[9] 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 "bâtiment", but English speakers refer to boats as feminine ("she's a beauty") and the CGT 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 two-hundred thousand spectators.[18] The 27,567-ton hull that slid into the river Loire 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 32.125 kn (59.5 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 not need to have astern turbines installed and 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 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.[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 93 m (305 ft), it was longer than the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles,[32][33] 14 m (46 ft) wide, and 8.5 m (28 ft) high. Passengers entered through six-metre-tall (20 ft) 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 café grill, which would be transformed into a nightclub.[35] 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.[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]


The maiden voyage of SS Normandie
The triumphant arrival of Normandie in New York Harbor in June 1935 on her maiden voyage.
Normandie at sea
Postcard of the Normandie

Normandie's maiden voyage was on 29 May 1935. At Le Havre she took aboard 812 Passengers: 467 First Class Passengers, 244 Tourist Class and 101 Third Class. 50,000 people saw her off at Le Havre on what was hoped would be a record-breaking crossing. At Southampton she took aboard an additional 195 Passengers: 122 First Class Passengers, 53 Tourist Class and 20 Third Class. Her combined total was 1,007 passengers. First Class was booked at two-thirds capacity with 589, Tourist Class was half booked at 293, while Third Class was at less than a quarter capacity with only 121.[39]

She reached New York City after four days, three hours and two minutes, taking away the Blue Riband from the Italian liner Rex.[40] 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 29.98 knots (55.52 km/h; 34.50 mph) and on the eastbound crossing to France, she averaged over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph), breaking records in both directions.[41]

Postcard of SS Normandie

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 9-metre-long (30 ft) blue pennant.[7][40] An estimated 100,000 spectators lined New York Harbor for Normandie's arrival.[42] All passengers were presented with a medal celebrating the occasion on behalf of the CGT.

SS Normandie in the seas
Cunard contemporary rival

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.[43] 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 GRT.[43] Exceeding Queen Mary by 2,000 tons, she would continue to be the world's largest ship in terms of overall measured gross registered tonnage and length, besting Queen Mary, who entered service three weeks later.[43]

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 two kilometres (one nautical mile) 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,[44][45]

In August 1936, Queen Mary captured the Blue Riband, averaging 30.14 knots (55.82 km/h; 34.68 mph), starting a fierce rivalry.[7] Normandie held the size record until the arrival of RMS Queen Elizabeth (83,673 gross register tons) in 1940.[46]

During refit, Normandie was modified to reduce vibration. Her three-bladed propellers were replaced with four-bladed ones, and structural modifications were made to her lower aft section. These modifications reduced vibration at speed.[47][48] 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;[49] the wife of French President Albert Lebrun;[40] songwriters Noël Coward and Irving Berlin; and Hollywood celebrities such as Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, conductor Arturo Toscanini and James Stewart.[50] 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 United States.

Planned running mate – SS Bretagne[edit]

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.[51][52][page needed]


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 décor, 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 that 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.[53]

Another of the CGT's greatest triumphs also turned out to be one of Normandie's greatest flaws: her décor. 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 headaches. 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.[53]

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 relied 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[edit]

Normandie, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth in New York Harbor in 1940

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.[54] 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. (At the time, U.S. law mandated the Coast Guard as 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.[55]

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.[56] 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.[57][58] 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.[59] 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.[49][60] 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 to port gradually increased. 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.[61]

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.[62]

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 accidental.[63][page needed][64][page needed] 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 retrospectively claimed that they had sabotaged the vessel. It was alleged that arson had been organized by mobster Anthony Anastasio, who was a power in the local longshoremen's union, to provide leverage for the release of mob boss Charles "Lucky" Luciano from prison. Luciano's end of the bargain would be to 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 at the time (equivalent to $85 million in 2022), the ship was stripped of superstructure and righted on 7 August 1943.[67][page needed] 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.[68] This plan also failed to draw backing. She was sent for scrapping beginning in October 1946[8] at Port Newark, New Jersey, and completely scrapped by 31 December 1948.


The silhouette of Normandie influenced ocean liners over the decades, including Queen Mary 2.[citation needed] The ambience of classic transatlantic liners like Normandie and Queen Mary was the source of inspiration for Disney Cruise Line's matching vessels, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy.[69]

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.[citation needed] Normandie's name also may have inspired that of The Normandy apartment building in New York City.[70]

Items from Normandie were sold at a series of auctions after her demise,[71] 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.[71] One entire corner is preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.[72] The dining room door medallions are now on the exterior doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn.[73]

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.[71] 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.[74] The Normandie Restaurant and associated ocean liner decor was removed in 2015.[75] The statue "La Paix", which stood in the First Class Dining Room, now stands in the Pinelawn Memorial Park, a cemetery in New York.[76]

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.[77] It later resided in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and was used in their New Year's Eve steam whistle ceremony until 2014.[78][79] This whistle is now at SUNY Maritime's Fort Schuyler.[citation needed]

Pieces from Normandie occasionally appear on the BBC television series Antiques Roadshow[80] 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.[81]

Though not shown explicitly, "the majestic form of the Normandie"[82] appears in the Tintin story, The Broken Ear.

Profile views[edit]

Starboard and side elevation diagram of Normandie's Streamline Moderne 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[edit]


  1. ^ The suggestion that the fire was caused by arson comes from Meyer Lansky and Luciano themselves.[65][66]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lloyd's Register, Steamers & Motorships (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1935. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  2. ^ Bathe 1972, p. 236.
  3. ^ "Latest Triumphs in Electric Ships". Popular Science. November 1933.
  4. ^ a b c d Ardman 1985, pp. 46–47.
  5. ^ "Colossus into Clyde". Time. 1 October 1934. Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
  6. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 2.
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This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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Preceded by Blue Riband (Westbound record-holder)
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Preceded by Blue Riband (Eastbound record-holder)
Preceded by Blue Riband (Westbound record-holder)
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Blue Riband (Eastbound record-holder)
Preceded by Holder of the Hales Trophy
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