Last Known Activity
Lieutenant Colonel Lee Andrew Archer, Jr. was born on September 6, 1919 in Yonkers, NY, but was raised in the city's Harlem section.
He left New York University in November, 1941 and joined the Army where he applied for pilot training. Rejected because the official policy was that no Negro could serve as a pilot, he was trained first as an infantryman and then as a telegrapher and field communications specialist. In December, 1942, he was accepted as an aviation cadet and was assigned to Tuskegee Army Airfield in Tuskegee, AL.
On July 28, 1943, Archer graduated as number 1 in his class and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was then assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group. This unit was based in Italy, and flew P-39 Bell Airacobra aircraft.
He later converted to fly the P-51 Mustang fighter, and named the one he flew "Ina - The Macon Belle" in honor of his wife, Ina Burdell Archer. He flew a total of 169 combat missions. These missions included fighter sweeps, escorting bomber aircraft, and strafing ground targets. On July 28, 1944 he was escorting a large number of B-24 bombers when the bomber stream and escorts were attacked by a large number of Messerschmidt BF-109s. In the ensuing air battle, Archer shot down 1 enemy aircraft while his squadron mates shot down 10 more.
Colonel Archer took part in a sweep along the Danube River on October 22, 1944 and was attacking a Heinkel bomber when he was jumped by 7 BF-109s. He managed to destroy three of them. Other missions included escorting bombers to attack the oil fields in Romania, rail yards in Austria, and on deep penetration raids on Regensburg and Berlin where he shot down one more BF-109. This could not be a confirmed kill as a squadron mate was attacking the same aircraft, and it was impossible at the time to ascertain who actually fired the killing shots. One-half a victory was awarded to each pilot.
He completed his activities in the war with 4.5 confirmed aerial kills. He also destroyed six aircraft on the ground as well as locomotives, trucks, and barges. An investigation later confirmed that the kill he shared had in fact been destroyed by his fire, so Archer was awarded that kill, bringing his total to 5. He was proclaimed as an Ace, the only black aviator to be accorded this honor.
Colonel Archer received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 18 oak leaf clusters, as well as other awards.
He received special citations from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson as well as from the Directr of the CIA in later life.
He continued his distinguished service after the war in staff postions which included chief of protocol for the French Liaison Office, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, and White House Air Force-France project officer. He served as executive officer of three international military organizations including SHAPE Liaison Office, the 36th North American Air Defense Division, and Headquarters U.S. Southern Command in Panama.
Several periodicals and other records state Colonel Archer also flew combat missions in Korea, but no official record of this has been found to date.
Following his retirement in 1970, Archer served in the position of vice-president for urban affairs at General Foods Corporation; CEO of North Street Capital Corporation; and Chairman of Hudson Commercial Corporation. He was on the boards of Beatrice International Foods and the Institute for American Business, a GM Venture Capital organization.
On March 29, 2007, in a ceremony at the White House, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, both individually and as a unit.
Lieutenant Colonel Lee Archer died on January 27, 2010 at the age of 90 at a hospital in New York City. His death was due to coronary complications. Previous to his illness, he resided in New Rochelle, New York.
He was always proud of being a "Tuskegee Airman," as well he might have been.
Lieutenant Colonel Lee Archer is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.
Plot: Section 6 Site 9215 RH