It was 69 years ago today that the French liner Normandie caught fire and capsized at her berth in New York. The grand ship was laid up in New York following the outbreak of World War II, and after France fell in 1940 was seized by the US government for use as a troop transport. She was renamed the USS Lafayette, after the Marquis de Lafayette (who had helped the Americans in the Revolutionary War) and nearly ready for her debut in this wartime role when disaster struck on February 9, 1942.
This period newsreel does a rather good job of describing what exactly happened to this grand ship 69 years ago. Notice, too, how in the later part of the clip the announcer described her as once being "the second finest ship afloat."