Fred Archer was born in New York in 1921. At the age of 17, he entered the New York National Guard where he served a long and distinguished military career. He served two years in the infantry before going on active duty with the Army Air Corps in 1941.
Archer was assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron, a new unit established by Congress to see if blacks had the skills and talent to become successful aviators and aviation mechanics. At this time the military was strictly segregated, and many in the military doubted that African Americans would be successful in aviation.
Sgt. Archer and 13 other African Americans were sent to Chanute Field in Illinois to begin their technical training. After training, these airmen were assigned to Tuskegee Airfield to become the support crew for a group of pilots that would later be called the Tuskegee Airmen.
The 99th was called to battle during World War II. They fought in the Mediterranean, and were joined in Europe by the 332nd Fighter Group, another African American unit. Their talent and bravery were well respected by the Germans, and the distinguished service of the African Americans proved beyond any doubt that African Americans were excellent aviators.
After the war, Master Sergeant Fred Archer was assigned to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Frances Archer, Fred Archer’s wife, reported that Archer was told on arrival, “We don’t know what to do with you. You’ve got too much rank to drive a garbage truck.” Archer was placed in charge of the Armament Shop.
Archer was the first African American to earn the rank of Chief Master Sergeant and was nominated three times for the position of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. His military decorations included the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with clusters, Air Force Commendation medal, and 15 other service awards. Fred Archer died in September 1988.