Ile de France’s White-Knuckle Voyage

Ile de France’s White-Knuckle Voyage


On 9 September 1939, Ile de France arrived safely in New York. The glamorous French Line vessel left Le Havre on 3 September 1939, just hours before the outbreak of World War II, carrying 1,777 passengers, some 400 more than her maximum capacity. It was a white-knuckle voyage, to say the least. During her crossing, at least 16 vessels were sunk by torpedoes, mines or gunfire.

Ile de France arrives in New York.
Ile de France arrives in New York.

It would be nearly 10 years before Ile de France would again carry paying passengers. Upon her arrival in New York, Ile de France was mothballed near Staten Island (the West Side piers were already crowded with other exiled ocean liners).

Commandeered by the British Admiralty after the fall of France, Ile de France spent the war years transporting troops and war prisoners. The liner returned to transatlantic service in1949, completely refurbished and minus one of her three funnels (a dummy). In 1956, she would play a critical role in rescuing passengers from the sinking Andrea Doria.

Age and airline competition finally caught up with Ile de France in 1959, when she was removed from service and sold to a Japanese breaker. A replacement liner, France (1961), was already being built.

On her way to the breakers, Ile de France paused long enough in the Sea of Japan, near Osaka, to be partially destroyed for a motion picture about a sinking ocean liner—The Last Voyage.

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