Volume 14 No. 2, December 1998
Yet Another Lost Lockheed

Aside from having a nearly-impossible-to-pronounce name, the famous French author/pilot (The Little Prince; Flight To Arras; Night Flight; Southern Mail) may not even be missing.

In September of this year some aluminum debris and a silver bracelet bearing Saint-Exupery’s name, and that of his wife Consuelo, and the name of his American publisher (Reynal and Hitchcock) appeared in a fisherman’s net about 20 miles off the coast of Marseilles. But three months after he failed to return from a photo-recon mission off Corsica in his Lockheed P-38 on July 31, 1944, fishermen from a Mediterranean village pulled a corpse, presumed to be that of the missing aviator, out of the water and buried it in a local cemetery. The Saint-Exupéry family has a always discouraged any attempt to exhume the body for positive identification, wishing to let the matter (and the body) rest.

But lost heroes never rest easy and the recovery of the bracelet has prompted Henri-Germain Delauze, the owner of a salvage company in Marseilles, to announce an attempt to locate the wreckage with two mini-submarines. He is searching a 38 square-mile area around where the bracelet was found. Depths range from 1,080 to 2,100 feet. At last report, nothing resembling P-38 wreckage had turned up. Delauze vows that he “just wants to understand” and that he “will not touch the plane.” The Saint-Exupéry family isn’t buying it. A nephew, Jean-Ginaud d’Agay, says "We have not received any prior notice of the search and no one has asked for our authorization. We find this slightly odd and scandalous."

It’s not clear just why the family’s authorization would be needed to search for a lost military airplane. After more than half a century it is highly unlikely that any human remains would be present (assuming that the body in the cemetery is not Antoine) and, unless the fighter made a controlled ditching, there is little reason to expect anything but a jumble of wreckage, if it can be found at all. And yet, he’s a famous missing flier and people want to know what happened to famous missing fliers. We can understand that.

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