About my avatar….
The man's name is Eugene Jacques Bullard, the first African-American fighter pilot.
Bullard was an expat living in France. When World War 1 broke out he joined the French Infantry and was seriously wounded in battle. France awarded him the Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire. In 1916 he joined the French air service and first trained as a gunner but later trained as a pilot. When American pilots volunteered to help France and formed the famous Lafayette Escadrille, he asked to join but by the time he became a qualified pilot they were no longer accepting new recruits. He joined the Lafayette Flying Corps instead and served with French flying units. He completed 20 combat missions.
When the United States finally joined the war, Bullard was the only member of the Escadrille or the French Flying Corps who was NOT invited to join the US Air Service. At that time the Air Service only accepted white men.
After WWI Bullard became a jazz musician in Paris and eventually owned a nightclub called ‘L’Escadrille’. After the Germans invaded France in WW2, his Club, and Bullard, became hugely popular with German officers. Interestingly, Bullard, who spoke fluent German, was actually working for the Free French as a spy. He eventually joined a French infantry unit, but he was badly wounded and had to leave the service.
By the end of the war, Bullard had become a national hero in France, but later moved back to the U.S. where he was of course completely unknown. Practically no one in the United States was aware of it when, in 1959, the French government named him a national Chevalier, or Knight.
In 1960, the President of France, Charles DeGaulle, paid a state visit to the United States. When he arrived he said that one of the first things he wanted to do was to meet Bullard. That sent the White House staff scrambling since most of them had never even heard of him. They finally located him in New York City, and DeGaulle traveled there to meet him personally. At the time, Eugene Bullard was working as … An elevator operator.
Not long after Eugene Bullard met with the President of France, he passed away, and today very, very few Americans even know who he was.