Geo answer

The World

The Mediterranean figures in today’s Geo Quiz.

We’re looking for a city in southern France for our quiz.

Its large harbor on the Mediterranean makes it a key French naval base.

Today this seaport is home to the French Navy’s aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and a flotilla of battleships.

During World War II, German planes patroled the airspace above this city trying to spot allied planes.

In July 1944 a French flyer named Antoine de Saint-Exupery was shot down near the city.

Saint-Exupery is best known for writing the children’s fantasy “The Little Prince.”

Now a German pilot who believes he shot down the French hero has come forward to tell the story.

We’ll hear more about that but first try to name the city in southern France.

In 1944, the French writer Antoine Saint-Exupery disappeared.

He was flying a reconnaissance plane off the coast of France for the French resistance.

Saint-Exupery, as you may recall from French class, wrote the children’s classic, ‘The Little Prince’.

Well, in a new book coming out tomorrow, an ex-World War II German pilot admits he shot down the writer’s plane.

The pilot says it happened over the Mediterranean, near the French city of Toulon, the answer to our Geo Quiz.

The World’s Gerry Hadden has the story.


Like Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s own life, the book ‘The Little Prince’ ends with a mystery. In this film version the little prince utters his final words to the stranded pilot just before he departs.

Little Prince: You will hear me laugh, more than you ever have before. Because on one of those stars I’ll be laughing. But you won’t know which one so they’ll all be laughing, all the stars. It’ll be like a bell hanging from every star in the sky. That’s all.

The next morning the little prince’s body has vanished. Just as Saint-Exupery’s plane vanished one July afternoon in 1944 as he flew what was to be his final reconnaissance mission for the french resistance.

For decades no-one knew what had happened to him. But clues began to emerge. By chance, years after Saint-Exupery’s disappearance, a fisherman dredged up the writer’s bracelet in his nets. In 2000 pieces of Exupery’s wrecked plane were located off the coast of Marseilles and brought to the surface. The world learned where he’d crashed but not why.

Now the diver who found Saint-Exupery’s plane and a French journalist say they’ve found the answer. Their forthcoming book, Saint-Exupery, ‘The Final Mystery’, tells the story of a retired former German Luftwaffe pilot who believes he shot down Saint-Exupery’s plane. Co-author Jacques Pradell says tracking down 88 year old Horst Rippert was difficult.

Pradell: He says, (we knew that) if some fighter pilot had in fact killed him he would have no desire to talk about it. Why? Because the pilots of their generation, like all fighter pilots from the 2nd world war, very often had been inspired by one thing: the writings of Saint-Exupery himself.

Pradell says when he reached Horst Rippert by phone, Rippert confessed immediately. He says Rippert told him how he learned with horror days after shooting down a small plane that it was probably Saint-Exupery’s aircraft.

Pradell: He says, it was the catastrophe of his life. Rippert shot down his very idol.

In ‘The Final Mystery’ , Rippert is quoted talking about how he read Saint-Exupery as a kid in school. We loved his books, he says . If I had known it was him I would never have opened fire. Not on him.

The book’s official publication date is Wednesday , and it’s expected to make a splash at the Paris Book Fair. But Saint-Exupery ‘s family say the news doesn’t interest them. Olivier D’Agay is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s great grandson.

D’Agay: What does it bring, more to the fame and the glory of Saint-Exupery? For us, nothing.

In fact, the Saint-Exupery family has always opposed searching for his plane…or his body. After all, they say, his writing survives.

For The World I’m Gerry Hadden.

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