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The pride of the French Line, the S.S. Normandie was the epitome of all ships. The first to surpass 80,000 tons and 1000 feet long, she was the largest ship aflost in the mid-30's. On her maiden voyage she captured the Atlantic speed record from the Italian's Rex and held it until the Queen Mary took at the end of the decade.
Normandie: The Ship of Lights
The Normandie is the epitome of luxury liners. Built in 1932 and launched in 1935, Normandie was the pride of France. The first ship to exceed 1000 feet and 80,000 tons, Normandie made the Titanic look like a tugboat. Leaving LaHarve on her maiden voyage Normandie captured the blue riband and broke the Atlantc speed record thus winning the Hale's Trophy from the Italian's Rex.
Though very popular with people who often crossed the Atlantic, Normandie never made a profit. Some judged her to be to big. Normandie had three funnels each one shorter than the preceeding. She had a large movie theater, boasted a huge open dining hall, free and open deck space not cluttered with ventilation ducts, and even had its own seaplane to transport mail when she was close to land. Normandie's life turned for the worse at the outbreak of World War II. She was in mid-ocean when her captain recieved word the German liner Bremen was following behind. It was feared that the Bremen was armed and and would open fire on the Normandie, or she was escorting U-Boats to the Normandie. The Normandie's captain ordered her windows blackedout and she continued to New York in the zig-zag pattern to evade U-Boats.
Normandie along side of Queen Elizabeth
That was her last voyage, for the French ordered her to hold up in America for the duration. Normandie was mothballed at her pier in Manhatten and sat there rusting and fading while the war raged on. In 1940 Queen Mary arrived in New York along with the Queen Elizabeth and for the first and only time the three largest ships in the world were docked side by side. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940 Hitler tried to lay claim to the Normandie but fell on deaf ears by Americans. The Normandie was safe for now. On December 8, 1941 United States President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on the Axis powers. The US navy quickly seized the Normandie and renamed her Laffayette. She was to be converted to a troop carrier like the two Cunard Queens, but an errant weilder's sparked torched an early shipment of lifebelts and Normandie burned. Efforts to put the fire out were hampered by military red tape.
Normandie lay on her side in the Hudson River in February 1942. For the remainder of the war the Engineers raised the Normandie and sold her for scrap. Normandie's life was short but eventful. No other ship has ever been like her. The French were given the Europa at the end of the war, but she could not compare to the elegance of the Normandie. It was not until the launching of the France in 1962 that the French Line had its own superliner. One can find memorabilia from the Normandie at the New Steamship Consultants page .
To learn more on the Normandie visit the Normandie pages.
Check out Normandie: Her Life and Times by Harvey Ardman, which you can purchase at the
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Last updated 28 May, 1999.