Antoine Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupéry, 1900 - 1944

portrait of Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Born: 29 June 1900, Lyon, France
Died: 31 July 1944, Offshore south of Marseille, France

The third of five children in an old family of provincial nobility, his father the viscount died before Antoine was four. He failed his final exams at preparatory school, then studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1921 be began military service in the 2nd Regiment of the Chasseurs (light cavalry), he was sent to Strasbourg for pilot training. He received his pilot's license the following year and was offered a commission in the French air force but was dissuaded by his fianceée's family and took an office job at Paris. In an era before advanced navigational systems, he pioneered a number of international air mail routes in Europe, Africa, and South America. He wrote his first story in 1926 and wrote a series of novels relating to flight and pilots that sold well. In 1935, seeking a prize for the fastest flight time from Paris to Saigon, he crashed in the Sahara with, depending on when he told the story, a thermos of coffee or a small ration of wine. He and his navigator were hallucinating and had stopped sweating when a Bedouin band found them four days later. At the beginning of World War II he was flying for the Armeé de l'Air, but went to the US after France surrendered. There he wrote a children's story, The Little Prince. In 1943 he returned to Europe and was flying reconnaissance missions in "war-weary, non-airworthy" Lockheed P-38 Lightnings with the Free French Forces, the second mission he flew ended with another crash after engine failure. He was grounded for eight months and got another plane only after the intervention of General Eisenhower. Flying a Lockheed F-5B (a P-38J with guns replaced by cameras), he didn't return from a flight from Corsica. In 2008 an elderly Luftwaffe pilot claimed responsibility, without evidence.

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