Friday, April 20, 2007

In this exciting programme, we investigate the mystery of the sinking of the Andrea Doria, a beautifully engineered Italian vessel that disappeared beneath the waves in baffling and unusual circumstances.

By the end of 1945, Italy had lost half of its merchant fleet. Harry S. Truman, the American president, gave Alcide De Gasperi, Italy’s Christian Democrat premier, permission to construct large passenger ships for the trans-Atlantic route. Significantly, this overturned a particularly hated clause of the humiliating post-war peace treaty.

The construction of this modern and elegant liner involved an entire city. On 16th June 1951, the hull slid majestically into the sea in front of an enthusiastic crowd of over a thousand. The Andrea Doria was a jewel, built to the highest standards and bursting with works of art. Wood panels and mosaics gave it the appearance of a floating museum. The vessel was captained by Piero Calamai – a man with the experience and charisma to lead almost seven hundred crewmen and two thousand passengers.

The Doria immediately proved a good investment. Countless Italian emigrants in search of a new life in the United States ensured that it almost always sailed at full capacity. Soon a cruise on the Doria became a pleasant interlude for stars of the silver screen like Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy and Orson Welles. On 17th July 1956, the Andrea Doria was birthed in the port of Genoa, ready to embark upon her 101st voyage. A total of 1,134 passengers and 572 crew members were on board.

On 25th July 1956, the reinforced prow of the Stockholm - a small passenger ship owned by the Swedish America Line – pierced the side of the Andrea Doria with the force of two hundred high calibre bullets fired at the same time. It created enormous damage and pierced the ship’s watertight compartments, instantly killing forty-three people.

We examine the enormous rescue operation that was undertaken as the ship gradually disappeared beneath the waves. Then, we examine the battle to determine who was responsible for the collision which occurred in the wake of the disaster. We reveal the truth about who was really responsible for the tragedy. The real facts only emerged many years later, thanks to a scientific study carried out at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.


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