Tuskegee Airmen Lieutenant Colonel Lee A. Archer Dies At 90 <


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Tuskegee Airmen Lieutenant Colonel Lee A. Archer Dies At 90

Bill Goldston

February 4, 2010 - Lieutenant Colonel Lee A. Archer, "Buddy" the first African American military aviators in the United States Army Air Corps, a fighter pilot in the Tuskegee Airmen and was one of the first black corporate vice presidents of a major American company, General Foods in White Plains, New York, died at age 90. Archer passed away on January 27, 2010 in New York City. "Buddy" will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

After doing extremely well in high school, Lieutenant Colonel Lee A. Archer enrolled at New York University where he studied International Relations. In early 1941, sensing war was imminent for United States Archer applied to the U.S. Army Air Corps to train as a pilot. Archer passed both the mental and physical examinations. However, because of his color Archer was refused an appointment. His refusal was based on government policy.


At that time, the U.S. government didn’t allow Black’s to serve in the Army Air Corps. At that time the military believed Black’s lacked the intellectual and physical ability to serve. “A 1925 Army War College study concluded that because they lacked intelligence and were cowardly under combat conditions, blacks would never have what it takes to fly aircraft of any type”. Frustrated, but determined Archer left school and enlisted into the Army. While an instructor at Camp Wheeler, Georgia in May 1942, Archer learned that the Army Air Force was accepting Black candidates for their pilot training program under the "Tuskegee Experiment". Archer applied. In 1943, Archer graduated first in his class, earned his wings and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 302d Fighter Squadron flying the Curtis P-40 Warhawk.  

In January 1944, after training in the Bell P-39 Airacobra, the 332d was transferred to Italy where he flew convoy escort, scrambles, reconnaissance, and strafing missions to cover allied forces pinned down on the beaches of Anzio.In early March, Archer fighter group was transferred to the 306th Fighter Wing Squadron, converting over to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and moving to Ramitelli Air Base in Italy. Archer flew cover and escort for numerous long-range bomber missions, as well as strafing missions against enemy landing zones and troops on the march. Finally, as one of the "red-tailed angels" flying the North American P-51 Mustang, Archer flew 169 combat missions over more than 11 countries, scoring at least 5 aerial victories. Archer scored four confirmed air combat victories; one Messerschmitt Bf 109 on 18 July 1944 over Memmingen, Germany and three Bf 109s on 12 October 1944 over Lake Balaton, Hungary. He also destroyed six aircraft on the ground during a strafing mission in August 1944. 


A second kill on 18 July was never credited because it couldn't be confirmed. During the mission, Archer spotted a Bf-109. His flight lead, Wendell O. Pruitt — for whom he was acting as wingman saw it, but did not pursue. Archer chose then to go after it. Another pilot, Freddie Hutchins, also spotted the plane, and turned to attack. After chasing it for some time, Archer fired and crippled the enemy aircraft. As it headed toward the ground, Hutchins, who'd almost pulled even with Archer, fired as well: "for the hell of it," according to Archer. Because the Army Air Corps received conflicting reports as to who had actually scored the kill, both Archer and Hutchins were officially awarded a half-kill, giving Archer 4˝ official victories after the mission on 12 October. Lee A. Archer, Jr. remains the only confirmed ace of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black pilots who never lost an allied bomber to enemy air action in 200 escort missions.  

Archer returned stateside with an assignment to Tuskegee Army Air Field as Chief of the Instrument Instructor School. Later, Archer was selected for a regular commission and sent to UCLA to complete his college education. Archer held numerous post-war positions including Chief of Protocol for the French Liaison Office, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe; White House Air Force-France Project Officer; and chief and executive officer of three international military organizations including the SHAPE Liaison Office, 36th North American Air Defense Division, and HQ USAF Southern Command, Panama.  

Lieutenant Colonel Lee A. Archer was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and having received special citations from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, and the Director of the CIA, Archer retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after 29 years of service. Archer joined General Foods in White Plains, NY where he became one of the first Black corporate vice presidents of a major American company. In 1987 he founded the venture capital firm Archer Asset Management. Archer was a longtime resident New Rochelle, New York.

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