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SS Europa (1930)

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Title: SS Europa (1930)  
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Subject: Paul Troost, SS Normandie, SS France (1961), SS Rex, SS Île de France, Liberté (disambiguation), SS Columbus (1924), Jon Winroth
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SS Europa (1930)

SS Europa prior to her maiden voyage
Career (Germany)
Name: Europa
Owner: Norddeutsche Lloyd
Builder: Blohm & Voss shipyard, Hamburg, Germany
Launched: 15 August 1928
Maiden voyage: 19 March 1930
Out of service: May 1945
Fate: Captured by Allied forces
Career (United States)
Name: USS Europa
Operator: United States Navy
Acquired: 1945
In service: 1945 to 1946
Identification: Pennant Number AP-177
Fate: Turned over to France as a war reparation in 1946.
Career (France)
Name: SS Liberté
Operator: Compagnie Générale Transatlantique
Acquired: 1946
In service: 1950 to 1961
Out of service: 1946 to 1950
Fate: Retired in 1961 and scrapped in 1962.
General characteristics
Class & type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 49,746 GRT
Length: 936.7 ft (283.5 m)
Beam: 101.7 feet (31 m)
Installed power: Four steam turbines generating 105,000 shp
Propulsion: Quadruple propellers
Speed: 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph)

2,193 total passengers:

  • 860 first class
  • 500 second class
  • 305 tourist class
  • 617 third class
Crew: 965

The SS Europa (later SS Liberté), IMO 5607332, was a German built ocean liner constructed for the Norddeutsche Lloyd line (NDL) to work the transatlantic sea route. She and her sister ship, Bremen, were the two most advanced, high speed steam turbine ocean vessels in their day, and were a part of the international competition for the Blue Riband.[1]



Europa was built in 1929 with her sister ship Bremen to be the second 50,000 gross ton North German Lloyd liner. They both were powered with advanced high speed steam turbine engines and were built with a bulbous bow entry and a low streamlined profile.

Europa and her slightly larger sister ship were designed to have a cruising speed of 27.5 knots, allowing an Atlantic crossing time of 5 days. This enabled Norddeutsche Lloyd to run regular weekly crossings with two ships, a feat that normally required three.

The launching of Europa took place at Blohm & Voss shipyard, Hamburg on Wednesday, August 15, 1928. Europa was intended to be completed in spring 1929. However, on the morning of 26 March 1929, a fire broke out while still at the equipment dock. The fire raged all day long and it was not until the evening when the fire was under control. The ship's turbines were damaged heavily and also the remainder of the ship had been significantly damaged. After long discussions between builder and shipping company, it was decided to repair the ship. Within eleven months the ship was finished and completed on February 22, 1930.[2] The cause of the fire has never been clearly identified.

Blue Riband

Europa made her maiden voyage to New York on 19 March 1930 taking the westbound Blue Riband from Bremen with the average speed of 27.91 knots and a crossing time of 4 days, 17 hours and 6 minutes. During the voyage many of her passengers were disturbed from the soot coming out of Europa's low funnels. The problem was corrected by raising the funnels by 15 feet, though decreasing her low profile. After they were raised, there were no more complaints.[3] She held it till the Bremen recaptured it in June 1933.[1]


Like Bremen, Europa had a small seaplane launched from a catapult on her upper deck between the funnels. The airplane flew from the ship to a landing at the seaplane port in Blexen. The pilots and technicians gained experience later applied to equipping German warships with on-board aircraft.

The catapult was removed from both Bremen and Europa after a few years of service, because it was too expensive and complex.

World War II

Europa was inactive for most of World War II. There were plans to use her as a transport in Operation Sea Lion, the intended invasion of Great Britain, and later conversion to an aircraft carrier.[4] None of these plans came to pass, and in 1945, she was captured by the allies and used as a troopship, sailing as the USS Europa (AP-177).[1] The United States claimed the ship as a war prize on 8 May 1945 and gave the vessel to the US Navy, which commissioned Europa 25 August 1945 with Captain B. F. Perry in command. Europa cleared Bremerhaven on 11 September 1945 for Southampton, England, where she loaded 4,500 homeward-bound American troops, arriving in New York on 24 September. After alteration to increase her troop-carrying capacity, she made two voyages to Southampton to bring US servicemen home to the United States. She sailed from New York once more, on 15 March 1946, bound for Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, and Bremerhaven, where she moored on 24 March.[5]

Europa suffered from small fires caused by the removal of the ship's original high-quality fittings and installation of inferior replacements to compensate for material shortages in the war effort. In addition, several serious hull cracks were discovered.[1] The vessel was decommissioned on 2 May 1946 and delivered to the State Department on 8 June 1946. She was later transferred to France in partial payment of war reparations.[5]

French Line

The French line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique took over ownership and brought the vessel to Le Havre for refitting into their service as a replacement for Normandie. The most obvious change was the repainting of her funnels from NDL yellow to the red funnels and black tops of the CGT. On December 8, 1946 a storm caused her to break free from her moorings and she collided with the wreck of Paris, causing significant damage to her hull.[6] She was raised in April 1947 and towed to the Chantiers de l'Atlantique Shipyard in Saint-Nazaire to complete her refitting. She suffered some further damage when the ship caught fire once again in October 1949, resulting in damage to some of her passenger interiors.[1] Finally, on August 2, 1950, after five years and two near disasters, she made her maiden voyage to New York under her new name, Liberté.[7]

Following the launching of the 66,000 ton SS France in 1960, the Liberté was laid up in 1961 and scrapped in 1962. She had served eleven years as the premier transatlantic liner of the French Line fleet.

Liberté was featured prominently in the Jane Russell film The French Line. Liberté also made an appearance in the 1954 classic film Sabrina, starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, in the final scenes of the film.[8]


  • Bremerhaven – New York (as Europa)
  • Le Havre – New York (1950 on as Liberté)

See also


Further reading

  • J. Russell Willoughby: Bremen & Europa - German Speed Queens of the Atlantic Maritime Publishing Concepts 2010 ISBN 978-0-9531035-5-3
Preceded by
Holder of the Blue Riband (Westbound)
1930 – 1933
Succeeded by

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