by Bryan R. Swopes of This Day in Aviation
On September 23, 1967, Colonel Robin Olds, the Wing Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Ubon-Rachitani Royal Thai Air Force Base, flew the final combat mission of his military career.
On this last mission, Colonel Olds flew a McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, serial number 63-7668. Olds had flown this Phantom when he and Lieutenant William D. Lefever shot down a MiG-21 near Hanoi, 4 May 1967. 63-7668 had been delivered to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing from the factory on 18 January 1965. It was lost in the South China Sea, 27 January 1968.
General Olds was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Army Air Corps Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Robert Olds. He spent his boyhood days in the Hampton, Va., area where he attended elementary and high school. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1943. A member of the academy football team, he was selected as All-American tackle in 1942. He completed pilot training in 1943.
General Olds was rated a triple ace, having shot down a total of 17 enemy aircraft during World War II and the Vietnam War. He began his combat flying in a P-38 Lightning named “Scat 1” during World War II, and at the end of the war, he was flying “Scat VII,” a P-51 Mustang, and was credited with 107 combat missions and 24.5 victories, 12 aircraft shot down and 11 1/2 aircraft destroyed on the ground.
During the Vietnam War in October 1966, General Olds entered combat flying in Southeast Asia in “Scat XXVII,” an F-4 Phantom II. He completed 152 combat missions, including 105 over North Vietnam. Utilizing air-to-air missiles, he shot down over North Vietnam two Mig-17 and two Mig-21 aircraft, two of these on one mission.
General Olds was wingman on the first jet acrobatic team in the Air Force and won second place in the Thompson Trophy Race (Jet Division) at Cleveland in 1946. He participated in the first one-day, dawn-to-dusk, transcontinental roundtrip flight in June 1946 from March Field, Calif., to Washington, D.C., and return.
His duty assignments in England, Germany, Libya, Thailand, and the United States have included positions as squadron, base, group, and wing commander; staff assignments in a numbered Air Force, Headquarters U.S. Air Force and the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is a graduate of the National War College, 1963.
In February 1946 General Olds started flying P-80 jets at March Field, Calif., with the first squadron so equipped. In October 1948 he went to England under the U.S. Air Force – Royal Air Force Exchange Program and served as commander of No. 1 Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Station Tangmere. The squadron was equipped with the Gloster Meteor jet fighter.
He assumed duties as commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in September 1966. He returned to the United States in December 1967 and served as commandant of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy through January 1971. General Olds assumed the position of director of aerospace safety in the Air Force Inspection and Safety Center at Norton Air Force Base, Calif., in February 1971.
His military decorations and awards 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, Air Force Commendation Medal, British Distinguished Flying Cross, French Croix de Guerre, Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order, Vietnam Air Gallantry Medal with Gold Wings, Vietnam Air Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He is a command pilot. He was promoted to the temporary grade of brigadier general effective June 1, 1968, with the date of rank May 28, 1968.
On the evening of June 14, 2007, he died from congestive heart failure in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a month before his 85th birthday. He was honored with a flyover and services at the United States Air Force Academy, where his ashes are housed, on June 30, 2007
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