Antoine De Saint-Exupery's P-38 Found In Mediterranean
The mystery surrounding the death of
noted French author Antoine De Saint-Exupery has been solved --
almost exactly 60 years later.
Saint-Exupery, whose book, The Little Prince, is considered a
classic of science fiction, was on a secret mission for the allies
on July 31, 1944, when his P-38 Lightning (file photo, below)
Searches of the French coastline turned up nothing. And so the
mystery deepened, shrouded by water and the passing of time.
Then, in 1998, a French fishing boat hauled in a silver bracelet
engraved with Saint-Exupery's name, that of his Argentine wife and
his New York-based publisher, Reynal & Hitchcock.
Not long after that, French diver Luc Vanrell came upon an
underwater wreck in the same general area, near the port city of
Marseilles. They managed to salvage several pieces of the Lockheed
fighter -- one of them engraved with an identifiable serial number.
It turned out to be the left engine cowling and the number was
traced to the aircraft last flown by Saint-Exupery.
"Tears came into my eyes when I saw the number," said Pierre
Becker, the head of Geocean, an underwater engineering firm that
helped find the wreckage. The P-38 was entangled with a German
Messerschmitt ME-109, indicating there may have been a dogfight at
the very end of the revered author's life. But no bulletholes were
found in the aircraft.
Forty-four year old Antoine de Saint-Exupery went west 60 years
ago, a journey only completed with the positive identification of
his wrecked P-38. Happy landings, mon ami.