Lieutenant- Colonel Lee Archer; OBITUARY.
Subjected to racial discrimination and prejudice, in and out of the Army, he nonetheless served his country with great distinction.
Strict racial segregation existed when Archer volunteered to be a pilot. He was at first rejected because many people thought black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. But, in 1941, a series of legislative moves by the US Congress forced the Army Air Corps to form an all-black combat unit.
The pilots trained at a segregated Army Air Corps unit at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama, and for ever more became known as the "Tuskegee Airmen".
Born in Yonkers and raised in New York''s Harlem district, he left New York University to enlist in the air corps in 1941 but, after rejection, trained in the infantry and then as a signaller. In December, 1942, he was accepted for pilot training, graduating in July, 1943, first in the order of merit, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Archer was assigned to 302nd Fighter Squadron of 332nd Fighter Group, which moved to Italy early in February, 1944, and soon began operations flying on ground attack missions before converting to the P-51 Mustang, when their main role was to provide close escort to the USAAF''s heavy bomber forces.
On July 18, 1944, they flew their first escort for a large formation of B-24 bombers.
Archer retired from the USAAF in 1970 and joined General Foods Corporation, becoming one of the era's few black vice-presidents of major American companies.
Archer lived long enough to see the service of Tuskegee airmen fully acknowledged.
In March, 2007, around 350 airmen and widows received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honour.
He is survived by three sons and a daughter. Lt Col Lee Archer, fighter pilot; born, September 6, 1919, died, January 27, 2010