Saint Exupery Mystery Solved?
Has the final chapter been written in one of the great aviation mysteries? A former Luftwaffe pilot says he shot down Antoine de Saint Exupery as the French writer, considered by some to be the greatest aviation author, flew his P-38 off the coast of France in 1944. But Horst Rippert, now 88, who claimed 28 victories during the Second World War, says he never would have opened fire if he’d known his favorite author was at the controls. "If I had known it was Saint-Exupery, I would never have shot him down,” Rippert told the London Daily Telegraph. "He knew admirably how to describe the sky, the thoughts and feelings of pilots. His work inspired many of us to take up our vocation."
Apparently Rippert has kept the secret all these years and gave it up after being tracked down by Luc Vanrell, a diver who found the wreck of Saint Exupery’s aircraft in 1998, and a war researcher named Lino van Gartzen. Saint Exupery was flying for the Free French from Corsica and was on a reconnaissance flight when Rippert said he spotted the Lightning from above and it was easy prey for his Me-109. Many believed the writer, who penned such classics as Pilote de Guerre (Flight to Arras), had committed suicide, but there has also been a persistent theory that he was shot down.