Cruise Ship History: THE MIOTTEL COLLECTION – “The mother lode of liner collections and tributes to the S.S. Normandie and any liner…” – History of the French Line’s SS NORMANDIE




“If there’s a better or more lovingly displayed collection of S.S. Normandie material in the world (and that includes France), I don’t know of it. What Crash has assembled here is nothing less than the history of a legend. For people interested in transatlantic shipping in general and the Normandie in particular, it is the mother lode.”

THE MIOTTEL COLLECTION is considered the finest collection of SS NORMANDIE material in the world. Click here to visit this excellent website.



When the French Line decided to supplement the revolutionary Ile de France of 1926 with a record-breaking super-liner in early 1930, they turned to naval designer Vladimir Yourkevitch to design the new ship. It was intended that the ship would be France’s contender for the Blue Ribband of the Atlantic, and it would be a floating showcase for the talent of French artisans and craftsmen. In designing the ship, Yourkevitch incorporated turbo-electric engines and the relatively new and innovative bulbous bow. The French Line also announced with much fanfare that new ship would be the first liner to exceed 1000 feet in length, and it would have a gross tonnage of 60,000 tons—making it the world’s largest ship.

On October 29, 1932, Madame Lebrun—wife of the French President—launched the new ship. By this time, however, the economic >When construction was completed on Normandie, she was the longest and largest ship afloat—measuring 1,028 feet in length with an initial tonnage of 79,280. To the pride of her owners and countrymen, she claimed the Blue Ribband from the Italian Liner Rex on her maiden crossing in May 1935. Keen on keeping the title “longest, largest, and fastest” ship in the world, it did not escape her owner’s attention that the British had announced the tonnage of their new super-liner Queen Mary that was nearing completion at 81,235. So during the winter refit in 1935, a deckhouse was added to her aft deck increasing her final tonnage to 83,423, allowing her to maintain title of world’s largest ship. And though she eventually lost the Blue Ribband to Queen Mary in August 1938, her top speed of 31.2 knots was only a fraction slower.


The magnificent First Class Dining Salon.

Though she was the world’s largest ship, the enormous size of Normandie did not mean she carried more passengers than any ship had ever carried. Her grandeur meant that each passenger had more space. The dimensions of her dining-salon—walled in molded glass, air-conditioned and decorated by the foremost artists and craftsmen of France—were breath taking. The sun deck, clear of all obstructions, stretched two city blocks in length. She was equipped with a permanent theater, seating nearly 400, and a beautiful chapel. Staterooms aboard Normandie—virtually all with luxurious bath or shower facilities—afforded a new scope for the kind of gracious living that French Line passengers had come to expect while on board ship.

Her cruiser bow and the turtleback extending over the foredeck enabled Normandie to take the roughest seas smoothly, without loss of speed. Her electric drive reduced vibration to an absolute minimum—though she was plagued with terrible vibration because of inappropriately designed propellers during her early crossings. Radios onboard allowed her to be in constant touch at all times with both Europe and America. Normandie was truly a wonder-ship that one could not see without wanting to travel onboard.

Launching of the S.S. NORMANDIE video on youTUBE.

Regrettably the service career of what is arguably the most superb liner to ever sail was tragically short. Scheduled to sail the day before war started in Europe, she was detained at New York as U.S authorities checked to ensure she did not have munitions or arms aboard. She would spend the remainder of her days in New York, and with the fall of France to the German armies, her fate seemed uncertain. However, with America’s entry into the war, the U.S. Coast Guard seized Normandie in May 1941. In December, the U.S. Navy took control of the vessel and renamed her USS Lafayette.

On February 9, 1942, while undergoing the major refit to accommodate thousands of U.S. troops, sparks from a workman’s welding torch set her ablaze. Firemen were able to extinguish the blaze, but tragically the liner capsized as a result of the tons of water used to fight the fire. She would be salvaged, but ultimately was scrapped at Port Newark, New Jersey—truly an ignominious end for perhaps the greatest liner to ever sail.


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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