Arlington National Cemetery
As part of African American History Month, we honor U.S. Army Lt. Col. Lee Archer. Archer was born in 1919 and raised in Harlem. He attended New York University, but would leave NYU in 1941 to join the U.S. Army. Archer dreamed of becoming a pilot when he joined the Army and in 1942, he was accepted into a new, experimental training program for African Americans at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama. He graduated first in his class and was assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group as part of the “Tuskegee Airmen,” all-Black aviation units that served honorably during World War II. Archer and his colleague Wendell Pruitt earned the nickname “The Gruesome Twosome” for their deadly attacks on Nazi planes. On July 18, 1944, he successfully shot down an enemy aircraft during an air battle in northeast Italy. On October 12, 1944, he shot down three enemy aircraft in a span of 10 minutes while bombarding enemy supplies traveling by rail between Hungary and Slovakia. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945 in recognition of his actions. He continued to serve in the U.S. Air Force after it was created in 1947 until his retirement in 1979 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Archer rests at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 6, Gravesite 9215.