Every fighter pilot after Robin Olds is a wannabe. The game is changed. America only has a thousand fighters in operation, and the new ones cost $200 Million. They will fly themselves if the pilot asks them to. Olds came along when we lost more planes and pilots from mechanical failure, weather, or pilot error than combat.
Fighters are very hard to fly, and only a lucky SOB could have survived what Robin Olds survived. He bridged the gap from the World War II piston engine fighters through the jets of Viet Nam. His father was Lieutenant General Robert Olds, a WW I fighter pilot and friend of the greats of early aviation; Billy Mitchell, Hap Arnold, Tooey Spaatz, Ira Eaker, and Eddie Rickenbacker.
Robin Olds got some breaks. Family ties got him into West Point at the beginning of World War II, where his size and athletic ability allowed him to excel on the football field. His brash ways pissed off some people who would have derailed the average pilot into bombers or transports; contacts got him into fighters. He was a natural. He came into the European theater after most of the really tough German pilots were already gone. He became a double ace after the Normandy invasion. Olds was commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand during the early period of the Viet Nam war when Russian pilots flew the Migs protecting North Viet Nam. That was the last of the real dogfights; and Olds was the big dog. He was Commandant of the Air Force Academy; leaving a legacy that persists today.
The strength of this book is not Olds’ exploits, which are extraordinary, but his passionate descriptions of the conflicts of the times. He’s fighting something from his first application to West Point through his retirement, and it’s a journey through history, military life and culture. If you’re a fighter pilot wannabe, like me, or you’re just curious what it’s all about; this is the book.
This is a well written book, ostensibly written by his daughter Christina and a ghost writer, Ed Rasimus, but the narrator is Robin Olds; you can feel his passion. Christina gathered his memoirs and worked with Robin during his final months. He was adamant that he would tell his story, and he did.