Mystery behind author Antoine de Saint-Exuperys death solved

March 17th, 2008 - 7:17 pm ICT by admin  

London, Mar 17 (ANI): For decades people have been wondering whether French author Antoine de Saint-Exuperys death during World War II was caused by the enemy or suicide. The mystery has now been solved by a German fighter ace who calims to have shot him down and who, ironically, loved reading his books.

Horst Rippert, 88, also admits that if he had know it was de Saint-Exupery in the plane, he would never have shot him down even though he was the enemy.

If I had known that it was him, I would never have fired, Timesonline quoted him, as saying.

Saint-Exupery, still remembered as one of the worlds bestselling authors, disappeared on the night of July 31, 1944 shot down by a Luftwaffe pilot, while he was on a mission to collect intelligence on German troop movements two weeks before the Allied invasion of southern France.

Saint-Ex, as he was known, was flying a twin-engined Lockheed P-38 Lightning during the mission. His fate remained a mystery until a fisherman found his bracelet off Marseilles in 1998 and then in 2001 Luc Vanrell, a diver, retrieved parts of a Lightning that were identified as his.

Mr Vanrell and Lino von Gartzen, a German expert on the wartime Luftwaffe, tracked down Mr Rippert who told them: You can stop searching I was the one who shot down Saint-Exupery.

He also revealed how the night of July 31, 1944 unfolded.

According to Mr Rippert, whose story is told in the book Saint-Exupery, LUltime Secret, he found the lone Lightning heading along the coast from German-occupied Toulon to Marseilles while patrolling in his Me109.

The pilot was flying carelessly, as if enjoying himself, at a vulnerable 6,000ft, he said.

If you were used to hard-combat flying, that was not normal . . . He was looking around. He wasnt bothered about my presence. I said to myself, Ok old chap, if you dont clear out, Im going to pot you. I dived towards him and fired at the wings. I hit him, he said.

The kite ditched, hit the water, smashed up. No one baled out. It would have been impossible to know that it was Exupery. I hoped and still hope that it was not him, Mr Rippert continued.

In our youth, at school, we all read him and adored his books. He knew admirably how to describe the sky, the thoughts and feelings of pilots. His work drew many of us to the profession. They told me later it must have been Saint-Exupery. What a disaster. What have you done, I said to myself.

Saint-Exupery wrote many books, including Le Petit Prince, Night Flight, and Southern Mail. (ANI)

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