PARIS (Reuters) - Horst Rippert, an 88-year old former pilot of Germany’s Luftwaffe, has said in a forthcoming book that he may have killed French writer and war pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery in 1944.
Saint-Exupery, who achieved worldwide fame with his fairy-tale-like book “The Little Prince”, died in mysterious circumstances when his plane came down near Marseilles while on a reconnaissance mission. His body has never been found.
Extracts of the book “Saint-Exupery: The Final Secret” were published in Le Figaro magazine over the weekend, and Le Figaro quoted Rippert as saying: “It’s me, I shot down Saint-Exupery.”
However, Rippert also said in the article that he could not be certain of the identity of the French pilot whose plane he shot down. He also hoped it was not the French author as he was a big fan of Saint-Exupery’s works.
“I didn’t see the pilot and even so, it would have been impossible for me to know that it was Saint-Exupery. I have hoped ever since that it wasn’t him,” he said.
Saint-Exupery was a pioneering pilot of his era. Following the Nazi German occupation of France in 1940, he moved to New York but then came back and joined the Free French air force. He was 44 years old when he died.
Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta