Antoine de Saint Exupéry had no business being in a cockpit. His abilities as a pilot were not in question. His age and health were. He sat in no ordinary cockpit. This was the P-38 Lightning, and he was up against the German Luftwaffe.
It seems implausible to think that anyone could be ambivalent about the Nazi threat, but they were out there. Saint Exupéry spent a great amount of time and effort working to convince governments to act. But, after coming off a war that was supposed to “end all wars,” it wasn’t always easy to find people ready to return to battle.
Powered air flight was still in its adolescence. Military air flight was still in its infancy. Precision and accuracy meant the difference between victory and annihilation. In 1936, pilots were equal parts mathematician, physicist, and navigator. The only way he could know when he was at his target was the second hand on his watch. No radar. No laser guided technology. No GPS. Just a watch. Being a “tad” late was not an option.
The International Watch Company knew a thing or two about accuracy. For IWC, being a “tad” late was also unacceptable. Pilots knew the combination of an IWC watch with accurate navigation would equal success over Germany. Antoine de Saint Exupéry never took off without one on his wrist.
Telling Saint Exupéry not to fly was as futile as telling clouds not to roll. He insisted he would defend France and end Nazi occupation. Joining the Free French Air Force in Northern Africa, Saint Exupéry would give his all for his homeland. This fierce determination would be cut short in 1944 when his plane vanished on a sortie across the Mediterranean.