Salvage of the French Liner: NORMANDIE
Text from Library of H.I.B.
Spector and U.S. Navy
The S.S. Normandie, built by the Compagnie Generale
Transatlantique, was launched at Le Havre on 29 October, 1932.
Upon completion, she was the largest and fastest liner afloat. In
an effort to design the ultimate in luxuriousness, little, if any, cargo
space was provided, and great areas were given to salons and
The U.S.S. Lafayette, formerly the French liner S.S. Normandie,
was transferred by the U.S. Maritime Commission to the Navy Department
on 24 December, 1941, for conversion and operation
as a troop transport.
The conversion of the vessel into a troop transport was being done
at Pier 88, North River, New York City. On 9 February, 1942 at about
14:30, a fire broke out in the Grand Lounge where 1100 bales of life
preservers had been placed for stowage and stenciling. Investigations
indicated that the fire had started when a workmans
torch ignited a bale of life preservers. In a very few minutes, the fire
had spread throughout the Grand Lounge, destroying furniture, rolls of
carpet, decorative trim and combustible material there, and becoming so
fierce that huge volumes of dense smoke were given
off almost immediately.
The fire, fanned by a strong northwest wind (over the port quarter
of the Lafayette), swept forward over both sides of the promenade deck
until by 15:30 that entire deck was aflame. Shortly thereafter, the fire
caught hold on the quarters of the boat and sun decks and burned fiercely
on the bridge, so that the three upper decks, in practically all spaces except
the theatre, were in flames.
By 1530, the vessel had taken a list to port. The list gradually increased to
about 40 degrees, at 23:30 on 9 February. At 02:45
on 10 February, the vessel completely capsized, coming to rest on the port
side at an angle of a little more than 79 degrees.
It was apparent that the salvage of the U.S.S. Lafayette would
undoubtedly exceed, in both magnitude and complexity, any
salvage operation hitherto undertaken....
excerpts from a contractor bidding for the right to do the
Mr. Franklin Roosevelt - President of the United States
Capitol Bldg,, Washington, D.C.
I and my bench partners are both tool and die makers working
for Rowe Mfg. Co of this city.
We have both been studying the pictures of the overturned French
Liner Normandy at New York Pier.
We have also read all the accounts of this Major disaster to our
We both think it is sabotage which is very plain.
We know it was being taken care of by totally incompetent engineers
or the disaster could not possibly have happened. We know that many
people in high and low stations are solely responsible for this disaster. We
know it is another treasonable blunder of which this nation is lately
absorbing much more of shocks
than it should, but all of this is more pardonable than the do nothing
attitude of those in high place who by their inaction is letting our nation be
sold down the river.
We need that ship badly and we need it right now...What are
you waiting for? Are you waiting for China and Russia to do the job
for us I ask you. To hell with those who sabatoged her save here now at
once and kill them after that. We need that ship now, not next year.
The same people who are directly responsible for our loosing the
war in the Pacific are now Responsible for this fine ship laying upside
down in the mud going to ruin because they to dam traitorus
and dumb to start the salvage workt at once that will save her and give us a
great plain and troop transport that might make it possible to bomg Italy
and Japan and Germany off the map. You are the
Nations Commander what are you wating for this time?
the salvage of the U.S.S. Lafayette was completed in
SALVAGE OF THE FRENCH LINER: NORMANDIE