World War I Military Figure. Born in in Columbus, Georgia to Josephine Thomas and William O. Bullard, he attended the Twenty-eighth Street School until he was eleven, when he left home. He attached himself to a band of Travelers before he took a job as a stable boy in Dawson, Georgia for almost three years. He then stowed away on a German freighter departing Norfolk, Virginia, for Scotland in March 1912. He took work as a variety show performer and as a boxer throughout Britain, and in 1913, traveled to France for a bout, after which he settled in Paris. With the outbreak of hostilities in WWI, he enlisted and served with the 170th French Light Infantry Regiment. He fought at the Battle of Verdun where he was seriously wounded. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Medaile Militaire. During his convalescence in Lyon, he decided to transfer to the the Aéronautique Militaire, where he was accepted in November 1916. His training included flying Nieuport and Spad biplanes, and he received his wings in May 1917. He was first assigned to Escadrille Spa 93, and flew his first mission on September 8, 1917. He was then transferred to Escadrille Spa 85. His air career spanned twenty sorties and two probable kills; he was removed from the flying corps, however, after a confrontation with a French officer, and finished the war with his former infantry unit, discharged in October 1919. He remained in Paris after the war, where he bought a nightclub, Le Grand Duc, and an American-style bar, L’Escadrille, which hosted performers such as Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong. He later also opened Bullard's Athletic Club. By the 1930s, the tone of the city changed, and at the request of the French government, he used his language skills to ferret out Nazi sympathizers and French fifth columnists who frequented Le Grand Duc. After the German invasion of France in 1940, he fled Paris to Orleans where he joined those defending the city and suffered a back injury. He then fled to Spain and in July 1940, he returned to the United States, settling in Harlem. He took jobs as a security guard, longshoreman, perfume salesman, and as interpreter for Louis Armstrong, but his back injury never really improved. By the 1950s, he held a job as an elevator operator at Rockefeller Center. In 1954, the French government invited him to Paris to participate in rekindling the everlasting flame at their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and in 1959, he was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Upon his death from cancer two years later, he was buried with honors by French Officers in the French War Veteran's section of the Flushing Cemetery in New York. A biography, “The Black Swallow of Death” by P.J. Carisella and James Ryan was published in 1972. On September 14, 1994, he was posthumously commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
Bio by: Iola
Pauline Bullard Dabney