Lee Andrew Archer, Jr.
Lee Archer in World War II
|Born|| September 6, 1919 |
Yonkers, New York
|Died||January 27, 2010 90) (aged|
Manhattan, New York City, New York
|Years of service||1942–1970|
|Unit|| 302nd Fighter Squadron |
|Commands held||7416th Material Squadron|
|Battles/wars|| World War II |
|Awards|| Distinguished Flying Cross |
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal (9)
Air Force Commendation Medal (2)
Congressional Gold Medal
Lee Andrew Archer, Jr. (September 6, 1919 – January 27, 2010) was an African-American fighter pilot in the 332nd Fighter Group, commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen, during World War II. He was one of the first African-American military aviators in the United States Army Air Corps, the United States Army Air Forces and later the United States Air Force, eventually earning the rank of lieutenant colonel.
During World War II, Archer flew 169 combat missions, including bomber escort, reconnaissance and ground attack, and is officially credited with 5 enemy fighter aircraft shot down.
Born in Yonkers, New York, Archer grew up in New York's Harlem neighborhood, later attending New York University. After graduation, he joined the United States Army in the hopes of becoming a pilot. At that time, the Army did not accept black pilots, so Archer was posted to a communications job as a telegrapher and field network-communications specialist in Georgia.When the Army's policy changed, he was accepted to the training program for black aviators at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama, graduating first in his class, and one of only 994 black wartime pilots to graduate there. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on July 28, 1943.
Archer is considered by some as the first and—as of 2010—only black U.S. pilot to earn an "ace" designation, for shooting down at least five enemy aircraft.Archer was acknowledged to have shot down four planes, and he and another pilot both claimed victory for shooting down a fifth aircraft. An investigation revealed Archer had inflicted the damage that destroyed the aircraft, and the Air Force eventually proclaimed him an ace pilot. He also destroyed six aircraft on the ground during a strafing mission in August 1944, as well as several locomotives, motor transports and barges.
While flying with the 302nd Fighter Squadron, as a combat pilot, nicknamed "Buddy", Archer flew 169 combat missions in the European Theatre of World War II, flying the Bell P-39 Airacobra, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft.Flying a P-51C fighter with the distinctive red tail of the 332nd Fighter Group, known collectively as the "Tuskegee Airmen", he scored his first victory, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on July 18, 1944 over Memmingen, Germany.
Archer is best remembered for his exploits of October 12, 1944.In the midst of a furious series of dogfights over German-occupied Hungary, he shot down three Hungarian Bf 109s over Lake Balaton, Hungary, in engagements that spanned only 10 minutes.
When Archer returned home in 1945, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he found that nothing seemed to have changed in American society. "I flew 169 combat missions when most pilots were flying 50," Archer told the Chicago Tribune in 2004. "When I came back to the U.S. and down that gangplank, there was a sign at the bottom: ′Colored Troops to the Right, White Troops to the Left′."
Archer remained in the armed forces for a career as the United States Army Air Forces transitioned into the present day United States Air Force in 1947. He later flew missions during the Korean War,became a diplomatic officer at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and then became the headquarters chief of the U.S. Air Force Southern Command in Panama, eventually retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1970.
After retiring from the military, Archer joined General Foods Corporation in White Plains, N.Y. where he became one of the first black corporate vice presidents of a major U.S. company. While there he also led its small-business investment subsidiary, North Street Capital Corporation, which serviced clients such as Essence Communications and Black Enterprise Magazine. In 1987 he helped establish the food conglomerate TLC Beatrice and in the same year founded the venture capital firm Archer Asset Management.Archer became a longtime resident of New Rochelle, New York.
In October 2005, Archer and two fellow Tuskegee veterans, retired Technical Sergeant George Watson Sr. and Master Sergeant James A. Shepherd, visited Balad Air Base at Balad, Iraq, to meet with 700 servicemen from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, the successor unit to his all-black outfit.
"This is the new Air Force," he told The Associated Press. In the dining room, he said, he saw "black, white, Asian, Pacific Islanders, people from different parts of Europe. This," he said, "is what America is."
In April 2009, Archer was selected to be an adviser for the George Lucas produced film, Red Tails .Archer, aged 90, died at Cornell University Medical Center in New York City on January 27, 2010, as a result of coronary complications, according to his son Roy Archer. His death came during the post-production work on the Lucas film Red Tails, and the film's final credits subsequently bore a tribute to the pilot. At a memorial service for Archer held at the Riverside Church on February 4, entertainer and commentator Bill Cosby gave a eulogy.
Archer was predeceased by his wife, Ina Burdell, who died in 1996 and was survived by his three sons, one daughter and four granddaughters.He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
|Command Pilot Badge|
|Distinguished Flying Cross||Meritorious Service Medal|| Air Medal |
with 1 silver and 3 bronze oak leaf clusters
| Air Force Commendation Medal |
with 1 bronze oak leaf cluster
|Air Force Presidential Unit Citation||Army Good Conduct Medal|
|American Campaign Medal|| European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal |
with 3 bronze campaign stars
|World War II Victory Medal|
| National Defense Service Medal |
with 1 bronze service star
|Korean Service Medal|| Air Force Longevity Service Award |
with 1 silver oak leaf cluster
|Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon|| Legion of Honour |
|United Nations Korea Medal|
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