PARIS, April 7 (AFP) – French aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who wrote the beloved children’s story “The Little Prince”, may have committed suicide, a historian said Wednesday as wreckage from the author’s plane was found 60 years after he disappeared.
Pieces of the aviator’s Lockheed Lightning P38 aircraft, which vanished July 31, 1944 during a wartime reconnaissance mission, were found off the coast of the Mediterranean city of Marseille on Wednesday, the Culture Ministry’s Department of Sub-aquatic and Submarine Archeological Research said.
But speculation remains over why the plane disappeared during the mission over Nazi-occupied southern France to prepare for an Allied landing.
“Eight days (before his last mission), he had hinted that he was thinking of suicide,” aviation historian Bernard Mark told Europe 1 radio on Wednesday.
Mark said that just before his fateful last mission Saint-Exupery had been spotted by German fighters over Turin. “The Germans were a little intrigued to see that he didn’t vary his course, he let them come.
“Saint-Exupery even said himself that he saw them arrive, he turned his rear-view mirror and waited for them. In the end the Germans left.”Mystery has always surrounded what happened to Saint-Exupery, the author of
“The Little Prince” which has captured the imaginations of young and old since its publication in 1943.
Few bookshelves are complete without a copy of the tender tale of the little boy who leaves his home on a tiny asteriod and his beloved rose to search for adventure among the other planets, along the way learning valuable lessons about love and life.
Saint-Exupery, a veteran pilot who helped establish Latin America’s Aeropostale air delivery service in the late 1920s, went missing shortly after flying out of his base on the French island of Corsica in good weather.
He was an experienced pilot having first been in a plane at the age of 12 – four years after the Wright brothers. But at 44 he was already considered an older member of the crew.
“He was ill when he went on his last flight. He was given a plane which usually the Americans would only give to experienced and young, highly trained pilots. And for such a flight he should have gone to bed at 8:00 pm the night before.
“But (he) had not slept that night, he had been out partying,” Mark added.One of the divers who found the pieces of the wreckage Philippe Castellano said Wednesday’s discovery was a dream for historians, even if it did not explain why the plane came down.
“There was no bent propellor, no bullet holes…. Looking at the pieces, we are thinking of a hypothesis of a near-vertical dive at high speed. But that’s just a guess,” he said.
The head of the culture ministry department that announced the news of the find, Patrick Granjean, said it was now formally established that the author’s plane had gone down off Marseille.
But, he added: “We don’t know why – we probably never will.”
Subject: French news