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SS Normandie

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

SS Normandie at sea in the 1930s
Name: SS Normandie
Owner: Compagnie Générale Transatlantique[1]
Port of registry: Le Havre[1]
Builder: Chantiers de Penhoët, Saint-Nazaire, France[1]
Laid down: 26 January 1931
Launched: 29 October 1932
Christened: 29 October 1932
Maiden voyage: 29 May 1935[2]
Fate: Caught fire, capsized 1942. Sold for scrap October 1946
General characteristics
Tonnage: 79,280 GRT; 83,423 GRT
Displacement: 68,500 tons (est.)[3]

1,029 ft (313.6 m) p/p[1]

1,029 ft (313.6 m) o/a

117.9 ft (35.9 m);[1]

119 ft 5 in (36.4 m)
Height: 184 ft (56.1 m)
Draught: 37 ft (11.3 m)
Depth: 57.6 ft (17.6 m)[1]
Decks: 12
Installed power: Four turbo-electric, total 160,000 hp (200,000 hp max).[4]
Propulsion: Four 3- (later 4-) bladed, 23 tons each
Speed: Designed speed 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), max speed recorded 32.2 knots (59.6 km/h; 37.1 mph)
Capacity: 1,972: 848 First Class (cabin), 670 Tourist Class, 454 Third Class
Crew: 1,345

SS Normandie was an 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; she is still the most powerful steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship ever built.[5][6]

Her novel design and lavish interiors led many to consider her the greatest of ocean liners.[7][8] Despite this, she was not a commercial success and relied partly on government subsidy to operate.[8] During service as the flagship of the CGT, she made 139 westbound transatlantic crossings from her home port of Le Havre to New York. 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 World War II, Normandie was seized by US 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.[9]


  • Origin 1
  • Construction and launch 2
  • Interior 3
  • Career 4
  • Planned running mate: SS Bretagne 5
  • Popularity 6
  • World War II 7
    • Lafayette conversion 7.1
    • Fire and capsizing 7.2
      • Saboteur (film) 7.2.1
    • Investigation and salvage 7.3
  • Legacy 8
  • Profile views 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
    • Notes 11.1
    • Bibliography 11.2
  • External links 12


The beginnings of Normandie can be traced to the Roaring Twenties when shipping companies began looking to replace veterans such as the RMS Mauretania (1906) and the RMS Olympic (1911) .[10] Those earlier ships had been designed around the huge numbers of steerage-class immigrants from Europe to the United States. When the U.S. closed the door on most immigration in the early 1920s, steamship companies ordered vessels built to serve upper-class tourists instead, particularly Americans who traveled to Europe for alcohol-fueled fun during Prohibition.[8] Companies like Cunard and the White Star Line planned to build their own superliners[11] to rival newer ships on the scene; such vessels included the record-breaking Bremen and Europa, both German.[8] The French Line began to plan its own superliner.[10]

Adolphe Cassandre's famed 1935 depiction of the SS Normandie.

The French Line's flagship was the Ile de France,[10] which had modern Art Deco interiors but a conservative hull design. The designers of the new French superliner intended to construct their new ship similar to French Line ships of the past,[10] but then they were approached by Vladimir Yourkevitch, a former ship architect for the Imperial Russian Navy, who had emigrated to France after the revolution. His ideas included a slanting clipper-like bow and a bulbous forefoot beneath the waterline, in combination with a slim hydrodynamic hull. Yourkevitch's concepts worked wonderfully in scale models[12][13] which supported his design's performance advantages. The French engineers were impressed and asked Yourkevitch to join their project. Reportedly, he also approached the Cunard Line with his ideas but was rejected because the bow was deemed too radical.[8]

The French Line commissioned artists to create posters and publicity for the liner. One of the most famous posters was by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre,[14] who was also a Russian emigrant to France. Another cutaway diagram by Albert Sébille, 15 feet long, detailed the interior layout and is displayed in the Musée national de la Marine in Paris.[15]

Construction and launch

Vladimir Yourkevitch working on design of SS Normandie

Work by the Société Anonyme des Chantiers de Penhoët began on the unnamed flagship on 26 January 1931 at St. Nazaire, France, soon after the stock market crash of 1929. While the French continued construction, the competing White Star Line's ship (intended as Oceanic) – started before the crash – was cancelled and the Cunard ship put on hold.[11] French builders also ran into difficulty and had to ask for government money; this subsidy was questioned in the press. Still, building 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.[16]

The growing hull in Saint-Nazaire had no formal designation except "T-6" (with "6" for "6th" and "T" for "Transat", short for "CIE. GLE. TRANSATLANTIQUE" aka the "French Line"), the contract name.[17] Many names were suggested including Doumer, after the recently assassinated president Paul Doumer; and originally, La Belle France.[18] Finally Normandie was chosen. In France, ship prefixes properly depend on the ship name's gender, but non-sailors mostly use the masculine form,[18] inherited from the French terms for ship, which can be "paquebot", "navire", "bateau", "bâtiment", but English speakers refer to ships as feminine ("she's a beauty"), and the French Line carried many rich American customers. French Line wrote that their ship was to be called simply "Normandie," preceded by neither "le" nor "la" (French masculine/feminine for "the") to avoid any confusion.[13]

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 crashNormandie was launched in front of 200,000 spectators.[19] The 27,567-ton hull that slid into the Loire River was the largest launched and the wave crashed into a few hundred people, but with no injury.[20] The ship was christened by Madame Andre Lebrun, wife of Albert Lebrun, the President of the French Republic. Normandie 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.[21] The superiority of Vladimir Yourkevitch's hull was visible: hardly a wave was created off the bulbous bow. The ship reached a top speed of 32.125 knots (59.496 km/h)[22] and performed an emergency stop from that speed in 1,700 meters (5,577 ft).

In addition to a novel hull which let her attain speed at far less power than other big liners,[23] Normandie was filled with technical feats. She had turbo-electric transmission, with turbo generators and electric propulsion motors built by Alsthom of Belfort.[1] CGT chose turbo-electric transmission for the ability to use full power in reverse,[6] and because, according to CGT officials, it was quieter and more easily controlled and maintained.[6] 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.[6] An early form of radar was installed to prevent collisions with objects ahead such as RMS Titanic had suffered.[24][25]

Rudder frame including connecting rod made of cast steel with weight of 125 tons was produced by Škoda Works, Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.


The luxurious interiors were designed in Art Déco and Streamline Moderne style. Many sculptures and wall paintings made allusions to Normandy, the province of France for which Normandie was named.[26] Drawings and photographs show a series of vast public rooms of great elegance. Normandie's voluminous interior spaces were made possible by having the funnel intakes split to pass along the sides of the ship, rather than straight upward.[19] 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, grille 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.

The first-class dining hall was the largest room afloat. At 305 feet (93 m), it was longer than the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles,[32][33] stood 46 feet (14 m) wide, and towered 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 12 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 cafe grill was the first-class smoking room, which was paneled in large murals depicting ancient Egyptian life. Normandie also had indoor and outdoor pools, a chapel, and a theatre which could double as a stage and cinema.[33][36]

The machinery of the top deck and forecastle was integrated within the ship, concealing it and releasing nearly all the exposed deck space for passengers. The air conditioner units were concealed along with the kennels inside the third, dummy, funnel.[37]


Normandie arrives for the first time at her home port of Le Havre, France, at the start of her record-breaking maiden voyage.

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. Normandie reached New York after four days, three hours and 14 minutes, taking away the Blue Riband from the Italian liner, Rex.[38] This brought great pride for the French, who had not won the distinction before. Under the command of master Captain René Pugnet, her 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.[39]

During the maiden voyage, French Line refused to predict that their ship would win the Blue Riband.[8] However, by New York, medallions of the Blue Riband victory, made in France, were delivered to passengers and the ship was flying a 30-foot-long (9.1 m) blue pennant.[8][38] An estimated 100,000 spectators lined New York Harbor for Normandie's arrival.[40]

Normandie's triumphant arrival in New York harbor in June 1935 on her maiden voyage.

Normandie had a successful year but RMS Queen Mary, Cunard White Star Line's superliner, entered service in the summer of 1936. Cunard White Star said the Queen Mary would surpass 80,000 tons.[41] At 79,280 tons, Normandie would no longer be the world’s largest. French Line increased Normandie’s size, mainly through the addition of an enclosed tourist lounge on the aft boat deck. Following these and other alterations, Normandie was 83,423 gross tons.[41] Exceeding the Queen Mary by 2,000 tons, she would remain the world’s largest in terms of overall measured gross tonnage and length.[41]

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, France. A salvage team from the Royal Air Force later removed the wreckage. The pilot was Court-martialled and found guilty on two charges. Evans' car was wrecked in the accident,[42] which was brought up in Parliament.[43]

In August 1936, Queen Mary captured the Blue Riband, averaging 30.14 knots (55.82 km/h), starting fierce rivalry.[8] Normandie held the size record until the arrival of RMS Queen Elizabeth (83,673 gross tons) in 1940.[44]

Normandie at sea, showing her clipper bow

During refit, Normandie was also 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.[45][46] In July 1937 Normandie regained the Blue Riband, but the 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 World War II.

Normandie carried distinguished passengers, including the authors 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 America.

Planned running mate: SS Bretagne

While Normandie rarely was occupied at over 60% of her capacity, her finances were such that she did not require government subsidies every year. While she never repaid any of the loans that made her construction possible, she did cover her operating expenses almost exactly. The French Line considered a sister ship, SS Bretagne, which was to be longer and larger, but war and limited finances prevented it. There were two competing designs for this ship, one conservative, one radical. The conservative one was basically Normandie with two funnels, possibly a bit 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 World War II killed the plan.[49][50]


Although a critical success in her design and decor, Normandie ultimately proved to be unpopular with North Atlantic passengers. 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 the ship'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, Cunard White Star had placed just as much emphasis on decor, space and accommodation in second and tourist class on Queen Mary as it had in first, thus accommodating a travel trend that had become popular during the 1920s and the 1930s, the American tourist. Many of these passengers could not afford first-class passage, yet wanted to travel with much of the same comfort as those in first. Thus, second and tourist class, became a major cash source for shipping companies at that time. Queen Mary would accommodate this and thus she had great popularity among North Atlantic travellers in the late thirties.[51]

Another of the French Liner's greatest triumphs also turned out to be one of her greatest flaws: her decor. Normandie‍ '​s slick and modern art deco interiors proved to be somewhat intimidating and uncomfortable for her travellers. It was also here that Queen Mary triumphed over her French rival. Although decorated in an art deco style, Queen Mary was more restrained in her appointments and was not as radical as her French counterpart, proving ultimately to be popular with her passengers.[51]

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

As a result, throughout her service history, Normandie at many times travelled with less than half her complement of passengers. Her German rivals, Bremen, and Europa, Italian rivals Rex and Conte de Savoia also suffered from this problem; despite their innovative designs and luxurious interiors: they never made a profit for their respective companies, relying on heavy government subsidies. Normandie, however, did not require government subsidies in service, with her income covering her operating expenses almost exactly.

In contrast, Queen Mary, and Cunard White Star's Britannic III, Georgic II, Mauretania II, and much older Aquitania, along with the Holland America Line's SS Nieuw Amsterdam, were among the few ships on the North Atlantic to make a profit, carrying the lion's share of North Atlantic passengers in the years preceding the Second World War.[51]

World War II

The war found Normandie in New York. Looming hostilities in Europe had compelled Normandie to seek haven in New York harbor, where the US government interned her on 3 September 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland. Soon the Queen Mary, later refitted as a troop ship, docked nearby. Then the RMS Queen Elizabeth joined the Queen Mary. For two weeks the three largest liners in the world floated side by side.[52] Normandie remained in French hands, with French crewmembers on board, led by Captain Herve Lehude, into the spring of 1940.

On 15 May 1940, after the Fall of France, the U.S. Treasury Department detailed about 150 Coast Guardsmen to go on board the ship and Pier 88 to defend it against possible sabotage. When the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) became a part of the 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 Coast Guard removed Captain Herve Lehude and his crew and took possession of the 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.[53]

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 US Navy. Plans called for the vessel to be turned into a troopship ("convoy unit loaded transport"). The Navy renamed her USS Lafayette, in honor both of 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 the 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 the vessel into an aircraft carrier, but this was dropped in favor of immediate troop transport.[54] The ship remained moored at Manhattan's 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 Capts Coman and Simmers scheduled 9 February 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 Clement Derrick ignited a stack of life vests filled with flammable kapok that had been stored in the first-class lounge.[55][56] The 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.[57] The New York City fire department's hoses 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 involving 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, the ship developed a dangerous list to port due to water pumped into the seaward side by fireboats. The ship's designer Vladimir Yourkevitch arrived at the scene to offer expertise, but he was barred by harbor police.[47][58] His 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 capsize. 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 the ship through submerged openings and flowing to the lower decks negated efforts to counter-flood, and Lafayette's list gradually increased to port. Shortly after midnight, Rear Adm. Andrews ordered Lafayette abandoned, and the ship continued to list, a process hastened by the 6,000 tons of water that had been played on her. New York fire officials were concerned that the fire could spread to the nearby city buildings. Lafayette eventually capsized during the mid watch (02:45am) 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, Admiral Andrews ordered all pressmen barred from viewing the moment of capsize in an effort to lower the level of publicity.[59]

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

One man died in the tragedy — Frank "Trent" Trentacosta, 36, of Brooklyn, a Robins' employee and a member of the fire watch. Some 94 USCG and USN 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 1942 film Saboteur. The ship is not identified in the film, but the title character smiles when he sees it, suggesting that he was responsible. Alfred Hitchcock, the director, later said that "the Navy raised hell" about the implication that their security was so poor.[60]

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 Congressman Patrick Henry Drewry (D-Virginia), concluded that the fire was completely accidental.[61] 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 they indeed sabotaged the vessel. The alleged arson was organized by mobster Anthony Anastasio, who was a power in the local longshoreman'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.[62]

The ship was stripped of superstructure and righted in 1943 in the world's most expensive salvage operation. One of the largest operations of its kind in history succeeded in righting Lafayette on 7 August 1943.[63] She was reclassified to an aircraft and transport ferry, APV-4, on 15 September 1943 and placed in drydock the following month. Extensive damage to her hull, however, 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, and her hulk remained in the Navy's custody through the cessation of hostilities with the Axis.

Lafayette was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 11 October 1945. 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. After neither the US 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.[64] This plan also failed to draw backing. She was cut up for scrap beginning in October 1946[9] 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.[65]

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 the 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,[66] 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.[66] One entire corner is preserved at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.[67] The dining room door medallions are now on the exterior doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York.[68]

Dining room door medallions

Also surviving are some examples of the 24,000 pieces of crystal, some from the massive Lalique torchières 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 French Line 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, USA, 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 on board their new ship the Celebrity Summit.[66] A photo of the statue of "LA NORMANDIE" can be seen along with other interior SS Normandie photos at the website:[2].

The statue "La Paix", which stood in the First Class Dining Room, now stands in the Pinelawn Memorial Park, a cemetery in New York.[69] The medallions from the enormous doors leading into the First Class Dining Room were removed and later installed on the smaller front doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn Heights, New York. The steam whistle, after salvage, was sent to the Bethlehem Steel factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where it was used to announce shift changes. As of 2010, it was at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City.

Pieces from the Normandie occasionally appear on the BBC TV series Antiques Roadshow [70] and also on its American counterpart. A public lounge and promenade was created from some of the panels and furniture from the SS Normandie in the Hilton Chicago. The dining room "Normandie" on the Carnival Cruise ship Carnival Pride was also inspired by this French ocean liner as per the ship's designer Joseph Farcus.[71]

Profile views

The streamlined profile of Normandie. The third stack was a dummy employed to balance the ship aesthetically and contain the air conditioning machinery.
Side elevation and cutaway, revealing the vast internal spaces devoted to Normandie's public compartments.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lloyd's Register, Steamers & Motorships (PDF). London:  
  2. ^ Bathe, Basil W. (1972). Seven Centuries of Sea Travel: from the Cursaders to the Cruises. London: Barrie & Jenkins. p. 236.  
  3. ^ Lafayette, Naval History and Heritage Command
  4. ^ "Latest Triumphs In Electric Ships". Popular Science. November 1933. 
  5. ^ "Colossus into Clyde".  
  6. ^ a b c d Ardman, 1985, pp. 46-47
  7. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 2
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Floating Palaces. (1996) A&E. TV Documentary. Narrated by Fritz Weaver
  9. ^ a b Maxtone-Graham, 1972, p. 391
  10. ^ a b c d Ardman 1985, p. 36
  11. ^ a b Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 268–69
  12. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 42–47
  13. ^ a b Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 273
  14. ^ Reif, Rita (1988-06-26). "Antiques - A Proliferation Of Poster Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  15. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 267.
  16. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 269–272
  17. ^ "T-6 The Latest Giant Of The Sea" Popular Mechanics, December 1932
  18. ^ a b Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 272
  19. ^ a b Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 275
  20. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 7, 17–20
  21. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 281
  22. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 111
  23. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 171
  24. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 160
  25. ^ , December 1935Popular Mechanics"Radio Waves Warn of Obstacles in Path"
  26. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 80
  27. ^ Moonan, Wendy (2005-06-17). "Art Deco Relics of the Normandie".  
  28. ^ a b c Maddocks, 1978, pp. 80–83
  29. ^ Cech, John (2004-10-12). "Jean de Brunhof and Babar the Elephant". Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  30. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 372
  31. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 279
  32. ^ a b c d Ardman 1985, p. 86–87
  33. ^ a b Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 276
  34. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 85–86
  35. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 88
  36. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 91–92
  37. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 273–75
  38. ^ a b c Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 284
  39. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 147
  40. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 137
  41. ^ a b c Ardman 1985, p. 166–170
  42. ^ Hooks, Mike (2010). "Buzzing the Normandie". Aeroplane (IPC Media) (November 2010): p60. 
  43. ^ "ROYAL AIR FORCE (ACCIDENT, SOLENT).". Hansard. Retrieved 13 October 2010. 
  44. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 221
  45. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 172–73
  46. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 286–87
  47. ^ a b Ardman 1985, p. 325–26
  48. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 147, 184–85, 205, 218, 238
  49. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 237, 423
  50. ^ "Damned by Destiny", 1982, by David L. Williams and & R. P. De Kerbrech
  51. ^ a b c TGOL - Normandie
  52. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 360–61
  53. ^ History of the Normandie, Frank O Braynard (1987), Dover Publications 0-486-25257-4 p. 87
  54. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 274–276
  55. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 299
  56. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 367–68
  57. ^ Ardman 1985, p. 272, 304–14
  58. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 373–74
  59. ^ History of the Normandie, Frank O Braynard (1987), Dover Publications 0-486-25257-4 p. 97
  60. ^  
  61. ^ Ardman; Maxtone-Graham
  62. ^ The evidence for this successful arson attack comes from  
  63. ^ Schenk, Paul (2013). The Silent Front: Tales of Our Navy Salvage Divers. Blurb. 
  64. ^ Maxtone-Graham 1972, p. 392
  65. ^ "Imagination Creates Atmosphere On Disney Wonder, UK". British Design Innovation. 2003-05-27. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  66. ^ a b c Ardman 1985, p. 418–20
  67. ^
  68. ^ "History of Our Lady of Lebanon". Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral. Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  69. ^
  70. ^ Crafton, Luke. "The Normandie: A Legend Undiminished". Antiques Roadshow. Retrieved 7-9-2011. 
  71. ^ Carnival Dream - An Interview with Designer Joe Farcus


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

  • Ardman, Harvey (1985). Normandie, Her Life and Times. New York, Franklin Watts.  
  • Braynard, Frank O. (1986). Picture History of the Normandie With 190 Illustrations. New York: Dover Publications.  
  • 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). "Normandie (AP 53) ex-Lafayette". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. U.S.  
  • Fox, Robert (1999). Liners: The Golden Age. Die Grosse Zeit der Ozeanriesen. L'Âge d'or des paquebots. Cologne: Konneman. 
  • Foucart, Bruno; Robichon, François (1985). Normandie: Queen of the Seas. New York: Vendome Press.  
  • 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 (2007). Normandie: France's Legendary Art Deco Ocean Liner. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.  
  • Priolo, Gary P. (25 April 2008). (AP-53)"Lafayette". Service Ship Photo Archive. NavSource Online. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  • Schenk, Paul (2013). The Silent Front: Tales of Our Navy Salvage Divers. Blurb Online. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  • Smith, Daniella Ohad (March 2011). "Legendary Interiors and Illustrious Travelers aboard the SS Normandie". Interior: Design, Architecture, Culture 2 (1): 128–131. 
  • Streater, L, 2005 5 volume series of books from construction to salvage, Marpubs
  • Boks, W. Holland: photo of the model boat SS Normandie 1935.

External links

  • "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
  • , June 1935Popular Mechanics"The Queen Of The Seven Seas"
  • , August 1935Popular Mechanics"Normandie a Marvel in Speed and Comfort" detailed drawings on steam-electric drive system
  • , October 1935Popular Mechanics"Across the Atlantic in a Blue Ribbon Winner"
  • - virtual reality tour of the Art Deco masterpieceNormandieThe
  • Pictures in the official French Lines Archives : SS Normandie (French captions)
  • NormandieThe Great Ocean Liners:
  • "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
Preceded by
Holder of the Blue Riband (Westbound)
1935 – 1936
Succeeded by
Queen Mary
Preceded by
Atlantic Eastbound Record
1935 – 1936
Preceded by
Queen Mary
Holder of the Blue Riband (Westbound)
1937 – 1938
Atlantic Eastbound Record
1937 – 1938
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