Robin Olds “triple ace” WW II / Vietnam

Video from the Past [37] – Robin Olds  1922 – 2007

From Chuck Owl YouTube channel

DISCLAIMER: This interview was taken from the “Timeless Voices” series available on the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).

Robin Olds was an American fighter pilot and general officer in the U.S. Air Force. He was a “triple ace”, with a combined total of 16 victories in World War II and the Vietnam War. He retired in 1973 as a brigadier general.

The son of regular Army Maj. Gen. Robert Olds, educated at West Point, and the product of an upbringing in the early years of the U.S. Army Air Corps, Olds epitomized the youthful World War II fighter pilot.  He remained in the service as it became the United States Air Force, despite often being at odds with its leadership, and was one of its pioneer jet pilots.  Rising to the command of two fighter wings, Olds is regarded among aviation historians, and his peers, as the best wing commander of the Vietnam War, for both his air-fighting skills, and his reputation as a combat leader.

Robin Olds flew the P-38 Lightning and the P-51 Mustang, but the highlight of his career was the Vietnam War.  He planned a mission designed to draw the North Vietnamese Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s into an aerial trap, and the now famous “Operation Bolo” resulted.  The mission was planned in response to North Vietnamese tactics during the Operation Rolling Thunder aerial-bombardment campaign wherein MiGs were used to attack heavily loaded fighter-bombers while circumventing their fighter escorts.  The mission featured fighter planes following the typical flight paths of bombers in order to lure enemy aircraft into attacking.  Bolo** pitted the F-4 Phantom II multirole fighter against its rival, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 interceptor, and was considered to be one of the most successful combat ruses of all time, eventually prompting VPAF pilots and strategists, as well as Soviet tacticians, to re-evaluate the tactics and deployment of the MiG-21.

Olds was promoted to brigadier general after returning from Vietnam but did not hold another major command.  The remainder of his career was spent in non-operational positions, as Commandant of Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy and as an official in the Air Force Inspector General’s Office. His inability to rise higher as a general officer is attributed to both his maverick views and his penchant for drinking.

Olds had a highly publicized career and life, including marriage to Hollywood actress Ella Raines.  As a young man he was also recognized for his athletic prowess in both high school and college, being named an All American for his play as a lineman in American football. Olds expressed his philosophy regarding fighter pilots in the quote: “There are pilots and there are pilots; with the good ones, it is inborn.  You can’t teach it. If you are a fighter pilot, you have to be willing to take risks.”

** OPERATION BOLO

 

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