Eugene Bullard :The first black pilot in World War I

Born on Oct. 9,1895, the same year Frederic Douglass died, in Columbia, Georgia.

Bullard witnessed his father’s narrow escape from a lynching or of his being stowed away on a ship to Scotland to get away from racial discrimination in the south. One account has him running away from home after a lynch mob arrives at their home. His father was able to escape the mob and then went into hiding. Bullard was 11 and he too escaped from the scene and then roamed around Georgia for five years.

When he stowed away to Scotland at age 16 , there he was treated like human being unlike in America.

Bullard went to England and France where he thrived under new outlook of democracy where racism wasn’t as limiting. He was so enamoured with his adopted homeland that he joined the French foreign legion in its fight against Germany. After a belief stint in the legion, he became a member of the French army and was with a unit at the battle of Verdun. During the conflict he was seriously wounded, which ended his combat but earned him France’s highest military honour a Croix de Guerre.

At the hospital in Lyon he met a French officer who promised to help him become an aircraft gunner. That promise was kept and in 1916, Bullard began at a military station in Bordeaux. It was during this training phase that he learned of the Lafayette Escadrille, a squad of American fighter pilots flying under French flag.

After learning pilots were well paid and their renowned reputation, Bullard immediately began inquiring on how he could become a pilot rather than gunman. With only seven months he earns his wings and there was wild celebrations in Paris, and the word of his success spread fast around the globe. However, in Bullard’s accomplishment was neglected by the mainstream press in accordance with the general practice of shunning Blacks in the military.


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