The Old Man of MiG Killers over North Vietnam, Robin Olds is one of history's most colorful aces. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1922, he is the son of Army Air Force Major General Robert Olds, a World War I combat pilot and aide to the legendary air power pioneer, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. Robin Olds grew up in love with airplanes and was inspired by the men who flew them. He never considered any other career but to become a fighter pilot. After high school, he won an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
As a cadet, he completed primary flight training in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A born competitor, he was captain and starting tackle for the Academy's football squad and was named to the 1942 All-America team. After basic and advanced flight training, Olds received his wings and graduated two days later at the end of his third year at West Point! He went to fighter tactics school and trained in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and then, in the spring of 1944 was sent to England. Olds became as ace in August, downing five enemy fighters on two missions. He soon checked out in the North American P-51 Mustang, and in February 1945, took command of his unit, the 434th Fighter Squadron.
At wars end, he had flown 107 combat missions and was officially credited with 14 aerial victories. Home in the States, Olds helped to found and flew with the nations first jet aerobatics team, flying the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. In 1946, he flew in the National Air Races, placed second in the Thompson Trophy Race, and took part in the first round-trip transcontinental flight completed in one day! Olds returned to England in 1948 and became the first American to lead a Royal Air Force (RAF) squadron as Officer Commanding, 1 Squadron at RAF Tangmere.
After flying the Gloster Meteor, he spent 17 months in command of a fighter interceptor squadron in Pennsylvania, and then went to a staff job. He ached to be flying combat in Korea! In the 1950s, Olds commanded fighter squadrons in Germany and Libya and served in staff jobs in Washington, D.C. After graduation from the National War College in 1963, he got back in the air over England as 81st Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) Commander. In 1966, he led in combat again, flying the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II from Ubon AB, Thailand. While commanding the 8th TFW "Wolfpack", Olds flew 152 missions and added 4 victories. He next served as Commandant of Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy, and then became Air Force Director of Aerospace Safety. Among his many decorations are the Air Force Cross and the Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters.
Thai Nguyen steel mill was the most heavily defended target in the most heavily defended complex on earth. The clouds were dark and laden with rain as a three-ship of McDonnell Phantom IIs neared their objective, just a few feet above the rice paddies. Colonel Robin Olds flight was nearly surrounded by a wall of orange fire and flak, but they pressed their attack to success and then flew their battle-scarred fighters back to base. This mission highlighted his leadership from the cockpit approach to command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing!