10.07.

1985: Greenpeace Ship Rainbow Warrior Sunk by French Secret Agents

1985: Greenpeace Ship Rainbow Warrior Sunk by French Secret Agents
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 10 July 1985
  • The attack was reportedly approved by French president Francois Mitterrand. The operation was entrusted to the secret service DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Extérieure - General Directorate for External Security). This agency, a sort of "French CIA", organized the operation codenamed "Satanique".

On this day the dramatic attack on Greenpeace’s famous ship Rainbow Warrior was carried out by French secret agents.

The ship was anchored in the New Zealand port of Auckland (the northern part of New Zealand) at the time. Greenpeace activists were about to sail towards the French atoll of Moruroa in order to prevent a French nuclear test in the Pacific.

French authorities decided to stop them, so they ordered the sinking of the ship. The attack was reportedly approved by the French president Francois Mitterrand.

The operation was entrusted to the secret service DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Extérieure – General Directorate for External Security). This agency, a sort of “French CIA”, organized the operation codenamed “Satanique”.

The agents arrived to New Zealand under false names and, under the guise of environmental activists, first visited the ship in order to investigate her condition. On this day, under cover of darkness, they attached two magnetic mines to the hull.

Their goal was to damage the ship with the first mine, so the people aboard would have to evacuate, and to destroy her afterwards, with a second one. Indeed, the first, weaker mine exploded at 23:38, making a car-sized hole in the hull.

The evacuation of the ship really did begin, but did not go as secret agents expected. Namely, the crew left the ship, but the photographer Fernando Pereira unexpectedly returned for his equipment. Another dozen people returned to the ship to assess the damage.

Then, at 23:45, the other mine exploded. The photographer was killed but others were able to escape, although some were thrown into the water by the explosion. An international scandal broke out and Greenpeace sued the French government and won the case, receiving damages of over $8 million.

The whole event was depicted in a 1992 film, in which Jon Voight portrays the captain of the Rainbow Warrior, with Sam Neill and Lucy Lawless as co-stars.

It is interesting that two of the French secret agents who participated in the attack were women, and one of the others was Gérard Royal, brother of the well-known politician Ségolène Royal.

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