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SS LIBERTE – Crossing the Atlantic with Elizabeth Taylor and all the stars!

SS LIBERTE – Crossing the Atlantic with Elizabeth Taylor and all the stars!

As the SS LIBERTE, the liner became the stop gap flagship for CGT French Line as a replacement for the legendary SS NORMANDIE that had been lost during the Second World War.

  • If the time before the Second World War is indexed within the annals of history for its aspirations of achievement and advancement of technology and design, then, the period following the great turmoil should be looked upon as a testament to the longevity of that vision and drive.
Du Bois, W. E. B., Sarah Vaughn, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tennessee Williams, Salvador Dali, Samuel Goldwyn, James Thurber, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Todd, French Line, S.S. Liberte, S.S. Bremen, S.S. Europa, Cruise History, Cruise Line History, Liners, Cruise Ships, Michael L. Grace, Cruising the Past, ships, 1950s, retro

The Liberte

  • The frenzy and misery which is war, the great passenger fleets of the Atlantic trade were reduced to a mere ghostlike representation of life before the War.
  • The superliners of the decade before, the NORMANDIE, the REX and their brethren lay in ruin.
  • The few great ships which survived for the duration found themselves sorely lacking in competition and silently alone on the vast expanses of the Atlantic seas.


A look at the Liberte.

  • The Liberte had been the SS Europa which was the pride of Norddeutscher Lloyd Line in the 1930s.
  • She was the sister ship of the SS Bremen. Sadly the Second World War caused an end to her years in German hands and she was handed to the French as war reparations.

My aunt and friend on the Liberte in the 1950s.

  • If the time before the Second World War is indexed within the annals of history for its aspirations of achievement and advancement of technology and design, then, the period following the great turmoil should be looked upon as a testament to the longevity of that vision and drive.

S.S. Europa – Norddeutscher Lloyd Line (1930 – 1946)

It is during this period which the shipping companies, both European and American, found themselves clamouring to rebuild their diminished fleets. The French Line, having lost it’s fabled Normandie, was suddenly out of the fierce competition it had enjoyed prior to the War, when rival nations had struggled not to best each other in weaponry or strength but in who could master the seas and prove the fastest on the North Atlantic.

Celebrities aboard the SS Liberte

Du Bois, W. E. B., Sarah Vaughn, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tennessee Williams, Salvador Dahli, Samuel Goldwyn, James Thurber, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Todd, French Line, S.S. Liberte, S.S. Bremen, S.S. Europa, Cruise History, Cruise Line History, Liners, Cruise Ships, Michael L. Grace, Cruising the Past, ships, 1950s, retro

Caption Clockwise from Top: Du Bois, W. E. B., and Shirley Graham Du Bois, Sarah Vaughan (Bottom) Sugar Ray Robinson with his wife and sister.

Many African-American celebrities sailed aboard the French Line because the French were far less prejudiced and much more welcoming than the US Lines and Cunard.

Du Bois, W. E. B., Sarah Vaughn, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tennessee Williams, Salvador Dali, Samuel Goldwyn, James Thurber, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Todd, French Line, S.S. Liberte, S.S. Bremen, S.S. Europa, Cruise History, Cruise Line History, Liners, Cruise Ships, Michael L. Grace, Cruising the Past, ships, 1950s, retro

As Germany submitted itself in disgrace to the American and British invasion forces, its national assets and treasures would soon be confiscated as war reparations to those nations who had fallen under Hitler’s assaults. The Europa, having been siezed by American troops in May of 1945 as they advanced into Bremen, was to be turned over to the French.

The S.S. Liberte

Renamed Liberte, the former North German Lloyd flagship would now fly the French flag. In the days preceding the war, Europa had represented Germany as one of the fastest ships on the North Atlantic, having captured the Blue Riband in 1931 with a record crossing of 27.91 knots. Now though, as the Liberte, she would find her place as a flagship successor of the Normandie.

For a time, the Liberte would enjoy being third to none. Her only comparisons were those flagships of the British Cunard Line, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary.

Teamed with the Ile de France, the Liberte would give the world a small glimpse of what the French Line had to offer before the Second War.

With crisp white linens and deft French service, the standards which rose Normandie to acclaim remained in place aboard Liberte.

Now paired with the Ile de France rather than the Bremen, it was in reassuring comfort that passengers who could recall the prewar era, would find solace in the atmosphere and familiarity present aboard the two ships. It would remain thus for far too brief a time.

Following the launch of the characteristically American SS United States, the Liberte underwent a major refit both interior and exterior. 

  • The ship’s funnels were fitted with domed tops in an attempt at modernity, and the internal accommodations were altered in their numbers.
  • With more modern ships on the near horizon, the refit was not a new lease on life, but rather an extension of the old.
  • Indeed, it was only two years later in 1956, that the new France was ordered, signaling the end for the French liners of old.

Ile de France would first fall under the stroke of time and age, making her final voyage in November of 1958. Then, three years hence, the Liberte herself would find her career for the French Line at a close.

  • Departing New York for the final time under the celebratory plumes of fireboats, she made her final crossing to Le Havre where, ironically, she would tie up alongside the new flagship France, with preparations for her maiden voyage already underway.

With the liner dormant and her fate uncertain, much speculation arose as to the proposed fate of the Liberte. There was talk of her use as a hotel at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, but spared the undignified fate of her former running-mate, the Liberte would decidedly be scrapped before suffering a similar end.

On January 30, 1962 she made passage to La Spezia, Italy where she would be broken up. Six months later, nothing but memories and scattered relics would remain of the liner which had served as flagship for two nations.

Du Bois, W. E. B., Sarah Vaughn, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tennessee Williams, Salvador Dali, Samuel Goldwyn, James Thurber, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Todd, French Line, S.S. Liberte, S.S. Bremen, S.S. Europa, Cruise History, Cruise Line History, Liners, Cruise Ships, Michael L. Grace, Cruising the Past, ships, 1950s, retro

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