Eugene Bullard was a World War 1 veteran, war hero, and first African American pilot in history. While Bullard was born in the United States, it wasn’t until he made his way to France that he achieved fame. After enlisting in the French Foreign Legion, Bullard began in the infantry before earning the rank of corporal and receiving a medal for his exploits which landed him in the hospital.
While still in the hospital, Bullard accepted a bet that he couldn’t get into the flying corps and in October of 1916 arrived at French gunnery school. A month later he talked his way into pilot training and earned his pilot’s license to become the first African-American aviator.
He reached the front lines as a pilot in August of 1917 flying more than 20 sorties in a Spad VII fighter biplane, with two unconfirmed kills to his credit. After a disagreement with a French officer he was eventually removed from the French air force and spent the remainder of the war back with his infantry regiment.
Bullard continue his service to France acting as a spy during World War 2 for the French Resistance. He would eventually make his way back to America, only to not be recognized for his many achievements overseas. Ultimately, like so many veterans past and present, Bullard would die in relative obscurity.
In 1994, Bullard’s dream of becoming an American pilot was finally realized as he was awarded the rank of Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force.
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