Read an Excerpt
Picture History of the Andrea Doria
By WILLIAM H. MILLER JR.
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2005 William H. Miller, Jr.
All rights reserved.
THE ITALIAN LINE: A WINNING COMBINATION
Unlike the Cunard Line, which dated from 1840, and the Hamburg America Line of 1856, the Italian Line ("Italia" to the Italians and to almost all other Europeans) was a comparatively late arrival on the transatlantic shipping scene. The new company officially came into being on January 2, 1932. The services of Italy's three most important passenger ship lines, Lloyd Sabaudo, NGI (Navigazione Generale Italiana), and the Cosulich Line were merged. Thereafter, they were seen as one mighty, highly competitive firm—the Italian Line—with operational headquarters based in Genoa.
The reorganization was made at the instigation of 11 Duce himself, Premier Benito Mussolini. Along with the directorate at the Ministry of Marine in Rome, the Italians were facing increasingly difficult times on the slumping transatlantic trade during these peak years of the Depression. Though a million passengers had crossed in 1930, the numbers were dropping by the thousands each month, such that by 1935, there was only a total of 500,000 voyagers. Germany's Hamburg America Line would merge with its other national rival, North German Lloyd, in 1931, and Cunard would form a corporate marriage with the ailing White Star Line to create Cunard-White Star by 1934. Of course, there was yet another reason: national prestige. Mussolini and his fascist cohorts wanted the strongest possible image for Italy, especially in America's eyes. It was felt that, despite the great economic worries that loomed like dark clouds over Rome, Milan, Turin, and Genoa itself, that a strong, well coordinated Italian Line, with a fleet of fine passenger ships, would create only the most positive impression on "foreigners," as 11 Duce called them. And, of course, Mussolini did not want to be outdone. He wanted Italy to compete in the ocean liner sweepstakes of the day Between 1920 and 1930, the Germans, for example, had commissioned the sleek, near-sisters Bremen and Europa, an extremely powerful pair that would capture the prized Blue Riband for speed as well as tip the scales at 50,000 tons each. They were among the finest, most luxurious liners afloat, the first in a new generation of "floating palaces." Britain responded in 1931 with the 42,000-ton Empress of Britain, a grand triple-stacker that ranked as the largest and finest liner ever to serve on Canada's St. Lawrence-Quebec City run, as well as being the grandest wintertime world cruise ship. But bigger and even better ships were ahead. The French were planning a super ship, a 79,000-tonner delayed by the Depression, but which finally came into service in 1935 as the stunningly innovative Normandie. Not to be left out, the British, in the form of Cunard, were planning the first pair of super ships, the Queen Mary of 1936 and the Queen Elizabeth of 1940, that could run a weekly service. With a departure each week from New York as well as Southampton, such a service previously always required three liners. Italy, however, had prepared its bid in the ocean liner race as early as the late 1920s.
Mussolini was heavily prompting NGI to build its own super flagship, the 51,000-ton Rex, and encouraging Lloyd Sabaudo to create a wonder ship, the 48,500-ton Conte di Savoia, well before the official creation of the Italian Line in 1932. But it seemed far better not to have these liners as competitors within the Italian transatlantic fleet, but to sail instead as running mates. Together, so 11 Duce felt, these twin behemoths would carry the Italian colors to greater triumph, success, and perhaps even greater profitability. Richard Faber, the New York-based memorabilia dealer who specializes in ocean liners, added, "Both the Rex and the Conte di Savoia were the only liners from the Mediterranean that could seriously compete with modern superliners like the Normandie and the Queen Mary. They brought Italy to the major leagues of ocean liner service."
Unquestionably, the Rex and Conte di Savoia were among the greatest liners of the 1930s. Architect Der Scutt, chairman of the Ocean Liner Council at New York's South Street Seaport Museum, appraised the two Italian queens. "The Rex and the Conte di Savoia are not to be thought of as sister ships; they were quite dissimilar on both the interior and exterior. While built by fiercely competitive shipyards in Italy [the Rex at Ansaldo of Genoa, the Conte di Savoia by Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico at Monfalcone], they both exemplified enormous pride by Italians. The pairing of the stacks close together and forward with the lengthy afterdecks made them look like Italian greyhounds. Each offered grand interiors, of course, but with the Conte di Savoia perhaps having the edge in modernism, whereas the Rex clung to the traditional, particularly evident in the display of living art everywhere in the form of paintings, wood paneling and fluting, decorative metal stair rails, and carpeting. Rest assured, however, each ship exuded majestic comfort and elegance."
Externally, the Conte di Savoia always seems to have won the greater praise. Scutt was among her fans. "While each ship represented a sleek modern profile new to naval architecture," he remembered, "the Conte di Savoia had a longitudinal sleekness with, for example, more elegant promenade windows. By comparison, the Rex had too much clutter, like the large air grilles adjacent to the stacks. And the social deck (saloon) had out-of-scale, big, squarish windows, which were nice from the interior, but out of scale with the exterior characteristics. Also, the Conte di Savoia's bridge front was streamlined and better integrated into the total design massing, whereas the Rex had a confusing and cluttered bridge front."
In January 1932, the new Italian Line had a fleet of twenty-two ships totaling 400,500 tons. Until the arrival that September of the brand new Rex, the 32,000-ton near-sisters Augustus and Roma were the company's largest and finest liners. It was, in fact, the 711-foot-long Augustus that introduced the Italian Line to Americans. While she left Genoa on December 28, 1931, just five days before the actual amalgamation, and then reached New York's Pier 97 on January 9, there were some changes during her two-night stay at the foot of West 57th Street. Her tall twin funnels were repainted in the new Italian Line colors: red, green, and white. Also for the first time, the new Italian Line houseflag was flown, which combined the emblems of Italy's two leading ports, Genoa and Trieste. The actual distinction of the first Atlantic sailing to New York under the new Italian Line went to the Conte Biancamano. Completely repainted and flying the new colors, she left Genoa on January 8, bound for New York via Villefranche, Naples, and Gibraltar. For the next eight years, until Italy entered World War II in the spring of 1940, the Italian Line enjoyed prosperity.
REX. The Italian Line came into being on January 2, 1932. Three well-known national shipping lines were thereafter grouped as one: Lloyd Sabaudo, Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI), and the Cosulich Line (which retained some autonomy until fully consolidated into the Italian Line in 1937). The operations of much of the fleet were based at Genoa, with the exception of the Cosulich Line vessels, which continued to be managed in Trieste. Within a year, the Italian Line could advertise a worldwide liner fleet: the superliners Rex (her whistle seen here, above, signaling a departure from Genoa) and the Conte di Savoia with assistance from the Augustus and Roma on the Naples-Genoa-New York express run; the Conte Biancamano, Conte Grande, and later the Augustus to South America-Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires; the Duilio and Giulio Cesare in a new service from Genoa to Capetown and Durban in South Africa; the Saturnia and Vulcania sailing the North Atlantic to and from Adriatic ports to New York; the Neptunia and Oceania, which also sailed to the east coast of South America; and finally the Conte Rosso and Conte Verde, which plied the farthest Italian Line service—from Genoa out to Hong Kong and Shanghai via the Suez Canal.
ITALIAN TRIO. The great Italian passenger ships that later joined the Italian Line were already well known. In this view, below, dating from 1930, we see three large liners in port: the Conte Biancamano and Conte Grande are to the far left, with the larger Augustus in the center.
SISTER SHIPS. In the early 1920s, the sisters Giulio Cesare (left) and Duilio, seen here together at Genoa, above, were Italy's largest and finest liners, both owned by NGI. The Giulio Cesare was ordered from more experienced British shipbuilders, while her sister came from the local Ansaldo yard at Genoa. Laid down in 1913, but delayed by almost nine years owing to World War I, the Giulio Cesare was commissioned in the spring of 1922. The Duilio started her life in 1914, but was not completed until October 1923. Launched in January 1916, her construction was also soon halted owing to the war, and was not resumed until 1920. Eventually both were very popular on the Naples-Genoa-New York express run until the arrival of the larger, faster Roma and Augustus in 1926 and 1928, respectively. [Giulio Cesare: Built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Limited, Newcastle, England, 1913-22. 21,848 gross tons; 634 feet long; 76 feet wide. Steam turbines, quadruple screw. Service speed 19 knots. 2,373 passengers (243 first-class, 306 second-class, 1,824 third-class). Duilio: Built by Ansaldo Shipyards, Genoa, Italy, 1923. 24,281 gross tons; 635 feet long; 76 feet wide. Steam turbines, quadruple screw. Service speed 19 knots. 1,550 passengers (280 first-class, 670 second-class, 600 third-class).]
DUILIO. Soon after joining the coordinated Italian Line in 1932, the Duilio (shown anchored off Gibraltar in 1933, opposite, top) and Giulio Cesare were repainted with white hulls and assigned to a new service between Genoa and South Africa. To suit this far more moderate service, their passenger berthing was soon modified, dropping to a total of 640: 170 in first class, 170 in second class, and 300 in tourist class. In 1937, the pair was transferred with the Italian government's Finmare Group to another important Italian shipowner, Lloyd Triestino, who continued to use them in African service.
While both ships were laid-up in June 1940, just as Mussolini's Italy entered World War II, they were eventually casualties as well. Beginning in 1942, they were chartered to the International Red Cross for use as hospital, evacuation, and prisoner-of-war exchange ships. With large red crosses painted along their sides and on their twin funnels, they were used mostly between Italy and east Africa. The Duilio was sunk first, hit during an Allied air raid on Trieste on July 10,1944. She was salvaged in 1948 and, being beyond repair, was soon scrapped. The Giulio Cesare was sunk two months after her sister, on September 11, 1944, also during an Allied air raid on the port of Trieste. Supposedly, she was sunk by the U.S. Air Force when they found that the Nazis, who were then occupying parts of Italy, were using her as a troop transport while still wearing her Red Cross colors. She, too, was salvaged and then quickly broken-up in 1948.
CONTE BIANCAMANO. Lloyd Sabuado built two near-sisters in the mid-1920s that were among the grandest, most ornate Atlantic liners of their time. Once again, one came from a British shipbuilder while the other was Italian-built. The Conte Biancamano, shown here at Genoa, opposite, bottom, with the German liner General von Steuben to her left and the mighty Rex to the right, was commissioned in November 1925 for the Naples-Genoa-New York express run. [Built by William Beardmore & Company Limited, Glasgow, Scotland, 1925. 24,416 gross tons; 653 feet long; 76 feet wide. Steam turbines, twin screw. Service speed 20 knots. 1,750 passengers as built (280 first-class, 420 second-class, 390 third-class, 660 fourth-class).]
CONTE GRANDE. Seen here, above, departing from Genoa (with her near-sister Conte Biancamano distantly framed between the two tugboats), the Conte Grande was another very popular liner of the late 1920s. After joining Italian Line in 1932, she also did considerable cruising from New York to the Caribbean, as well as on longer voyages around the entire Mediterranean. [Built by Stabilimento Tecnico Shipyard, Trieste, Italy, 1927. 25,661 gross tons; 652 feet long; 78 feet wide. Steam turbines, twin screw. Service speed 19 knots. 1,718 passengers as built (578 first-class, 420 second-class, 720 third-class).]
Both the Conte Grande and the Conte Biancamano had extraordinary decor. Here we see the former's Grand Music Room, opposite, top, and the first-class verandah, opposite, middle, aboard the latter.
VULCANIA. The finest liners in the Cosulich Line fleet, integrated into the Italian Line operations beginning in January 1932, were the splendid motor liners Saturnia and Vulcania. With broad, stump-ish single stacks, they tended to be flat-looking and were criticized as being less than handsome, and therefore discounted by passenger ship enthusiasts and onlookers. They were, however, two of the largest, most powerful of the then-new age of diesel-driven liners. Here we see the Vulcania,opposite, bottom, outbound from New York, in 1932 and still wearing her Cosulich funnel colors of red and white. Lower Manhattan is in the background, with the pyramid-topped Bank of Manhattan Building (which, at the time, was the fourth-tallest office tower in the world) slightly to the left, and the incomplete Cities Service Building (then third-largest) in the center. Lower Manhattan also included "Steamship Row," the stretch of offices along downtown Broadway and side streets that housed the great lines. [Built by Cantieri Navale Triestino, Monfalcone, Italy, 1928. 23,790 gross tons; 631 feet long; 79 feet wide. Burmeister & Wain diesels, twin screw. Service speed 19 knots. 2,196 passengers as built (279 first-class, 257 second-class, 310 third-class, 1,350 fourth-class).]
SATURNIA. Both the Saturnia and Vulcania were also noted for their rich, extravagant interiors. Here we see the Smoking Room, opposite, top, and the bedroom of a first-class suite, opposite, middle, aboard the Saturnia. [Built by Cantieri Navale Triestino, Monfalcone, Italy, 1927. 23,940 gross tons; 632 feet long; 79 feet wide. Burmeister & Wain diesels, twin screw. Service speed 19 knots. 2,197 passengers (279 first-class, 257 second-class, 309 third-class, 1,352 fourth-class).]
ROMA. Prior to the superliners Rex and Conte di Savoia, both completed in 1932, Italy's largest, fastest, and finest liners were the near-sisters Roma and Augustus. At over 32,000 tons each, they were the biggest liners to yet sail the Mediterranean route. Built for NGI, the Roma came first, in September 1926, with the Augustus following fourteen months later, in November 1927. Heightened spirits in that period had encouraged the French to add the luxuriously innovative, 43,000-ton Ile de France, the Germans to plan no less than two 50,000-tonners for 1929, and Canadian Pacific to lay plans for a 42,000-tonner—the largest liner ever intended for the North Atlantic route to the St. Lawrence. Also, well ahead of the devastating Wall Street Crash of October 1929, the Italians, French, and British were making preliminary but definite plans for superliners—ships of 50,000 tons and more, and with unheard-of speed capabilities. Competition amongst Atlantic liners, their owners, and especially their governments was bubbling in the latter 1920s. By the '30s, it all came to a full boil.
Excerpted from Picture History of the Andrea Doria by WILLIAM H. MILLER JR.. Copyright © 2005 William H. Miller, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.