HomeVisitMuseum ExhibitsFact SheetsDisplay

Brig. Gen. Robin Olds: Combat Leader and Fighter Ace

Col. Robin Olds. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Robin Olds, 434th Fighter Squadron commander, in the cockpit of one of his P-51Ds. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Robin Olds, 434th Fighter Squadron commander, in the cockpit of one of his P-51Ds. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Robin Olds (middle) with other members of the P-80 demonstration team in 1946. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Robin Olds (middle) with other members of the P-80 demonstration team in 1946. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The nickname of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing -- the “Wolfpack” -- fit Robin Olds’ aggressive style. Pictured here are revetments and F-4s of the 8th TFW at Ubon, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The nickname of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing -- the “Wolfpack” -- fit Robin Olds’ aggressive style. Pictured here are revetments and F-4s of the 8th TFW at Ubon, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds with his F-4C SCAT XXVII, which is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Olds named all his aircraft after his West Point roommate Scat Davis, who could not become a military pilot due to poor eyesight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds with his F-4C SCAT XXVII, which is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Olds named all his aircraft after his West Point roommate Scat Davis, who could not become a military pilot due to poor eyesight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds painting a victory star on the F-4 he was flying on May 4, 1967, when he shot down a MiG-21. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds painting a victory star on the F-4 he was flying on May 4, 1967, when he shot down a MiG-21. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Vermont Garrison was the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing's able and highly-experienced vice commander. Nicknamed “Pappy,” he was an ace in World War II and a double ace in the Korean War. Robin Olds described Garrison as “a wise old sage.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Vermont Garrison was the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing's able and highly-experienced vice commander. Nicknamed “Pappy,” he was an ace in World War II and a double ace in the Korean War. Robin Olds described Garrison as “a wise old sage.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds (right) had a long and close friendship with Col. Chappie James, who became the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing vice commander after Col. Vermont Garrison. James, a former Tuskegee Airman, later became the USAF’s first African-American four-star general.(U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds (right) had a long and close friendship with Col. Chappie James, who became the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing vice commander after Col. Vermont Garrison. James, a former Tuskegee Airman, later became the USAF’s first African-American four-star general.(U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds wearing the flight helmet that is on display in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds wearing the flight helmet that is on display in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, nailing up one of his MiG kills after a successful mission. The words above read “Ye who passeth thru these portals stand tall.” (U.S. Air Force photo)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 10 of 11

Col. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, nailing up one of his MiG kills after a successful mission. The words above read “Ye who passeth thru these portals stand tall.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Robin Olds with the P-51D "Sharp Shooter" at the U.S. Air Force Museum. (U.S. Air Force photo)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 11 of 11

Robin Olds with the P-51D "Sharp Shooter" at the U.S. Air Force Museum. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Brig. Gen. Robin Olds' hallmarks were boldness, courage and leadership. A World War II ace and Air Force Cross recipient, he gained widespread fame and respect as the aggressive commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Southeast Asia War.

Robin Olds grew up amongst military aviators and aircraft -- his father was a World War I pursuit pilot, an aide to Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, and commander of the first B-17 squadron. Robin Olds attended West Point, where his characteristic boldness allowed him to excel on the football field -- in 1942, he was selected as an All-American tackle. After Olds graduated in 1943, he attended flight training and went to Europe as a P-38 pilot.

Olds stood out as a daring pilot and a natural leader. Within a few months, he shot down five enemy fighters to become the 479th Fighter Group's first ace. At the very young age of 22, he was promoted to major and given command of the 434th Fighter Squadron. Olds continued his success after the unit converted to P-51s, and he ended the war with 12 victories.

Following World War II, Olds flew in the first P-80 jet demonstration team, followed by command of several operational units, and then staff jobs. Unable to get a combat posting during the Korean War, Olds became determined to get into combat when the Southeast Asia War escalated.

In the fall of 1966, Olds took command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base. Olds' charisma and courage endeared him to his people, and under his leadership, the "Wolfpack" became the USAF's top MiG-killing wing in Southeast Asia. Olds also played a key role in the creation of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, which improved coordination between USAF wings in Southeast Asia and became a lasting fraternal organization.

Olds led from the front -- he shared the same risks as his aircrews by flying on the most dangerous missions. He received many decorations for his audacity in combat, including the Air Force Cross for a mission in August 1967, when he led a strike force against the heavily-defended Paul Doumer Bridge in North Vietnam.

The crowning achievement for Olds was planning and leading OPERATION BOLO, when North Vietnamese MiG-21 pilots were tricked into an air battle at a disadvantage. Olds shot down a MiG-21, and his 8th TFW F-4 aircrews shot down six others with no losses. He also shot down three other MiGs during his tour. When added to his WWII victories, his lifetime victory totaled 16 enemy aircraft.

Olds returned from Southeast Asia in December 1967. Promoted to brigadier general in 1968, he became the commandant of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and he retired from active duty in 1973.

Click here to return to the Air-to-Air Combat Overview.

 

Find Out More
Line
Related Fact Sheets
Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
Lockheed P-38L Lightning
North American P-51D Mustang
Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star
OPERATION BOLO
McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21PF "Fishbed-D"
Line
Note: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the National Museum of the USAF, the U.S. Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external website, or the information, products or services contained therein.

Featured Links


Plan Your Visit
E-newsletter Sign-up
Explore Museum Exhibits
Browse Photos
Visit Press Room
Become a Volunteer
Air Force Museum Foundation