Eugene Bullard: World's First Black Fighter Pilot. By Larry Greenly. Montgomery, Ala.: NewSouth Books, 2013. Illustrations. Index. Pp xii, 147. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-58838-280-1
Greenly is a freelance writer and editor as well as writing instructor from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who decided to write this biography because he was looking for subject matter relating to the Southwest. After viewing the 2006 movie Fly Boys, a fictional account of Americans flying for the French in World War I, he was drawn to the character loosely based on future Medal of Honor winner Frank Luke. His interest shifted, however, to the story of Bullard, also loosely depicted in the film.
Drawing on a wide range of secondary sources as well as Bullard's published memoirs, Greenly recounts the life and times of this remarkable man. Starting with Bullard's upbringing in the Deep South in the latter part of the 19th century, he traces his teenage subject's trek across the Atlantic to first the United Kingdom and then to France, a country which he believed would be free of racial prejudice.
Along the way, Bullard became a skilled prize fighter eventually based in Paris. That career, however, came to an abrupt end with the start of World War I. As an American citizen, he was barred from enlisting in the regular French army. However, he could, and did, enlist in the French Foreign Legion. Over the next two years, he proved to be a fearless soldier, winning several decorations for bravery including service during the Battle of Verdun in February and March 1916. Severely wounded, he needed five months to recover. Returning to the army, he requested and was granted a transfer to the Lafayette Flying Corps, a unit of American volunteers flying for France...