Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds

Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds


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Robin Olds was many things to many people. To his West Point football coach he was an All American destined for the National College Football Hall of Fame. To his P-38 and P-51 wartime squadrons in WWII he was the aggressive fighter pilot who made double ace and became their commander in nine short months. For the pioneers of the jet age, he was the wingman on the first jet demo team, a racer in the Thompson Trophy race, and the only U.S. exchange officer to command an RAF squadron. In the tabloid press he was the dashing flying hero who married the glamorous movie star. For the current crop of fighter pilots he is best known as the leader of the F-4 Wolfpack battling over North Vietnam. For cadets at the Air Force Academy he was a role model and mentor. He was all of those things and more.

Here's Robin's story in his own words and gleaned from the family and friends of his lifetime. Here's the talent and learning, the passion and leadership, the love and disappointments of his life. Few men have written on the tablets of aviation history with such a broad and indelible brush. Olds was a classic hero with vices as well as virtues, a life writ large that impacted many.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312569518
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/10/2011
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 41,534
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Robin Olds (1922-2007) was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. A triple ace, he achieved a combined total of 16 victories in the Second World War and the Vietnam War. Born into an army family in Honolulu and raised in Virginia, he was educated at West Point, where he was an All American football player. He fought in Europe during World War II, and was regarded as the best wing commander in the Vietnam War. He was promoted to brigadier general after Vietnam, and also served as Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Christina Olds is the daughter of Robin Olds. She holds a B.A. in English and creative writing from Vassar.

Ed Rasimus is a retired USAF fighter pilot whose books on the Vietnam air war include When Thunder Rolled and Palace Cobra.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xiii

1 Battle 1

2 My Early Years 5

3 Pilot Training 18

4 Off to War 29

5 A Small Event Called D-day 41

6 The Heat of Many Battles 56

7 Victories-at Last! 76

8 Mustangs and Mayhem 94

9 R&R, Second Tour, and Home 116

10 Going Home 132

11 Life in the Fast Lane 153

12 Exchange with the RAF 1948 180

13 F-86s at March Field, the Pitts, and Stewart 198

14 Landstuhl to Libya 210

15 Pentagon to Shaw 227

16 The Phantom and the War 247

17 Bolo 271

18 Rolling Thunder 283

19 The Ending Battle 313

20 The Painful Way Home 341

21 The Academy 353

22 IG and Out 371

23 Final Landing 382

Index 387

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Fighter Pilot 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
SpaceWars More than 1 year ago
Brig. Gen. Robin Olds was a bigger-than-life fighter pilot best-known for his leadership and combat exploits during the Vietnam War. But, as revealed through his own story, Olds was a seasoned double ace long before he took to the air in Southeast Asia. From his birth in 1922, Olds was hard-wired to fly, surrounded by the pioneers of U.S. air power. He was the son of Robert Olds, a World War I fighter pilot, who served as an aide to Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell and achieved the rank of major general in the Army Air Corps. Giants of early military aviation, such as Hap Arnold, Carl A. "Tooey" Spaatz and Ira C. Eaker, met at the Olds home to discuss what became the tenets of U.S. airpower. Olds flew two tours in World War II, distinguishing himself as a natural combat pilot in both the Lockheed P-38 and North American P-51 fighters. As a 22-year-old major, he commanded the 434th Fighter Sqdn., a salute to his leadership skills, as well. Although his accounts of aerial battles convey the excitement, anxiety and exhaustion of air combat, Olds also captures the humor, grief and numbing routine that were part a pilot's life. The European war ended with then-Maj. Olds having logged 107 missions, 12 air-to-air kills, and 11.5 German aircraft destroyed on the ground. He also had formed strong ideas about how fighters could be employed more effectively, and wasn't shy about expounding on those concepts. Multiple attempts to fly combat in the Korean War were thwarted by his movie-star wife, Ella Raines, and her producer friends, who had considerable political pull in Washington. During frustrating years of Pentagon duty, Olds made a conscious decision to become a patriotic rebel-in-uniform; promotions be damned. Later, as the war in Vietnam was heating up, it looked like Olds again would be grounded and shackled to a desk, thanks to a pending promotion to brigadier general. However, he managed to "screw up" just enough to get his promotion orders ripped to pieces and, eventually, sent to Southeast Asia. He took over as commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, located at Ubon Air Base, Thailand, on Sept. 30, 1966. Although the wing's morale was dismal, Olds whipped the unit into shape, declaring that he would "lead from the front" by flying combat missions in the F-4 Phantom. Olds details preparations for "Operation Bolo," one of the air war's most successful missions. Emulating a flight of F-105 fighters, right down to speeds, call signs and radio transmissions, his F-4s succeeded in suckering a flock of North Vietnamese MiGs into a trap that decimated the Russian-built fighters. Bolo F-4s downed seven MiGs, including one kill by Olds. It was a turning point for the air war in Southeast Asia. Olds ultimately flew 152 combat missions and shot down four MiGs, boosting his career total to 16 air-to-air kills. Accounts of those missions are as descriptive as any written about the Vietnam air war. After returning to the states, Olds served as the Air Force Academy's commandant of cadets and was promoted to brigadier general in 1968. He retired in 1973. Olds's description of a recurring dream about a fighter pilot's final flight in an F-4 Phantom will cause even the crustiest airman to choke up. Guaranteed. Brig. Gen. Robin Olds died of congestive heart failure on June 14, 2007, and was buried at the U.S. Air Force Academy cemetery.
NYMuseum More than 1 year ago
I was hugely pleased with this book. The pre-Vietnam portion was as good as it gets. The Vietnam portion just reinforces the wrongness of the methodology of McNamara and the military set up where non-combat career officers having input into combat decisions is wrong. The Olds comment's on USA individuals such as the entertainment personality J Fonda should convince right thinking people to never let die her activity in Vietnam. All in all this book is excellent.
Wolf_FAC More than 1 year ago
I was twice a member of the 8TFW Wolfpack during the Vietnam War and was honored to have met General Olds many years later. This is probably the best first person account of what it is like to fly fighters and live in the Air Force fighter community. Buy it now!!! Bob Hipps, Major, USAF (Retired) Ubon RTAFB 67/68, 72/73 Wolf FAC 72/73
FDRFAN2086 More than 1 year ago
The best book ever what a great American 
BettyG76 More than 1 year ago
If you are in to military stories, this is a good one.
paulstang68 More than 1 year ago
Robin Olds is an American Hero! He probably would argue with me,but after reading this book,their is no doubt.He always cared about his men,and he looked after them.A must read,and highly recommended!
JamesS More than 1 year ago
Vietnam was my war a war which was, in the words of Robin Olds "wrong, not because we (soldiers, airmen, sailors) were there but because the people in Washington - Kennedy, Johnson, and particularly Robert S. McNamara - had never grasped the basic objective. The cost in human lives was a price paid for no stated reason. Men in Washington were playing at war with no understanding of its conduct..." He goes on to say that the way to end that war was to win it. Politicians never allowed us to win it and thus it went is "an everlasting disgrace to our nation, a blundering inept prosecution of a situation that from the very start demanded a positive course with positive, believable goals." Nearly a quarter of my pilot training classmates were killed in that war and I remember it today as though it happened yesterday. Unfortunately, the "Me Firsts," the "Me Too's," and the "Deadwood" as described by General Spatz to General Olds ran the military - thus the "dedicated" such as Robin Olds became the square pegs pounded down into round holes. Chappie James went along to get along (a "me to" perhaps) and became a 4 star general. Robin Olds was farmed out to a retirement camp. One wonders how many other Robin Olds there were out there - I know of at least two. Olds was brash, overbearing, and his story begs to be read. His tales of pilot training, WW II, and even Vietnam make me wish that I had been born one generation earlier than I was. I for one am happy that he kept a journal and even happier that it did not end up in some dusty pile of papers. I thank his daughter Christina for bringing it to light. The man was a legend in my time and in my war! Hear! Hear!
Steve Graves More than 1 year ago
Having lived and remembered the era of Robin Olds, I found this book to be up lifting during a time of despair. While many attempt to mimick the antics, many fall short, Robin was a mans man, thumbing his nose to bureaucacy, and the idiosyncrysies that contribute it's downfalls. A must read for the 'hard ons' who think they understand.
Kent66 More than 1 year ago
As a retired military pilot and officer, I found this book very MOVING. If I was an ROTC instructor, it would be required reading for all my students. I especially loved his "pet definition for discipline". I got very frustrated in my military career with leaders who did not know the difference between punishment and discipline. The difference is great and Robin Olds pegged it. I earmarked that page in my book and underlined the sentence.
Texas66 More than 1 year ago
Of all the biographies of fighter pilots that I have enjoyed this book is now at the top of my list. The book's scope from 1943 to after Vietnam covers much of the history, from a one soldier's perspective, of the USAF not covered elsewhere. Robin Olds was indeed an American hero, and learning of his life as a fighter pilot, including his interactions with famous and not so famous contemporaries, was truly enjoyable. His take on the USAF was by itself worth the price of the book. Reading that SAC's LeMay was a nut case: How refreshing.
SeanOMalleyJr More than 1 year ago
I listened to the audio version of the book. The narrator does an excellent job conveying the persona of a strong-willed, confident, intelligent, maverick aerial combat warrior. I truly enjoyed this inspiring and and amazing story of the life of Robin Olds. The book is filled with vivid seat-of-the pants air combat actions. But this book is much more. I found myself laughing out aloud in several humorous vignettes - I cracked up when the freshly-minted 2LT Olds "discovered" he actually got paid to fly planes. Later in his life there is a totally hilarious family story about the mayhem that ensures when a family cat "somehow" becomes involved with toothpaste. Conversely, Robin Olds experiences many heart-rendering life events such as long separations from loved ones and dealing with the death of buddies and fellow airmen in combat. This book is very special on many different levels. I would not be surprised if there was a movie made sometime in the future recounting the tales of this very special fighter pilot.
smh63 More than 1 year ago
Robin Olds passed away in 2007 but "Fighter Pilot" brings him to life as if you were having a beer with him in the club. This is his story as seen through his eyes but it is also the story of the fighter pilots of the US Air Force from World War II through Vietnam. It's his story but with ample credit given to those he served with during his 30 years of service, those he says he wouldn't have made it without. "Fighter Pilot" is different because Olds doesn't embellish his accomplishments but highlights in detail his character flaws and some of the mistakes they contributed to. He admits how his own outspoken behavior and love of fighters got him in plenty of trouble and influenced his career, not always for the better. A tactical meverick with no real use for politics, his desire to be in the fight came with a price over his career. Not that it really mattered to Robin Olds. Reading "Fighter Pilot" puts you in the cockpit with such clarity that you can almost feel the concussions from exploding flak. Your mind's eye sees the incoming surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and your pulse quickens a bit. You know he's going to come home from the mission but there's still a bit of doubt. Few people can relate the tension of aerial combat as Robin Olds did. As long as I was reading "Fighter Pilot" Robin Olds was still alive. For anyone who reads this book he always will be.
EMD3 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. What a great American Robin Old's was. He went to war as a young man during WWII and became an Ace. He was fearless. In one of his early encounters in combat in a P38 he drops his external fuel tanks to jump about 50 ME109s. Don't get me wrong he was not alone he did have a wing man. But in his excitement he forgot to select internal fuel and just as he has a kill lined up both engines fail... It was not all air combat, he did miss the Korean war and spent a lot of time in the Pentagon and other non flying jobs. Then, transitioning to jets and meeting the Love of his life. Then he is off to Viet Nam, and now approaching 50 he sets off to fly some of the most grueling combat missions with a $25000 bounty on his head. What a great read, I recommend this book highly.
Anonymous 6 months ago
buffalogr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great action story of an outstanding Air Force hero!
parapreacher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robin Olds was definitely an Air Force legend! There are times when you feel as if you're in the cockpit with him - whether in combat or spinning out of control! I wish the language could have been cleaned up for younger readers who might be inspired to become Air Force aviators.
cheezdoggie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting and exciting book bound together from the notes and recollections of Robin Olds himself.
tcf64 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great memoir. Real, very readable, and exciting. Highly recommended!
StuartW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, particularly that part talking about the USAF between the end of WWII and Korea. I have since talked to a former fighter pilot who met Olds in Viet Nam and confirmed that he was indeed a special person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being a retired Air Force guy this is pure history. Thoroughly enjoyed the read. I wasn't at Langley, Bitburg, or Eglin when his friends were but now those bases are really special to me. A retired Air Force Fire Fighter...
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Woofer01 More than 1 year ago
Thank you Robin for all you did over the years! *HAND SALUTE*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago