Change of Command

Some pilots seem born for combat. They thrive on a steady dose of danger. Robin Olds was one of those. Olds was the commander of the U.S. Air Force 8th Tactical Fighter Wing during the second year of an air campaign called Rolling Thunder, the first sustained U.S. air assault on North Vietnam.
I remember him as a disciplined, professional officer, but he was also a fierce fighter who bristled at, and frequently outmaneuvered, the political constraints that kept his wing from doing damage to the enemy.

Olds retired as a brigadier general in 1973. I visited him recently in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I wanted to reassure myself that he was real, not a hero we'd invented to rescue us from the cynicism of that war.

...I was a 24-year-old lieutenant when I met him. I was with the 555th Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force, flying F-4C Phantom IIs on combat missions to North Vietnam. During the three months prior to Old's arrival, the wing had lost an entire squadron's worth of airplanes. Twenty-two pilots were dead or missing. Getting to the magic number to finish a combat tour - 100 missions over North Vietnam - seemed impossible.

...He's the kind of hero who isn't very popular when his country is at peace but is desperately needed in wartime. I believe if called, Olds could pull it off again. Excerpt from Air & Space, September, 1997.