“Born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1894, Eugene Jacques Bullard stowed away to Europe as a teenager, earning money as a prizefighter and interpreter. When World War I erupted he joined the French army and ultimately became the world’s first black fighter pilot. He later married the daughter of a French countess, opened a nightclub in Paris and hobnobbed with the likes of Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong and Ernest Hemingway.
Bullard served France once again during World War II, joining the resistance movement and using his fluency in German to spy on Nazi troops who frequented his establishment. (His German clients apparently spoke freely in front of him, believing that nonwhites were incapable of understanding their language.)
Bullard later helped defend the city of Orléans, sustained debilitating injuries and was medically evacuated along with his two daughters to the United States. A hero in his adoptive country, Bullard had to rebuild his life in his homeland, where he worked for many years as an elevator operator in New York City. He died at age 67 in 1961, two years after France named him a Knight of the Legion of Honor.”
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