[Back to Formatted Version]

Viola Gentle Papers, 1954-1959

By Lauren Goss

Collection Overview

Title: Viola Gentle Papers, 1954-1959

Predominant Dates: 1956

ID: MSS Gentle

Primary Creator: Gentle, Viola

Extent: 0.25 cubic feet. More info below.

Languages of Materials: English [eng], Italian [ita]


The Viola Gentle Papers are comprised of materials relating to Gentle's experience as a survivor of the collision off the coast of Nantucket between the S.S. Andrea Doria (Italian Line) and the M.S. Stockholm (Swedish American Line) on July 25th, 1956.  Included in the collection are her correspondence with the captain of the Andrea Doria and fellow survivors, travel documentation, and newspaper clippings detailing the rescue efforts led by the S.S. Ile de France.

Scope and Content Notes

The Viola Gentle Papers consists of materials related to Gentle's experience as a passenger on the S.S. Andrea Doria, surviving the collision with the M.S. Stockholm, and being rescued by the S.S. Ile de France.  The materials include correspondence, audiotape interview, menus, travel documentation, a photograph, and newspaper clippings.

The correspondence includes a letter from Gentle to Piero Calamai, the captain of the Andrea Doria. Gentle also wrote a letter to Alvin Moscow, author of Collision Course: the Classic Story of the Most Extraordinary Sea Disaster of our Times (1959), identifying inaccuracies in his text based on her individual experience. Additional correspondence includes letters to Gentle from fellow survivors describing their recollection of the event, sharing information about insurance claims for lost belongings, and discussing the subsequent lawsuit between the passenger ship companies.

The collection also includes an interview by radio journalist Colin D. Edwards.  Titled "The Andrea Doria Disaster," the 1/4" open reel audiotape interview of Gentle was conducted shortly after the accident.

In addition, the collection includes items related to transatlantic travel on the S.S. Andrea Doria, including 10 lunch and dinner menus from the Italian Line with food descriptions in both Italian and English. Gentle's personal travel documentation includes a tour itinerary, Andrea Doria passage documents, passenger list, and U.S. customs forms.

In relation to the collision and subsequent sinking, the collection includes a black and white photograph that depicts the damaged Andrea Doria. Several newspaper clippings describe the collision, rescue efforts and personal stories of survivors.  Included in these clippings are several photographs of and interviews with Gentle, describing her recollection of the event and her experience on the S.S. lle de France.

Biographical / Historical Notes

On May 29, 1956, 75-year-old Violet Sylvia Gentle embarked on the S.S. Cristoforo Colombo headed to Nice, France from New York City.  After a two-month guided trip across the continent, she boarded the S.S. Andrea Doria in Gibraltar on July 20, 1956 for a transatlantic voyage back to New York City. On July 25, 1956, the ocean liner was hit by the M.S Stockholm off the coast of Nantucket.  The Andrea Doria eventually sank after listing on her starboard side for 11 hours. The majority of passengers survived, led by the rescue efforts of the S.S. Ile de France. Gentle gained notoriety for being the first survivor to come ashore after the Ile de France arrived in New York City. A long-time resident of San Francisco, Gentle's experience was reported by several local and national newspapers.  The subsequent litigation between the ship lines resulted in an out-of-court settlement.  The accident prompted maritime reforms for navigation in foggy weather and improved training for radar technicians.

Author: Lauren Goss

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 1 photograph; 1 audiotape; 1 box

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Physical Access Note: Lack of appropriate technology prohibits listening for the reel-to-reel audio tape; it has not been digitized.

Acquisition Note: These materials were donated to the Oregon State University Libraries in 1964 by Viola Gentle's son.

Preferred Citation: Viola Gentle Papers (MSS Gentle), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Gentle, Viola

People, Places, and Topics

Andrea Doria (Steamship)
Shipwreck survival
Transatlantic voyages

Forms of Material

Photographic prints.
Printed ephemera.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.