Air Force Col.
Robin Olds, in Southeast Asia 1967, commander of the 8th
Tactical Fighter Wing, preflights his F-4C Phantom. Col. Olds
has shot down four enemy MiG aircraft in aerial combat over
North Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
Patriot with a passion; respectfully
Definitions that might begin to frame
Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, but would still fall short of the man.
Robin Olds’ daughter Christina shared
vignettes of her famous fighter-pilot father in a Forum session at
AirVenture 2010 on Monday.
Following Gen. Olds’ death in the
summer of 2007 at age 84, daughter Christina lovingly took on the
daunting task of turning the many notes for his unfinished autobiography
into a book, Fighter Pilot.
Fighter Pilot tells a sweeping story that
embraces a flying family—his father was Maj. Gen. Robert Olds,
entrusted with the use of early prewar B-17 Flying Fortresses to cement
the role of strategic bombardment as an Air Corps tool.
Robin Olds flew P-38s and P-51s in World
War II and earned triple ace status with a total of 16 aerial victories—four
of them Soviet-designed MiGs when he returned to combat over Southeast
Asia in the 1960s.
Christina told her appreciative audience,
“I adored my father.” She was a teenager when he went to Vietnam.
Christina was confronted by reporters the
day after her father accomplished an unorthodox but effective ruse that
drew North Vietnamese jet fighters into combat.
Her recollection of one reporter’s
question is: “How do you feel about your father being a murderer?”
In those years, Christina repeatedly
heard criticisms of men and women in service, and she never forgot. “It
has become my mission to help people understand that these wonderful
people (in the military) are just doing their job.”
Christina read passages her father wrote,
describing in detail the spectacle of the Normandy invasion on June 6,
1944, which he witnessed from overhead flying a P-51.
Ordered to fly cover in the event of
Luftwaffe interception—that never materialized—the Mustang pilots
were specifically ordered not to drop down and strafe enemy positions.
This inability to affect the outcome was
agonizing for Olds as he described blood on the water and eruptions of
enemy fire killing Americans.
Normandy framed an ongoing struggle for
Olds; his devotion to duty came up against his native decisiveness and
penchant for action.
After her forum presentation, Christina
said one of the reasons her father became a tireless public speaker late
in life was his desire to infuse young people with the drive to balance
ever-creeping bureaucracy against the need to act.
Christina infused her forum presentation,
as well as the book about her father, with family anecdotes to make it
more than the story of a fighter pilot.
She spoke of her mother, actress Ella
Raines, who she said had a difficult time being an Air Force wife.
She characterized her famous father as a
man of action who shunned personal ambition.
After being awarded general officer
status, Olds offered to take a demotion so he could be sent back to
Southeast Asia to help his beloved fighter pilots. And during his
earlier tour there, he occasionally doctored the mission board to avoid
reaching 100 missions and the mandatory rotation home that came with it,
She characterized her father as a leader.
“I think that is Robin Olds’ greatest legacy.”
She was proud to tell her audience that
her father, “that renegade of a guy,” was picked as the exemplar for
the U.S. Air Force Academy class of 2011, his name emblazoned on their