First African American Combat Pilot. Georgia-born Eugene Jacques Bullard, 1917, denied entry into the U.S. Army Air Corps because of his race, served throughout... World War I in the French Flying Corps. He received the Legion of Honor, France's highest honor, among many other decorations. Born in Georgia, Bullard moved to France as a young man to escape racism. He joined the French Foreign legion in 1914 at the start of World War I, and became known as the “Black Swallow of Death.” Bullard then joined the French Flying Corps, where he became the first black combat pilot on May 5, 1917. Bullard attempted to join the U.S. military after the United States entered the war, but he was barred because of his race. He served in the French Flying Corps for the remainder of the war, earning the French Legion of Honor, France's highest military honor, and becoming one of France's most decorated war heroes. .