Statue Of First African-American Fighter Pilot Unveiled In GA
Oct. 13, 2019
Second Lt. Eugene Bullard Flew For France During WWI
A statue honoring 2nd Lt. Eugene Bullard, who was the first African-American fighter pilot, was unveiled at a ceremony Wednesday at the Museum of Aviation at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
According to the museum, 2nd Lt. Bullard was a native of Columbus, Georgia, and became the 1st African-American fighter pilot in the world during World War I when he joined the French Air Service and downed three confirmed enemy aircraft. Before earning his wings, he was assigned to the French 170th Infantry and saw duty on the front lines of France’s worst fighting, where he was wounded four times in battle. For his bravery as an infantryman in combat, Bullard received the Croix de Guerre and other decorations.
During the Battle of Verdun in 1916, Bullard was seriously wounded. While recuperating, he accepted an offer to join the French air force as a gunner/observer, but when he reported to gunnery school, he obtained permission to become a pilot. After completing flight training, Bullard joined the approximately 200 other Americans who flew in the Lafayette Flying Corps, and he flew combat missions from Aug. 27 until Nov. 11, 1917. He distinguished himself in aerial combat, as he had on the ground, and was officially credited with shooting down one German aircraft. Unfortunately, Bullard -- an enlisted pilot -- got into a disagreement with a French officer, which led to his removal from the French air force. He returned to his infantry regiment, and he performed non-combatant duties for the remainder of the war.
He was known to his German enemies as “the Black Swallow of Death.” For his military service during two world wars, Eugene Bullard was awarded 15 military decorations, including the French Legion of Honor, the highest national military award given by the French. Additionally, he was posthumously commissioned into the U.S. Air Force on Aug. 23, 1994 by President Bill Clinton.
It was the Georgia World War I Centennial Commission which determined that Eugene Bullard should be honored by installing a full-size, bronze statue on the grounds of the Museum of Aviation.
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