Compagnie Générale Transatlantique


Penhoët Shipyards, Saint Nazaire, France


October 29, 1932

Maiden voyage

May 29, 1935 Le Havre - New York

Broken up

October 3, 1946 to October 6, 1947

Length overall

1029 feet

Length between perpendiculars

962 feet


118 feet

Height from keel to top of first funnel

184 feet

Average loaded draft

37 feet

Gross registered tonnage

79,280 (83,423 after 1936)

Number of decks



29 (plus 4 auxiliary)


Four Turbo-Electric, total 160,000 hp.


Four 3-bladed, 23 tons each, later 4-blade screws were installed

Cruising speed

29 knots.

Top speed

32.2 knots.

1st class passengers


2nd class passengers


3rd class passengers


Officers and crew




The Normandie would eventually break new ground on many levels, she was to be the fastest, the sleekest, and the most artfully decorated. But her first distiction would be as the premier ship to exceed 1000 feet in length.

Her designer Vladimir Yourkevitch had approached the Cunard Line Limited with proposed designs for their hull number 534, soon to be the renowned 'Queen Mary', but was rejected as the plans represented too radical a break from tradition for the British shipping company.

The French Line adopted Yourkevitch's designs and commissioned the new hull, designated "T6", to be built at France's premier shipyard, the Penhoët shipbuilders at St. Nazair. The new ship would draw talent from the finest designers, architects, and artisans of France. Yourkevitch's designs would allow the ship to match the great speed of Britain's 'Queen Mary' with one-fifth less horsepower and substantial fuel savings, and allow the Normandie to be the first French Liner ever to be in competition for the cherished 'Blue Ribbon'.

The ship would be launched on October 29, 1932 and all all of France, and indeed the world, would be following the events of the launch. The largest object ever set in motion by man at the time, Normandie was the center of attention. The world's largest bottle of Champage would be used to christen the ship, perhaps symbolic again that Normandie was to be the biggest and the best. With dignitaries and VIPs in attendance including Albert Lebrun, President of France, Madame Lebrun officiated the launch and set the giant ship in motion. As the enormous ship entered the waters of the River Loire, the tremendous backwash swept ashore, dousing spectators and carrying workers into the Loire.


A tragedy which defies description, the Normandie's existence came to an abrupt end during the tumultuous year of 1942. World War II was raging, and as America's involvement in the war effort was stepped up, the Normandie was called into Allied service.

To be converted into a troopship, the Normandie was seized by the U.S. Navy on December 7, 1941. Work to convert the ship would commence immediately. Stripped of her luxurious trappings and plush furnishings which had once been the sea-going refuge for the great and near-great, Normandie was renamed U.S.S. Lafayette and entered in the registry of the U.S. Navy. In the following two months, nearly all of Normandie's great artwork would be removed and placed into storage. The public rooms were destined to accommodate thousand of American and foreign GI's.

On February 9, 1942, during the continuing conversion work, a fire broke out aboard the ship and the future of the magnificent Normandie would be smothered in suffocating cloud of smoke. Charles T. Collins, an 18 year old USN ironworker gave an account of the incident:

"I was working on a chain gang. We had chains around some pillars and eased them down when they were cut through. Two men were operating an acetylene torch. About 30 or 40 men were working in the room, and there were bales and bales of mattresses. A spark hit one of the bales, and the fire began. We yelled for the fire watch and Leroy Rose, who was in our chain, and I tried to beat out the fire with our hands. Rose's clothes caught fire, and I carried him out. The smoke and heat were terrific."

- Adapted from Kevin tam's Normandie Page

More Pictures

Click HERE to enter the SS Normandie section of the Picture Gallery

More Information - Kevin Tam's Normandie page



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