This is the first in a series of tributes to Americans who have served in war. I have archived many of my previous posts because they were becoming too numerous on the homepage, but if you've read my blog for awhile you know that I've posted memorials to family members who served in WWII in the Pacific and European theaters, and even one individual I served with in Haiti who was later killed in Afghanistan. I want to expand on that and begin posting on Americans who have served in all wars. Too often we do not know about those who have donned a uniform in service of our country merely because millions have gone to war and it seems the least that can be done is to acknowledge them and their sacrifices.
Some of these heroes, such as my introductory subject Eugene Jacques Bullard, served as volunteers for other nations during war. I do not differentiate between their acts of courage and fortitude with those who wore the American uniform. Bullard, American born, lived in France at the outbreak of WWI and volunteered for service with the French years before the USA entered the conflict. He was initially infantry, wounded at the Battle of Verdun (which is still the longest battle in modern warfare and had hundreds of thousands of casualties) and while recuperating from his injuries learned to fly. He served in the flying corps of French military aviation and flew twenty combat missions. He volunteered as a pilot for the American "Lafayette Escadrille" when the USA entered the war, but was turned away by the American Army because he was black. Regardless of the Army's rejection, he is considered the first African-American combat pilot (there were other black pilots serving in that war: William Robinson Clarke, a Jamaican flying for the British Royal Flying Corps; Italian pilot Domenico Mondelli; and Ahmet Ali Çelikten of the Ottoman Empire).
Rather than repeat information found on various websites while researching this great American hero, I have taken the liberty of including a link from the Smithsonian written by Dr. Dominick Pisano and pasted it below. There is a multitude of information regarding Bullard on the internet, but I chose this link because of the comprehensive details about his life and service. There are other websites that include info on him that is not in the Smithsonian story, such as his divorce from the French woman he married and the two children he fathered and raised by himself; also, the uniform he is wearing above is from his infantry service with the French 170th Regiment.
In 1954 he was one of three former French servicemen invited by Charles de Gaulle to rekindle the flame at the French Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I have visited this sacred site and was duly impressed, much as I was with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
I hope you enjoy reading Bullard's story and, as always, Semper Fi!