Eugene Bullard

Eugene Bullard Aviation & Space Exploration Visual Arts American History Biographies African American History Famous Historical Events World War I

Eugene Jacques Bullard - an American who trained as an aviator in France - was the first African-American military pilot in history. 

The United States did not allow black people to serve as military pilots, at the time, but those rules had no impact on Bullard.  He was already serving in France, with 200 other American pilots, who were part of an elite group of flyers known as the Lafayette Flying Corps.

Bullard flew combat missions from the 27th of August to the 11th of November, 1917.  He was officially credited with downing one German aircraft.

African-Americans living in France did not face the kind of racial discrimination which existed in Jim-Crow America, so Bullard remained in France after World War I.  When Germany invaded France, in 1940, Bullard rejoined the French Army.

Following an injury, from an exploding shell, Bullard returned to America.  He lived in New York, with hardly anyone knowing he had been a flying hero in France.  The French people remembered him, however, and he was honored by France in 1954 and 1959.

Bullard died on the 13th of October, 1961 and was buried in Flushing, New York. 

On the 14th of September, 1994 - thirty-three years after Bullard's death - the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force appointed America's first black combat pilot a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force. 

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Image of Eugene Jacques Bullard, online courtesy U.S. Air Force.


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