German pilot who killed Little Prince author says he is sorry
Mar 16, 2008, 16:32 GMT
Paris - The German pilot who shot down the plane carrying Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of the beloved book Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), said he deeply regretted his act, the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche reported on Sunday.
'If I had known who was in front of me, I would never have shot. Not him!' 88-year-old Horst Rippert says in a book to be published Wednesday. 'I did not shoot at a man I knew. I targetted an enemy aircraft.'
According to Rippert, Saint-Exupery was a model for many German airmen.
'He described wonderfully the sky and the thoughts and feelings of the pilots,' Rippert said. 'His work inspired many of us to become aviators.'
Rippert told the French daily La Provence that the action occurred near the southern French city of Toulon.
'Exupery flew his P38 Lightning below me,' Rippert said. 'Like me, he was over the sea and flying toward the mainland.'
Saint-Exupery's fate had been a mystery since he vanished on July 31, 1944, while on an observation mission to prepare the Allied invasion of Provence.
Parts of his aircraft were finally found in 2000 off the Mediterranean coast, but they were not definitively identified until 2004.
Since its publication in 1943, The Little Prince has been translated into dozens of languages and sold more than 80 million copies worldwide.