280-Bullard fcover 300dpi“Eugene Bullard – World’s First Black Fighter Pilot” by Larry Greenly

NewSouth Books, $19.95, 147 pp.

Larry Greenly signs copies of “Eugene Bullard” from 1 p.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 at the Corrales Book Fair, Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Old Church Road, Corrales; at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6 at Alamosa Books, 8810 Holly NE, and at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7  at  Figments Tea Shoppe and Gallery, 8510 Montgomery NE. (Greenly is one of some 30 authors at the Corrales Book Fair.)

By  David Steinberg

Albuquerque’s Larry Greenly is a veteran writer of magazine articles so he’s always on the lookout for interesting subjects.

Greenly happened to watch the 2006 movie “Flyboys,” which he said was loosely based on the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of American volunteer pilots who fought for France in World War I.

In the background of one scene he noticed a black flyer.

Greenly began researching the flyer’s identity and learned his name was Eugene Jacques Bullard.

He found a rare copy of Bullard’s memoirs in the Albuquerque Public Library.

“When I read it, I thought, ‘This guy’s amazing.’ That’s when I knew I had to write about him,” Greenly said.

The result of his research is the newly published book for teens and young readers “Eugene Bullard, World’s First Black Fighter Pilot.”

Bullard was born in Georgia and was fascinated by his father’s stories of how France treated all men as equals, in sharp contrast to the racial prejudice in the South of the late 1890s.

At the age of 12 he left home with the dream of one day living in France.

The book follows Bullard’s youthful adventures in the United States, Scotland, England and finally to his destination, France.

He was working as a prize fighter and sparring partner in Paris in 1914, when World War I began. As a foreigner, Bullard volunteered for the Marching Regiments of the French Foreign Legion and later transferred to the 170th Infantry Regiment. He saw action against, was wounded several times, and received the French Croix de Guerre medal for heroism at the Battle of Verdun in 1916.

All before he became a fighter pilot for the Lafayette Escadrille of the French Air Service.

Bullard also fought as a soldier for France in World War II.

In all, he received 15 medals from France, including one making him a Knight of the Legion of Honor.

According to Greenly’s debut book, the French military treated Bullard with respect; the American military shunned him because of his color.

Greenly’s manuscript won a second-place award in the 2010 SouthWest Writers’s nonfiction category.

Though the book is 100 percent accurate in terms of the dates and events, Greenly said he incorporated fictional elements, like dialogue, to make the book read like a novel.

Greenly is vice president of SouthWest Writers and is it’s office manager.