70 years ago, on 31st., July 1944, Antoine Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupéry, better known by the nickname ''Saint-Ex.'' disappeared in flight, off the coast of Marseille. On this occasion we take a brief look at this history making French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator.
Born on 29th., June, 1900 in Lyon, France, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry learned to fly during his military service. He was hired in 1926 by Didier Daurat, Operations Director of Latécoère Airlines, the future French Aéropostale, on the mail route Toulouse - Casablanca - Dakar. This is where he made the acquaintance of Mermoz and Guillaumet. Appointed Cape Juby local manager in Morocco at the end of 1927, he discovered solitude and the magic of the desert. Two years later, he published his first novel, "Courrier sud'' ( Southern Mail ), in which he recounts his life and emotions felt as a pilot.
In 1929, he went to South America to contribute to the development of Aeroposta Argentina as far as Patagonia. After a period in journalism, the aviator was called up to join a French Air Force reconnaissance squadron in 1939.
A few years later, whilst flying his P-38 Lightning over the sea at 08:25h, on the morning of 31st., July, 1944, he disappeared. Saint-Exupéry had taken off from Poretta airport in Corsica for a photographic mapping reconnaissance mission, with the objective of drawing up accurate maps of the country, to be used in the landings in Provence, scheduled for the following 15th., August. Alone aboard his unarmed 'plane, but with enough fuel for a six-hour flight, radar contact with his aircraft was lost five minutes after take-off.
Technical problems, pilot error, shot down by the Luftwaffe... The "Saint-Ex. mystery" was born. The remains of his 'plane were only found fifty years later. Pieces of aircraft wreckage found in the Mediterranean off Marseille were only formally identified in 2004. When his plane crashed into the sea, Saint-Ex was barely 44 years old.