In 1959, French President Charles De Gaulle presented Georgia native Eugene Bullard with the French Legion of Honor, the highest national military award given by the French government, for his service as an aviator. Sixty years later, the Georgia World War I Commission recognized Bullard for being the first black fighter pilot to ever fly in combat.
“His story is both heroic and somewhat tragic, especially with regard to his own country,” said Dr. Billy Wells, the senior vice president for Leadership and Global Engagement at UNG. “This man was a real American hero.”
Bullard served with the French Air Service in the French Flying Corps and set an example for others to follow. When the U.S. joined the war in 1917, however, he was unable to join the U.S. Army Air Corps because of his race. In a culmination of its work, the Commission unveiled a statue of Bullard in October at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Georgia.
UNG has been an active partner in the Georgia WWI Centennial Commission, and one of its initiatives has been to update the state’s record of soldiers killed during World War I to include black soldiers who were not listed in the Georgia State Memorial Book. Now, 1,228 black soldiers are listed.