On 19th April 1939, fire hit the French Line (CGT). SS Paris was docked at Le Havre, loading French works of art for the World Fair in New York. Fire broke out in several places, the largest conflagration being in the bakery. When firemen tried to gain access, they found the door lock had been jammed. Fireboats arrived, but added to the problem, pumping too much water on board.
By the next day Paris had heeled over and capsized. Treason and sabotage was suspected, but could never be proved. Normandie, which was in the drydock just astern of her, finishing her winter refit, was now blocked. Because of the disturbances caused by Paris, Normandie’s overhaul was interrupted, and the latest set of propellers was never fitted. A few months later the outbreak of World War II interrupted any further plans for Normandie to make another speed attempt.
Before they were able to get Normandie out of the drydock, divers had to cut the masts off Paris, although the rest was left to lie – a decision that would come back to haunt CGT just a few years later, when Liberté (ex-Europa), being refitted in Le Havre, broke free of her moorings during a storm in December 1946 and drifted on to the hulk, causing her to sink. Liberté settled quickly, but in an upright position. Six months later she was refloated and the refit was completed. The wreck of Paris remained until 1947, when she finally was scrapped in situ.