|After World War II, the Marine Nationale’s carrier fleet was comprised on two ex-USN light carriers and one ex-RN light carrier. While these ships
served well, the French government wanted to pursue more independence in naval and defense matters. To this end, the Clemenceau and Foch were
France’s effort to produce its own class of multi-role aircraft carriers to replace the older carriers which were becoming obsolete in the new jet age. The
Clemenceau class was relatively small but effective, incorporating elements of United States carrier design, but to a smaller scale. They also proved to be
adaptable over their careers with several refits and a weapons upgrade when they were fitted with a pair of Crotale surface-to-air missile launchers that
replaced four 100mm gun turrets.
Clemenceau and Foch were the mainstays of the French fleet. During her career, Clemenceau sailed more than 1,000,000 nautical miles (2,000,000 km)
all over the world and logged 3,125 days at sea. She was decommissioned in 1997 after a 36-year career and eventually scrapped in 2009. After serving
the French Navy for 37 years, the Foch continues to sail on as the Brazilian Navy’s São Paulo.
The French-language naval magazine Navires & Historie, in addition to their regular bi-monthly issues, publishes several Hors-Serie, or “Special Issues”,
which focus on a particular ship class or topic. The latest special issue, written by Gérard Prévoteaux and Philippe Caresse, covers the Clemenceau
class, their construction, modifications and service history, in great detail. Naturally the text is in French. Now I don’t speak French but since I am fluent
in Spanish, I can make enough of the text out to understand it and when in doubt, I grab my French-English dictionary.
Regardless of your French language skills, what requires no translation are the large number of detailed photos in black & white and color and the
stunning 3-D CAD renderings which depict the Clemenceau in great detail and in every perspective you can ask for. The 40 (by my count) individual
CAD renderings were created by Benjamin Druel, who is the very talented son of Jacques Druel of L’Arsenal. As thorough as these are, the CAD is
strictly of the all-gun fit. I wish that some renderings of a Crotale fitted version were also included, but there are some good photos of this fit in this issue.