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French Submarine Visits New London Sub Base To Return A Gesture

French submariners raise the French flag on submarine Amethyste.
Seth Koenig
U.S. Navy
French submariners raise the French flag on submarine Amethyste.

Submarine Base New London in Connecticut is hosting a visit by the French submarine Amethyste through this weekend to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and French Navy.

Commander Samuel Bell of the USS Cheyenne said the visit is taking place to return the favor from when he and his crew paid a visit to France a few years back.

“I was on the Hartford here out of Groton as my previous submarine back in 2017 and we actually pulled in Brest, France, and we were hosted by the French and got to march in their Bastille Day Parade, so we were one of the first U.S. units to march in the Bastille Day Parade as a submarine unit. So, for me this is a bit of returning the favor, so it’s actually an awesome opportunity,” Bell said.

For French Captain Aymeric Schaeffer and many of his crew, it’s their first visit to New England.

“There will definitely be a few official engagements with the U.S. Navy and as you imagine my ship's company, my crew, are very excited to be here in Connecticut in the U.S.... I think they have already planned to go, most of them, to New York City and visit the area,” Schaeffer said.

Foreign navies visit Submarine Base New London every three to six years. The last foreign submarine to visit was the British submarine HMS Trenchard in 2018. The last time a French Submarine visited the New London sub base was the Surcouf in 1941 … right before its disappearance. Historians believe it was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat.

Amethyste’s next stop is down to the Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia, to continue their U.S. visit.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.