In 1955, the humble 131-foot fishing trawler Sir William Hardy was launched in Scotland and soon found herself in the service of the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food board for twenty years until she was no longer economically viable. Then she was sold to a group of peacenik save the whales types for $57,000 in 1978 (about $250,000 in today’s money), probably more than what she was worth.
Rechristened Rainbow Warrior, she went on to cause seven years of heartburn for the Spanish, Japanese and the French (more on this later).
Well, the latter held a grudge for the group protesting their nuclear tests at Moruroa in French Polynesia in 1985 and launched Opération Satanique (talk about sweet op names). This amounted to two DGSE agents visiting the ship in New Zealand undercover as peaceniks for the purpose of intel which another two agents (Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart), trained combat swimmers, placing two limpet mines on the hull of the trawler over the engine room that they were reasonably sure would be unmanned at 11:30 at night.
Tragically, the ship took photographer Fernando Pereira down with her and the French were soon figured out when Kiwi investigators picked up Prieur and Mafart almost red-handed while ten of their support team made good their getaway.
The pair served two years in jail and while France has never issued an apology, the leader of the op, Lt. Col. Jean Luc Kister, now retired, did this weekend, calling the strike overkill.
“For us it was just like using boxing gloves in order to crush a mosquito,” he said,” it was a disproportionate operation, but we had to obey the order, we were soldiers.”