Lee A. “Buddy” Archer, Jr., is a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black pilots who compiled an outstanding record of performance during World War II. He was born on 6 September 1919. As a child, Archer developed the passion to become a pilot after reading comic books depicting World War I duels in the sky between Germany’s Baron von Richthofen and Allied fliers. In 1941, Archer took the first steps toward making his dream a reality. After his second year attending New York University, Archer applied for admission to the Army Air Corps. Although he scored high enough to gain admission, Archer’s application was denied because the Army Air Corps did not accept black members into the flying program. Archer enlisted in the Army and served at Wheeler Air Force Base, Georgia, until he learned of another opportunity to reach his dream.
The Army Air Corps began accepting blacks into their flying program as part of the “Tuskegee Experiment,” which was a program designed to determine if black people could fly-the world would soon find out; Archer immediately applied and was accepted. He served as cadet captain during his training, graduated at the top of class 43-C and was commissioned a second lieutenant. Archer was then assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group and began flying the P-40 Warhawk. In 1944, after training in the Bell P-39 Airacobra, Archer’s unit was transferred to Italy where he flew convoy escort, reconnaissance and strafing missions. Two months later, his group was transferred to the 306th Fighter Wing. Archer converted to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and moved to Ramitelli Air Base, Italy, where he 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, Archer was one of the “Red-Tailed Angels” flying the North American P-51C Mustang. Archer named his plane “Ina, the Macon Belle” after the woman who would later become his wife.
He flew 169 combat missions over eleven countries, scoring four aerial victories and one probable kill. Archer had realized his dream and realized it in extraordinary fashion. He returned stateside after the war with an assignment to Tuskegee Army Air Field as chief of the Instrument School. Archer returned to combat again in the 1950s during the Korean War as a squadron commander. He held numerous post-war positions throughout France, Panama, and Washington, DC, before retiring as a lieutenant colonel after 29 years of service. His awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Congressional Gold Medal and numerous other special citations from three presidents. He applied himself in the business world as corporate vice president for urban affairs for the General Foods Corporation, chief executive officer for North Street Capital Corporation and chair of the Hudson Commercial Corporation. Lieutenant Colonel Archer passed away on January 27 2010. Lieutenant Colonel Archer was selected as an inaugural eagle of the Air Command and Staff College’s Gathering of Eagles in 1995 and was subsequently honored in 2002, 2003, 2006, and 2007 respectively.