Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupéry was born in June 1900 in Lyon to an impoverished, aristocratic family. As a student, Saint-Exupéry was not very successful and in 1921 he started military service in the army as an ordinary soldier. While there, he took private flying lessons and was able to transfer to the French Air Force. He left the Air Force and for a while did office work but in 1926 he returned to flying and became one of the pioneers of air mail.

Saint-Exupéry began flying and managing routes in North West Africa until he moved to Argentina as director of the Aeroposta Argentina airline in 1929. While building new routes in South America he was still able to fly the occasional mail run or search for downed pilots.

In 1935 Saint-Exupéry, along with André Prévot, was taking part in a Paris-to-Saigon air race when their plane crashed in the Libyan desert. They had few supplies and little idea of where they were, but were finally rescued. Saint-Exupéry experienced several crashes in his career.

By the outbreak of the Second World War, Saint-Exupéry had become a military reconnaissance pilot.  After the fall of France he managed to get to the United States. Saint-Exupéry was already an established author with several successful titles such as Vol de Nuit, Terre des Hommes and Pilote de Guerre, but it was during his time in America that he was persuaded to write and illustrate a children's book, Le Petit Prince. Although ostensibly for children, it is poetic and philosophical, and has become one of the most translated and best-selling books ever published, with an estimated 130 million copies sold.

In 1943, Saint-Exupéry returned to Europe and military flying, this time with the Free French Air Force flying reconnaissance missions in the Mediterranean theatre. On 31 July 1944, he took off on one such mission never to return. It is thought that he was shot down by a German fighter. It was 60 years before the wreckage of his plane was found on the seabed off the coast of Marseille.