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Hypotheses and rumors about the causes of the disappearance of the Minerva

from 1971 to 2017

After the ceremonies of February 1968, apart from a question to the government in 1968, there was never again the slightest official communication on the disappearance of the submarine, even vis-à-vis families and relatives.

The file of the commission of inquiry had been classified "Confidential Defense" no one could no longer have access to it without a valid service reason.

This silence of the authorities was going to allow the emergence of many rumors on the causes of the disappearance.

These rumours, sometimes fanciful, were amplified by the fact that those who had access to the file said it was 'empty' and did not include any sensitive or interesting information.  This seemed to contradict the 'Confidential Defence' status.


Thus the book "Les accidents de sous-marin 1945-1983" by George Kevorkian, published in 2006, is more complete than the file itself (see "References" page).


Let’s take the hypotheses mentioned one by one:

NC Mars 1968.png

This article from a 1968 TV magazine is the first rumors that begin to circulate

  • The crew was incompetent starting with its commander

This hypothesis has circulated above all in military circles. On a personal note, my mother, the commander's wife, has very often been attacked on this point and she sometimes violently left dinners  where she had been invited following such accusations. One of my aunts, sister of the commander and wife of a naval officer also had to deal with it. 

Commander André Fauve had a long experience of diving, in particular on this type of submarine. Thus, on the Flore, his pasha was Commander Alain Coatanéa, the future Chief of the Naval Staff under François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, who had greatly appreciated him. His ratings of Lieutenant de Vaisseau Fauve were excellent.

The crew, meanwhile, was seasoned and experienced. He was young, of course, but neither more nor less than those of the other submarines and on the Minerve the level of experience was rather above average.

The commission of inquiry had favored this hypothesis in 1968, after thorough investigations it had excluded it even if it considered that great progress could be made in terms of training.​


The LV André Fauve at the Naval Academy in 1967

Fauve - Rumeurs
  • The Navy did't want to make its mistakes public

While this might have been true at the staff level, it was not at the operational level.

Nothing collected allows us to go in this direction, in particular over a period of 50 years when no building of this type is sailing. 


The sailors on board were the first to have an interest in understanding what had happened, it was their own lives that were at stake. It is enough to read the blogs of former sailors to convince oneself that such a secret would not have not last 50 years.

The last internal Navy document on the subject to which I had access dates from 1999, i.e. 31 years after the tragedy. than those presented on this site.

  • The causes of the accident were hidden for reasons of economic and commercial interests

This thesis is the one developed by Le Monde in 2000 and regularly taken up since by other dailies (see pageControversies).

  • La Minerve would have been on a secret mission

the1968 Minister of Defense, Pierre Messmer himself mentioned the stupor of the Head of State, Charles de Gaulle, when he told him about the accident. His compassion was demonstrated by his behavior during the ceremony and in the days that followed. Losing a crew in these conditions shocked him deeply.

If the building had been on a secret mission, lui like Pierre Messmer would have been informed, and the internal documents of the Navy would have mentioned it, in particular the file " Confidential Defence". In the army archives, there are  files which included "secret missions" components. In these cases, without being detailed or explained, the existence of these missions is mentioned.

Army records contain no such allusion to Minerva.

Finally there is a simple matter of common sense.

La Minerve was of the “Daphne” type, known as “800 tons”, there were several of them in Toulon (Eurydice....). Why would the Admiralty have chosen, for a delicate mission,  the only crew in the process of changing commanders, who needed to find their bearings? For a "secret" mission would have been logically another submarine that would have been preferred.


La Minerve was of course in the zone indicated for classic exercises.

  • La Minerve would have been the victim of an accidental firing of a "Malafon" missile from La Galissonière where they were being tested. 

Here is what a former member of the Galissonière crew wrote:

"On Saturday 27 January 1968 we were docked in Toulon. On Sunday 28 January 1968 we were in port. I was on duty as second mate. That's when I learned about the problem with the Minerve, we set sail the next day for the search, the Galissonière having powerful sonars, but that weekend we were docked in Toulon. 


So if the Galissonière was docked on Saturday 27 January 1968, she did not fire a missile that day. Several testimonies corroborate this fact.


Moreover, the hypothesis "firing a missile" is unlikely because : 

The areas where test shots are carried out are always strictly delimited and the Minerve was not there, and in the neighbouring areas there were no missiles either.

  • A shot that sinks a building lets debris rise to the surface there was none

  • The acoustic characteristics of an explosion following a missile launch are very different from the characteristics of the acoustic wave (at a depth of 700 m - out of reach of a missile) recorded for La Minerve

  • If a missile launch causes a water leak, the submarine does not implode (which nevertheless happened and was recorded by seismographs) because the water penetrates inside the building balancing the internal pressure and external to the submarine, which makes this implosion impossible.

  • Before the commission of inquiry  no one has ever mentioned this hypothesis.

  • There have been several rumors in Toulon about missile launches on various occasions, which are unfounded but remain anchored in people's minds.

Journal de borde de la Galissonière le 27/01/1968

  • The wreckage would have been located by the Americans in the early 1980s


Whenever it is mentioned (on the internet), there is no source. In no army document, even later, is it mentioned.

SIf such information had come out in the 1980s, the  many relatives of the missing sailors would have reacted. None of these people who are very sensitive to everything related to Minerva, including in the Navy,  has ever had the slightest echo of it. In 2019 the Navy would not have committed a budget to search for the wreckage.

  • UFOs, extra-terrestrial intervention...

No comment.

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