Of more than 200 Americans who flew for France during
WWI, one of particular uniqueness was Eugene Bullard,
the only Black pilot of WWI. A great tribute to Bullard
is found in the famous book by Nordhoff and Hall, The
Lafayette Flying Corps, published in 1920. "The writer
will never forget one occasion when he was waiting at
23 Avenue du Bois to see Dr. Gros. Suddenly the door opened
to admit a vision of military splendor such as one does
not see twice in a lifetime. It was Eugene Bullard.
His jolly black face shone with a grin of greeting
and justifiable vanity. He wore a pair of tan aviator's
boots which gleamed with a mirror-like luster. His black
tunic, excellently cut and set off by a fine figure,
was decorated with a pilot's badge, a Croix de Guerre,
the fourragere of the Foreign Legion, and a pair of
enormous wings, which left no possible doubt, even at
a distance of fifty feet, as to which arm of the Service
he adorned. The eleces-pilotes gasped, the
eyes of the neophytes stood out from their heads, and
I repressed a strong instinct to stand at attention.
There was scarcely an American at Atord who did not
know and like Bullard. He was a brave, loyal,
and thoroughly likable fellow, and when a quarrel with
one of his superiors caused his withdrawl from the Aviation,
there was scarcely an American who did not regret the
fact. He was sent to the 170th French Infantry Regiment
in January, 1918..."
Following WWI, Bullard remained in France until the
German occupation of Paris in 1940, at which time he
had to flee the country because of his previous activities
of spying against the Nazis. He returned to the U.S.
and lived in New York City until his death in 1961.
Thus passed from the scene the first black pilot in
the history of military aviation.