As an act of defiance towards a U.S. military that was providing him with poorly trained pilots and lackluster support during the Vietnam War, Robin Olds grew a large handlebar mustache, a direct violation of Air Force grooming regulations. During the war, most of his superiors found the mustache humorous, but when Olds returned to the United States he quickly found that not everybody was laughing. “I remember my first interview with (Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P.) McConnell,” Olds said. “I walked briskly through the door, stopped and snapped a salute. He walked up to me, stuck a finger under my nose and said, ‘Take it off!’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir!’ And that was the end of that.”
- Achieved ace status as a fighter pilot during World War II by shooting down 13 enemy aircraft in 107 combat mission and destroyed 11 ½ aircraft on the ground; scored four more aerial victories in Vietnam.
- First American to command a British Royal Air Force Squadron.
- Came in 2nd in the jet division of the Thompson Trophy Race in Cleveland in 1946.
- In 1966 he became commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand and downed 2 MIG-17s and 2 MIG-21s.
- Commandant of Cadets at the Air Force Academy in 1967.
- Helped start America’s first jet aerobatic team.
Brigadier General Robin Olds is the director of aerospace safety in the Air Force Inspection and Safety Center, a separate operating agency and an organization of the Office of the Inspector General, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. General Olds has worldwide responsibility for the development and implementation of policies, standards and procedures for programs in safety education, accident investigation and analysis, human factors research, and safety inspection to prevent and reduce accidents in Air Force activities.
General Olds was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Army Air Corps Major General and Mrs. Robert Olds. He spent his boyhood days in the Hampton, Virginia area where he attended elementary and high school. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and received his commission as 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 is 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. Olds was eventually credited with 107 combat missions and 24.5 victories, 13 aircraft shot down and 11.5 aircraft destroyed on the ground.
During the Vietnam War in October 1966, 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 two MIG-17 and two MIG-21 aircraft over North Vietnam, two of these on one mission.
Olds was wing man 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, California 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 1963 graduate of the National War College.
In February 1946 General Olds started flying P-80 jets at March Field, California 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 Eighth 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, California 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 1st, 1968, with date of rank May 28th, 1968.
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