Mysterious wartime death of French novelist

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Mysterious wartime death of French novelist

Post by Marcus » 08 Aug 2004 09:15

Amidst the olive groves on the French island of Corsica, a church service has taken place to mark the 60th anniversary of the death of the novelist and World War II hero Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Saint-Exupery had taken off from Corsica for a reconnaissance trip over occupied France.
He disappeared, and no trace of his plane was ever found.
But suddenly this year, the French government announced the discovery of St-Exupery's plane - and grave - in the sea near Marseille.
One of the greatest enigmas of aviation - and 20th Century literature - had been solved.
The news should have brought closure to the story of Saint-Exupery. But it has stirred up deep emotions in France.
Six years ago, a fisherman called Jean-Claude Bianco, working waters south of Marseille, found a silver identity bracelet bearing the names of Saint-Exupery and his wife Consuelo.
Marseille is 130 miles (200 km) from where Saint-Exupery's mission should have taken him, and Mr Bianco's discovery was scorned by the Saint-Exupery family, with elements of the French press alleging that he had forged the bracelet.
A tough, straight-talking man, Mr Bianco told me angrily he would clear his name.
One person who did believe him was a professional diver from Marseille called Luc Vanrell.
A calm and methodical man, Mr Vanrell has been diving in these turquoise waters all his life.
He remembered that his father, also a diver, once told him of seeing a sunken aeroplane exactly where Mr Bianco found the bracelet.
Mr Vanrell successfully identified the plane of Saint-Exupery, but then he too found out what it was like to be at the wrong end of a campaign of press vilification, accused of faking evidence.
But finally, this April, the French government confirmed that the plane found by Mr Vanrell was indeed that of Saint-Exupery.
The author's wealthy and influential family are still uncomfortable about the discovery, and many in the French political establishment are keen to suppress any discussion of the matter.
The reason?
Well, it could be because the presence of Saint-Exupery's plane so far from its planned route, with evidence of a vertical crash, lends credence to an uncomfortable hypothesis - that the war hero may have deliberately plunged his Lockheed Lightning aircraft into the Mediterranean Sea.
During World War II, France was split into factions, with the German-controlled Vichy government in France opposed by the so-called Free French, based in London.
Saint-Exupery was fighting as an officer in the Free French air force, but he distrusted the authoritarian leader, General Charles de Gaulle.
In 1943 de Gaulle paid the author back, by publicly implying that he suspected him of supporting the Germans. Saint-Exupery was banned from flying with the Free French air force.
It took the author eight months to get the flying ban overturned.
By now, the European war was approaching its climax, with D-Day in the north, while Saint-Exupery's squadron was advancing from North Africa to Corsica.
Still branded a traitor, Saint-Exupery drank heavily, and even hinted at suicide.
Ironically, after the war, the man who described France's wartime politicians as "a basket of crabs" was claimed by them as a unifying symbol, the acceptable face of the country's wartime record.
It is unlikely that we will ever finally know how Saint-Exupery died. His plane exploded when it crashed. ... 541662.stm


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Post by xtela » 09 Aug 2004 05:23

This crash investigation is interesting from the personal and political as the BBC article stresses. But more interesting is the physical evidence found. The numbers 2734L were found on a piece of the wreakage which corresponds to s/n 422-2734 a Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning 42-68223. The part containing the number was part of the left boom turbo-supercharger support(stainless steel). Also found in the debris field was a liquid cooled V-12 engine numbered DB-601.305-001 EZ11. A German Daimler-Benz DB-601 ! References: ... cueil.html


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