Wheels Up, General Olds
General Olds, rated a triple ace for having shot down a total of 16 enemy aircraft during World War II and the Vietnam War, served his country in assignments to England, Germany, Libya, Thailand and the United States, in positions of squadron, base, group and wing commander, and assignments to Headquarters U.S. Air Force and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Triple-ace Robin Olds' legendary leadership and heroic service to the cause of freedom have been an inspiration to our nation and our Air Force," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley. "He is one of our 'great captains' and a pioneer of air power.
"He became an ace with 12 aerial victories during World War II, flying P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs, and later shot down 4 MiGs in Vietnam to bring his total to 16. He also led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing -- the famed "Wolfpack" -- to a record 24 aerial victories, a total unsurpassed by any other wing during the war in Southeast Asia," the general said.
"Throughout his career, he was a staunch advocate for better fighters, better pilot training and new tactics, culminating in the war-winning air-to-air tactics and doctrine of surgical precision bombing we use today. Brigadier General Olds' courageous life stands as a timeless example of the power of faith and the strength of the human spirit.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his devoted family as they mourn his loss, a loss we feel as well. America and our Air Force are eternally grateful for his leadership and accomplishments, and will remember him always," General Moseley said.
General Olds was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on July 14, 1922, the son of Maj. Gen. Robert and Mrs. Eloise Olds. He spent his younger years in Hampton, Va., and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was an All-American tackle. He graduated in 1943 as a second lieutenant.
Following graduation from pilot training in 1943, General Olds was assigned to the European Theater at the end of World War II, where he flew 107 combat missions. During the Vietnam War, he flew 152 combat missions in the F-4 Phantom as the wing commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Air Base, Thailand.
General Olds' exploits as the creator and mission commander of Operation Bolo, the most successful aerial battle of the Vietnam War, has been documented in the recent History Channel Dogfights Special series "Air Ambush."
He was assigned to the first jet P-80 squadron in 1946; was a member of the first jet Aerial Acrobatic Demonstration Team; won second place in the Thompson Trophy Race, jet division, in Cleveland, in 1946; and participated in the first dawn-to-dusk transcontinental round trip flight. He was a squadron commander of Royal Air Force No.1 Fighter Squadron, Sussex, England, during an exchange tour in 1948.
General Olds' military decorations include the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 39 oak leaf clusters, British Distinguished Flying Cross, French Croix de Guerre, Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order, Vietnam Air Gallantry Medal with gold wings, and Vietnam Air Service Medal.
After his duty in Vietnam, General Olds was named commandant of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1967 to 1971. His last assignment before retiring from the Air Force in 1973 was as director of safety for the Air Force.
Up to a few months prior to his illness he was frequently called upon as guest speaker and lecturer for his inspirational and motivational talks. He was married to Ella Raines, who died in 1988, and then to Morgan Olds.
General Olds is survived by two daughters, Christina Olds of Vail, Colo., and Susan Scott-Risner of North Bend, Wash.; one granddaughter, Jennifer Newman of Santa Monica, Calif., and half-brother, Fred Olds of Virginia. He died peacefully at his home in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in the company of family and friends.
A memorial service will be held at the U.S. Air Force Academy within the next two weeks. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association toward scholarships for the children or spouses of armed forces aircrew members killed or missing in action.