Stumbled on this little gem, brewing in the depths of my “drafts” folder, one of 119 forgotten or half-realized old posts. You deserve to read it. It deserves to be read
Watching Wonder Woman with my wife–stir fry & folding TV trays in the living room.
Her: (dismissively) I’m not fully buying Remus Lupin as “Ares, God of War”
Me: (distractedly, Gal Gadot is on the screen) Can’t wait until the Lupine bloom.
Her: David Thewlis. He’s too wistful to be a twisted Greek God of War.
Me: Oh. You knew it would be him, though? Famous actor with a phony limp, helping out our heroes for no reason? If he wasn’t the bad guy, it’s a throwaway role and they would have hired a cheaper actor. Besides, he rocks a cool look for a villain.
Her: (Incredulous look.)
Me: My grandfather rocked that look as long as I knew him. Mustache, a boar’s bristle brush, and a dab of pomade.
Her: What’s a boar’s bristle brush? Is that really a thing?
Me: Exactly, but that’s what the hipsters say I should have–along with something called beard oil–in my daily beard maintenance ritual.
Her: You don’t even have a daily washing ritual.
Me: Right. All that fussing is anathema to the purpose of facial hair. I’ve got a free range beard. My grandfather looked sharp, though. Business suits at work, cardigan sweaters at home. Knee-high dress socks, even with shorts. In the garden he looked just like Higgins from Magnum, P.I.–the real Magnum, P.I. with the moustache and Higgins isn’t some pleasant, pint-sized blonde.
Her: It sounds like he stuck in the 1940’s and just stayed there.
Me: Exactly. He nailed it early. Kept it nailed. Like Higgins–they both kicked Nazi ass in Africa.
Her: Except Higgins wasn’t real.
Me: He was based on a real person. Probably my grandfather.
Her: (shakes her head) Are we dull? Is this–we’re dull, aren’t we?
Me: Not a chance. We have inconspicuous depths is all.
I know, you’ve missed me–I’ve been buried in real-world work again–but I’m swimming towards the surface. In the meantime, here’s a transcript, with some additions, from a Facebook post that’s making the rounds–a story too fascinating, exciting, and (sadly) unsurprising to not share with you.
Do you know who this is a photo of? Chances are you don’t, but don’t feel bad because probably not one American in one million does, and that is a National tragedy. His name is Eugene Jacques Bullard, and he is the first African-American fighter pilot in history. But he is also much more then that: He’s also a national hero, and his story is so incredible that I bet if you wrote a movie script based on it Hollywood would reject it as being too far-fetched.
Bullard was an expat living in France, and when World War 1 broke out he joined the French Infantry. He was seriously wounded, and France awarded him the Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire. In 1916 he joined the French air service and he first trained as a gunner but later he trained as a pilot. When American pilots volunteered to help France and formed the famous Lafayette Escadrille, he asked to join but by the time he became a qualified pilot they were no longer accepting new recruits, so he joined the Lafayette Flying Corps instead. He served with French flying units and he completed 20 combat missions.
When the United States finally joined the war, Bullard was the only member of the Escadrille or the French Flying Corps who was NOT invited to join the US Air Service. The reason? At that time the Air Service only accepted white men.
Now here is the part that almost sounds like a sequel to ‘Casablanca’: After WWI Bullard became a jazz musician in Paris and he eventually owned a nightclub called ‘L’Escadrille’. When the Germans invaded France and conquered it in WW2, his Club, and Bullard, became hugely popular with German officers, but what they DIDN’T know was that Bullard, who spoke fluent German, was actually working for the Free French as a spy. He eventually joined a French infantry unit, but he was badly wounded and had to leave the service.
By the end of the war, Bullard had become a national hero in France, but he later moved back to the U.S. where he was of course completely unknown. Practically no one in the United States was aware of it when, in 1959, the French government named him a national Chevalier, or Knight.
In 1960, the President of France, Charles DeGaulle, paid a state visit to the United States and when he arrived he said that one of the first things he wanted to do was to meet Bullard. That sent the White House staff scrambling because most of them, of course, had never even heard of him. They finally located him in New York City, and DeGaulle traveled there to meet him personally. At the time, Eugene Bullard was working as … An elevator operator.
Not long after Eugene Bullard met with the President of France, he passed away, and today very, very few Americans, and especially African-Americans, even know who he is. But, now YOU do, don’t you? And I hope you’ll be able to find opportunities to tell other people about this great American hero that probably only 1 American in 1 Million has ever heard of.
Postscript: It’s worth noting that I also discovered this photo of Bullard being beaten by police in the famous anti-black, anti-communist, anti-Semitic Peekskill Riots of 1949. God bless America–the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The italicized text above arrived in my hands attributed to someone named Terry Dunn, via Facebook. I’m unsure of its provenance.
A more complete biography of Corporal Bullard appears here. His wikipedia page is here. (link repaired)
And there is even a book. It is amazing how much there is that we don’t know.
“We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.”
—Supreme Court Justice Robert I. Jackson, Chief prosecutor, Nuremberg war crimes tribunal
I found this interesting sign during a recent google adventure, and it led to some interesting research.
Frank Tanaka immigrated to the USA in 1903, when he was 16 years old. Twenty-nine years of hard work later he opened a popular Japanese restaurant in Salem, Oregon and became a respected businessman. His story, told on the sign he placed in the window of his restaurant after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is not an uncommon one.
Not long after this sign went up, Mr Tanaka and his family were forcibly relocated to the Tule Lake concentration camp, along with most ethnic Japanese living in the western United States, regardless of citizenship status. Like all internees, Mr. Tanaka and his family were allowed to take only what they could carry. In some cases, non-Japanese friends were able to protect some of the internees valuables, but many more saw all of their property looted, or sold off illegally–or simply claimed by others. After the war, many of them came home to find other people living in their homes, often still using their furniture, and they had no legal recourse for reclaiming their property.
Most Japanese-Americans lost everything they owned during World War 2, but despite this, despite losing their rights, special volunteer units drawn from the husbands and sons of the 10 concentration camps set up to punish the Japanese for their ancestry, fought tenaciously in some of the fiercest battles in the war.
Over 122,000 people of Japanese extraction were interred during the war–nearly 70,000 of whom were American citizens. Many others had been in this country between 20 and 40 years. No person of Japanese heritage was convicted of sabotage or espionage during the war. None.
As the war progressed, small numbers of German and Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated at Tule Lake. Though segregated from the Japanese Americans, these confirmed enemy combatants were often given much greater freedoms.
Mr. Tanaka’s restaurant did not reopen after the war.
I love to tell stories with words and images, often with a darkly magical twist. While speculative fiction & dissecting pop culture are my primary passions, I also work with clients & brands by assisting with content creation, editing, marketing & design.