Eugene Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1895, the seventh child of a Black father and a Native American mother. By his teens, tired of racial discrimination and having witnessed his father’s near lynching, he stowed away on a ship bound for Europe, where he settled in Paris and became a boxer.
When World War I began, shortly after in 1914, Eugene volunteered for the French Army. He became a machine gunner, fighting in battles for nearly two years until he was seriously wounded in 1916. After recovering, Eugene earned a pilot’s license and became a pilot. He joined the French Air Service, making him the first African-American military pilot and one of the few Black combat pilots during World War I.
After the war, Eugene played in a jazz band, owned a nightclub, owned a sports club, married, and had children in France. But as tensions arose in the 1930s, he was recruited to spy on German patrons at his nightclub, as he was also fluent in German. And when the battles of World War II began, Eugene once again served in combat as a machine gunner until he was wounded.
In 1940, he moved back to the U.S., where he lived until he passed away in 1961.
Sources: https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/eugene-j-bullard / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Bullard / Wikimedia Commons