Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, born in Lyon in 1900, came from an impoverished French aristocratic family. A pioneering aviator, he did his military service in the French air force and later became a commercial pilot, helping to establish airmail routes to South America and North Africa. A number of his novels were inspired by his love of flying, and his memoir, Wind, Sand and Stars (1939) includes an account of his air crash in the Libyan desert, which forms the background for The Little Prince. He rejoined the French air force at the start of World War II and after the fall of France spent three years in New York, where he wrote The Little Prince. In 1943, in spite of declining health, he joined the Free French Air Force in North Africa and never returned from his last reconnaissance mission over France in 1944.