Watching some interviews, on college campuses, and hearing the answers to some questions that every American over the age of 10 should know, made my skin crawl. These men and women, in college, are woefully ignorant of the country in which they live. They didn’t know who we fought to win our independence or the year our country was formed. Taking that into account along with the other anti-American overt actions that have been occurring, tells me that these “young people” will not defend a country that they despise, even though it is their own.
Where does the blame lie for this mindset? History has shown that heroes pop up when they’re needed most… but the same “young people” don’t know much (if any) American history. Perhaps it’s time to learn about some of our heroes.
At this time, and to the best of my knowledge, there has only been one female (can I still use that word?) that has been awarded our nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor. The singular distinction goes to Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. She was, at various times, an abolitionist, a prisoner of war, and a surgeon. Born in 1832, she was old enough to be a doctor and surgeon in the American Civil War and was captured by the Confederate forces. She was eventually freed in a prisoner exchange. Her medal came after much deliberation and she was one of only eight civilians to be awarded that honor. Her name was deleted from the Army Medal of Honor Roll in 1917, however, it was restored in 1977. Her parents, Alvah and Vesta, were “free thinkers” who raised their children to question the regulations and restrictions of various denominations. This “quirk”, if you will, was strong in Mary, and propelled her throughout her life.
If you are either of a certain age, or a movie buff, you might recognize the name, Douglas Fairbanks… senior and junior. This father and son were known, probably the civilized world over, as swashbuckling, devil-may-care, movie stars. Senior, born as Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman, was a silent star and made numerous films in which he brandished swords, wore pirate costumes and, generally was all over the place, jumping and escaping from his enemies. The family name became Fairbanks when Ullman abandons the family and the mother covered up their paternal Jewish ancestry. Junior was an up-and-coming actor in his own right and when Senior died, he became the unofficial “king” of the daredevils in the movies. He was a pal of fellow actors like Cary Grant, with whom he starred in “Gunga Din”. A little known fact about Junior is that he was active in World War 2 and practically ran something called Operation Dragoon, and the Beach Jumpers. Fairbanks was commissioned as a reserve officer in the United States Navy when the United States entered World War II and was assigned to Lord Mountbatten’s Commando staff in the United Kingdom.
In March 1943 he proposed the Beach Jumpers, whose mission would simulate amphibious landings with a very limited force. The Beach Jumpers would lure the enemy into believing that theirs was the principal landing. During his time in the Navy, he was awarded the US Navy’s Legion of Merit, two high honors from France, and one from Italy. He stayed with the Navy and eventually retired as a Naval Reserve Captain.
Lastly, a man who should be known, but isn’t… Eugene Jacques Bullard, a black man that was a hero, known just about all over France and maybe even most of Europe, but unknown in his native land, America. Born in Columbus, Georgia in 1895, he was the first black man to be a fighter pilot, fighting for France, in World War 1. Conditions in America being what they were at the time, he thought he would be better off in Europe and eventually wound up in France. To feed and house himself he boxed and performed slapstick in the Freedman Pickaninnies, an African-American troupe. He began his military service in the French Foreign Legion, working his way through several different branches of the French military. At some point, he served in a unit called “the Swallows of Death” and so he became “the black Swallow”. In 1916 he was wounded, and upon recovery asked to be taken into the flying corps, and he was accepted. He did serve in variations of the Lafayette Escadrille and his exploits are briefly mentioned in the movie “Flyboys”. He continued to serve after the war ended, and at some point was married, and even owned a nightclub. He was in Paris during its heyday in the Roaring Twenties and was a favorite with Louis Armstrong and Josephine Baker, two Americans who had to go to France to be recognized for their talents. When World War II began in September 1939, Bullard, who also spoke German, agreed to a request from the French government to spy on the German citizens who still frequented his nightclub. While not quite like “Rick” in “Casablanca” he was quite useful. He was not satisfied sitting out the war and was wounded, eventually working his way back to the United States. Eugene Jacques Bullard, a name that should be known, was a hero in two World Wars, a patriot in two countries, and he died, still relatively unknown, in 1966.
Parting shot: History is important. You should learn it.