Archie Donahue was born on October 24, 1917 in Casper, Wyoming. He moved to Texas in 1934. After three years of engineering school at the University of Texas, he enlisted in the Navy and was accepted as an Aviation Cadet. First sent to Kansas City, he was later ordered to Corpus Christi Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas for continued training.
Archie transferred to the Marine Corps and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in February, 1942. Donahue was posted to Norfolk, Virginia until his assigned unit, VMF-112, was shipped out to the Pacific. In September 1942, he arrived at Guadalcanal, where he flew the F4F-4 Wildcat in combat missions over the island.
Between September 1942 and June 1943 Donahue shot down nine enemy aircraft over Guadalcanal: one in his F4F-4, and eight in the F4U-1 Corsair. On May 13, 1943, he destroyed five Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeros in a single engagement. In June, he returned to the United States where he served as Flight Officer at El Toro Air Station in California. As Flight Officer, Donahue was responsibile for getting VMF-451 unit carrier qualified.
On February 16, 1945, VMF-451 began combat operations from the USS Bunker Hill, carrying out fighter sweeps over Tokyo for the next three months. VMF-451 took part in continuous bombing, strafing, and close-support missions for the landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and also engaged in operations against the Japanese mainland.
On April 12, Donahue again achieved five victories in a single engagement, this time over Okinawa. In May, the Bunker Hill was severely damaged during a Kamikaze attack and was forced to retire from combat. Donahue returned stateside and was placed in command of a squadron at El Centro before being posted to Quantico, Virginia.
For his actions, Donahue was decorated with the Navy Cross, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and five Air Medals. He flew 159 combat missions over Guadalcanal and 56 from the deck of the Bunker Hill. He was credited with fourteen confirmed aerial victories.