History’s Greatest Lies – 1985: The Rainbow Warrior


The bombing of the Green Peace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior in The Port of Auckland was an act of state sponsored terrorism.
New Zealand has always been sensitive towards environmental causes and was openly critical of the French nuclear testing taking place in nearby Polynesia. Executive director of Green Peace France, Jean-François Julliard explains.

On the tenth of July 1985, The Rainbow Warrior sank whilst berthed at Marsden Wharf in Auckland. It was initially thought that the sinking was the result of an accident. Perhaps the sinking was the result of a collision with a tug, a catastrophic engineering failure or even an accident involving something Greenpeace was working on to aggravate the French, but very shortly after New Zealand Police divers returned from inspecting the hull it was apparent that something more sinister had transpired.

Two extremely powerful limpet mines had been attached to the Rainbow Warrior’s hull. This was not an accident and the devices used were lethal and sophisticated.

The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior was executed by agents of the French Foreign Intelligence Services (DGSE). The operation was codenamed Opération Satanic. It is interesting to note that members of the team had reservations and concerns about the operation in its planning phase. Historian Floran Vadillo, distinguished French journalist Jean-Marie Pontaut and one of the DGSE combat divers directly involved with Opération Satanic, Jean-Luc Kister provide us with an insight into some of the reservations of DGSE officers.

They say that moral debate is the domain of the politicians; soldiers just follow orders.

New Zealand is not a very big country. When something like this happens, people become very suspicious. It would therefore be unusual for someone not to notice something. After the bombing, the New Zealand Police started one of the country’s largest police investigations. Most of the DGSE agents involved managed to escape from New Zealand. Captain Dominique Prieur and Commander Alain Mafart however were not so lucky and were apprehended and subsequently identified as possible suspects. Posing as the married couple Sophie and Alain Turenge, Captain Prieur and Commander Mafart were identified with the help of a Neighbourhood Watch group and arrested. Both were questioned and investigated. Because they were carrying Swiss passports, their true identities were discovered, along with the French government’s responsibility for the attack.

The incident that resulted in the tragic death of photographer, Fernando Pereira and ultimately the disgrace and international condemnation of the French government. It is one of the most unspeakable terrorist attacks on our friends across the Ditch and one of the worst political scandals of France’s Fifth Republic. It was driven by political vanity and the Mitterand administration’s need to be seen as a formidable player of the nuclear arms race.

Jean-Luc Kister, one of the key DGSE agents involved, sums up unemotionally and succinctly (as only soldiers can) the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior; the appropriate yet somewhat ironically named Opération Satanic. “It was a disproportionate response. Like using a boxing glove to crush a fly.”


By: R. J. Hawksworth