David Owen Archer

1953 - 2006

Vietnam War

Their Story

David Owen Archer was born on January 2, 1953 in Bridgeton, New Jersey to James and Margaret Burke Archer.[1] Archer enlisted with the United States Army on March 22, 1974 at the age of 21.[2] He enlisted at the time when the Vietnam War was winding to a close; in 1973 a peace treaty was signed between US, South Vietnamese, North Vietnamese, and Viet Cong representatives in Paris. In reality, hostilities would continue in Vietnam and US troops would remain in the area until April 30, 1975.[3] It was primarily during this lingering period of hostility that Archer would serve his country in the Army.

That Archer would enlist with the Army at this point in the conflict speaks to a courageous character. The Vietnam War was an unpopular conflict among the US populace, for myriad reasons, “The extended length of the war, the high number of U.S. casualties, and the exposure of U.S. involvement in war crimes, such as the massacre at My Lai, helped turn many in the United States against the Vietnam War. The communists’ Tet Offensive of 1968 crushed U.S. hopes of an imminent end to the conflict and galvanized U.S. opposition to the war.”[4] During the time of the Vietnam War, there was a draft to bolster the numbers of armed forces servicemen; in this process, US citizens were forced by law to serve the armed forces via a lottery. Archer, however, enlisted after the Draft was ended in 1973 by President Richard Nixon.[5] Despite the horror stories that had reached the US citizenry about the conflict in Vietnam, Archer enlisted of his own volition to serve his country during the waning years of this conflict.

At the time of his discharge from the Army, Archer achieved the rank of E-4 Specialist. This rank indicates that Archer received special training that set him apart from the standard infantryman role;

Since warfare involves much more than just general ‘infantrymen,’ there was a need to identify the support soldiers, those who were specialists in their given field of expertise. Back then, it was assumed that all 5th-grade soldiers (corporals) fully understood what their job entails, but there needed to be a way to offer a little incentive to a private to become known as a ‘private/specialist,’ which was the name of the MOS at the time. That incentive came in the form of bonus pay — despite being paid more, a private/specialist was still officially of lower rank than a private first class.[6]

This ranking indicates that Archer was entrusted with a separate support role from the general infantrymen of the army, and may have even been tasked with leading fellow soldiers towards the completion of tasks associated with his specialization.[7] The rapid rise from his enlistment to E-4 Specialist showcased Archer’s aptitude for learning new skills which would help him serve his country.

Archer was discharged from the Army on December 17th, 1976, perhaps as a result of downsizing following the evacuation from Vietnam. Archer would go on to marry his wife Catherine, the couple raising their three children together in Rock Island, IL. David Owen Archer is remembered as a loving father and grandfather, an engaging storyteller, and a beautiful musician. The author of his obituary remarked that Archer’s music would always be remembered by those he loved; “‘Black Birds’ will sing in our hearts forever.”[8]


[1] “David Archer,” The Rock Island Argus, July 13, 2006, p. 7,

[2] “David Archer (1953).” Fold3, 2022.

[3] “U.S. Withdraws from Vietnam.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, November 24, 2009.

[4] “U.S. Withdraws from Vietnam,” History.com (A&E Television Networks, November 24, 2009),

[5] “The Draft,” Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 2022,

[6] Eric Milzarski, “This Is Why the Army Keeps the Specialist Rank Around,” We Are The Mighty (We Are The Mighty, January 3, 2022),

[7] “E-4 Specialist,” Military-Ranks.org, 2022,

[8] “David Archer,” The Rock Island Argus, July 13, 2006, p. 7,