Lee Archer, Tuskegee Airman, dies at 90





Lieutenant-Colonel Lee Archer, who died on January 27 aged 90, was a member of America's segregated "Tuskegee" air corps and recognised as the only black fighter "ace" during the Second World War; subjected to racial discrimination and prejudice, both within and outside the Army, he and his comrades none the less served their country with great distinction.

Strict racial segregation existed when Archer volunteered to be a pilot. He and like-minded African-Americans were at first rejected because many people thought black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. Eventually, in June 1941, a series of legislative moves by the US Congress forced the Army Air Corps to form an all-black combat unit, despite the War Department's reluctance. 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".

Lee A Archer was born on September 6 1919 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 and left for Tuskegee. He graduated in July 1943, first in the order of merit, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant....

Archer lived long enough to see the service of Tuskegee airmen fully, if belatedly, acknowledged. In March 2007, about 350 airmen and widows received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honour from President George W Bush at a ceremony in the US Capitol. The present-day 99th Flying Training Squadron's aircraft are adorned with red tails in honour of the black airmen. Many streets and parklands bear their name, and in August 2008 the city of Atlanta officially renamed a portion of the state's Route 6 in their honour....

Honoured by the American Fighter Pilots' Association, Archer was described by a colleague as "extremely competent, sometimes stubborn but with a heart of gold. He treated people with respect and demanded respect by the way he carried himself."...



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