Robin Olds
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January 2013

 

 

Jerry Gill said that his sweet, strong, and beautiful Dorothy died on Christmas day after 50_ years as a loving wife and mother. After 27 years, the breast cancer finally won. Dorothy Swann Gill, 72, of Roswell, GA passed away on Christmas Day 2012. She was born on Valentine's Day in 1940 to Adolph and Ruby Waller Swann in Roanoke, AL and grew up in Birmingham. After graduating from Auburn University in 1962, she traveled the world for 26 years as an Air Force wife then settled in Roswell. She was active in the Roswell UMC choir family for 23 years. She is survived by her devoted husband of 50 years, Col. Jerry Gill, 3 daughters and their families - Susan & Clay Saunders; Leigh Ann & Jim Kane and Beth & Andy Wren; 8 grandchildren - Hillary, Meredith, Olivia, Trevor, Max, Wesley, Drew, Sarah; and sister - Nancy & her husband, Tom Brechin.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project at www.woundedwarriorproject.org in her honor. Neal Westbrook, Mike Rawlins, Jimmy Poole, Johnny Caughman, and Sam Barazzone attended Dorothy’s services.

Our class is quite proud of Mark Anderson’s recognition by the AOG as a Distinguished Graduate. Congratulations from all of us, Mark. It was well deserved! Mark will receive his 2013 DGA at the Founders' Day Dinner scheduled for Friday, April 5, 2013.  It would a wonderful tribute to Mark and his family for as many of his classmates as possible to attend.  Please watch for the appropriate AOG e-mails announcing the time and place of the presentation or simply go to www.usafa.org and register yourself and a spouse/guest for this special event.

Terry Storm’s Chairman’s Journal in this issue of Checkpoints is his last, since his term on the AOG Board of Directors is ending.  He greatly appreciates all of the support of our classmates in his efforts to enhance the effectiveness and cost-efficiencies of the AOG. We all thank you for your many efforts on behalf of our AOG and Academy, Terry.

Hector Negroni reports that the Class of 1961 DC Bunch held their November Luncheon at the Springfield Country Club, Springfield, VA.   Once again, through the courtesy of Charley Dixon, they were treated royally at his Country Club.   After a beautiful prayer by their Chaplain (Twy Williams), they had a status of the DC Bunch report by Lowell Jones and a report by Bill Foster on the activities during the most recent Air Force-Army game.   Bill was not able to give them a total description of the tanks that rolled over Air Force during the game, but he said that the Air Force cadets did not know what hit them.   During the meal, they discussed the normal litany of ailments and medical problems by our class members.  While they seem to be aging gracefully, their visits to the doctors are more frequent.   Charley Dixon gave them a scalpel-by scalpel account of his recent eye surgery.   He claims that his vision is 20/20, but his hearing has not improved.   They took turns yelling into his good ear.  For a bunch of 70-year-olds, they are doing pretty well.

Mark Anderson said that Jim Ulm, Bob Wagner, and he are starting to work on a reunion of their Reese pilot training class: 63B.  They have never held a reunion and decided if they don't get moving, it will be a small group!  Tentative plans are late spring, early summer of 2014 in San Antonio.  More info will be forthcoming to those involved.

John Boesch is 3 weeks into the "hip replacement flight."  All is well so far.  John is also currently serving as "tech advisor" to Frank Kiszley, who is soon to join that flight.  John has been sworn in as 1st VP for the local MOAA Chapter, and serves on the Board with (past President) Jerry Lefton.

Stu and Marnie Boyd are struggling with an addiction and need your help.  They are addicted to Les Miz.  Six stage performances and the movies of course—and they just got the original movie made in 1934, which runs for close to five hours and is in French (subtitles, thankfully). If one of you knows of a good program, let them know. 

Because people continue to inquire, Bob Brickey provided a very short update on their granddaughter, MiaBella Brickey.  Mia is doing beautifully in every regard.  She is enjoying school, ballet lessons, and her Soo Bahk Do martial arts in which she is not allowed to do the sparring.  She must always stay away from people who are ill, due to her immunosuppressed body, which keeps her new heart healthy. They are still ever grateful to so many who have expressed concern, prayers, and aid for Mia.

Pat and Marilyn Buckley continue to enjoy their endless summer in Satellite Beach, FL. Pat’s hip joint resurfacing is healing well, and he is approaching 3 miles at 6 mph on the elliptical strider as well as enjoying dips in the Atlantic Ocean for some swim exercise. Pat and Marilyn attended an alumni group television session to watch the Air Force/Army game. They had a good time, except the score! Being an optimist, Pat organized a Space Coast Alumni session to watch the Air Force/Rice Armed Forces Bowl game at the local Beef O’Brady’s. They and the 30 grads had a good time, except for the score, again! Otherwise, they have had relaxed time at home, except for all the doctor’s appointments. Pat and Marilyn will be going to the UK, Italy, and Spain in February and March. They will be at their Spanish home on the Costa del Sol (Velez-Malaga) from 26 Feb to mid March with two empty bedrooms (maybe) if anyone is in southern Spain and wants to visit.

Doug and Dee Cairns report that they are still in Montgomery, AL, enjoying full, uncomplicated retirement. Last year they enjoyed watching their eldest grandson, Chris, graduate, take a real job, get married, and move his bride from Wetumpka, AL, to the big city of San Francisco. That those two kids seem to enjoy living in the strange land of Congresswoman Pelosi is of concern to most of the Cairns family who are retaining their Southern roots. Cathy, Chris’s mom, is a nurse who directs a crew of cardiologists in town and maintains a watchful eye on Doug and Dee. Chris’s and Jordan’s wedding was cause for the other two grandkids to come for a month’s visit from their home in Italy. Nathan and Katye are teenagers and attend the DoD Naples American High School. This then became a grand “re-Americanizing” month for the kids since they have been over there for 8+ years, and counting. Rob seems to have become the indispensible man on the staff of CINCNAVEUR, so they may never come home.  Doug enjoys monthly golf with Steve Ho, Jimmy Poole, and Ron Jones.

Michele Cowan, AOG Customer Service Supervisor, realized that Trel and Dick Coppock had lost their complete collection of AOG Christmas ornaments in the 26 June wildfire.  She sought out a benefactor willing to purchase all she could find in her limited stock of past ornaments and sent them along to the Coppocks.  She found a generous spirit who, wishing to remain anonymous, purchased some 10 ornaments, including the Class of 1961 "jewel," and asked that they be sent to Dick and Trel with a simple Merry Christmas.  They arrived just as the Coppocks were decorating their tree in the (Saint) Nick of time.   The "usual suspects" prevail, and they are so very grateful to both Michele and their very own Santa.  The true Christmas spirit was indeed evident to Dick and Trel, and they are touched by such generosity.  They wish all classmates and their families all the blessings of the New Year.

   In June 2012 Randy Cubero was selected to run another charitable foundation called Parents Challenge, a 501C3, in Colorado Springs.  This charity provides low income families with financial assistance in the form of scholarships and grants to move their children to a better performing school or to enhance their child's academic performance in their current school with supplemental materials and programs, like tutoring and purchasing a computer.  Parents Challenge is part of the National School Choice Movement, which believes strongly that parents need to be more engaged and empowered in their child's education and that they alone should make the educational choices that will give their child the best chances for success. Randy indicated that it has been a real eye-opener to understand what has happened to our K-12 public education system, especially after so many years of running the Falcon Foundation and dealing with only top tiered academically performing students trying to enter the Air Force Academy.

Dick Davis enjoyed the hospitality of Carl Granberry and his new wife, Lura, a high school chum. Carl has a well-fed herd of horses on his Winona, TX, property.  And Heather, Dick’s horse, is joining that herd as a guest. They spent the day together, and Carl showed Dick his family’s metal-bending plant where they make rings for brooms and mops. He also showed Dick the improvements he has designed into his metal-bending operation.  They are formidable accomplishments, demonstrating applications of his education in mechanical engineering and Double E. Very impressive.

Bob Dean said he is into doing a lot of exercises.  To exercise his legs, he walks back and forth from the kitchen to the computer room 30 times a day. His bending exercises include bending over 5-6 times a day picking up Golden Retriever puppy poop. To exercise his arms, at 4:30 p.m. every afternoon he lifts a heavy glass of vodka with an olive in it 30-40 times. For some reason, he can't remember what he does after 5:30 p.m.

Tom and Anne Eller spent a couple of weeks starting with Thanksgiving in the UK with son Rob Eller and family (USAFA '96), then hosted their other children and grandchildren in Colorado for Christmas. Tom and Anne plan to spend several weeks in Kauai this winter before going to Atlanta and back to the UK at the end of May to celebrate their 50th with all of their children.

Richard Fairlamb has been Flight Captain of the Order of Daedalians Flight #23/DFW since mid-year 2011.   This flight has the same number as the F-4 squadron Richard commanded at Spangdahlem AB, Germany in the late 1970s—23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron.   Flight 23 is one of the largest of the 70+ flights in the international Order of Daedalians at 209 members—holding steady over the past few years.   The flight hosted the National Convention in October 2011 and has supported two academic university-level scholarships, a CAP cadet solo program, and CFIP high school AFJROTC cadet solo program annually during recent years.   Flight 23, under Richard’s leadership, was awarded the “2012 Jimmy Doolittle Award” by Daedalian National HQ.   This is the second time Flight 23 has received the Doolittle Award, the last time being in 1997.   Just to keep out of trouble, and out of local watering holes, Richard continues to generate some revenue as a Business Continuity and Recovery consultant and teacher, and finds a little time to keep VFR and IFR current in his 1957 Cessna 182.

Paul Hinton ran a Half-Marathon at Disneyland with his oldest granddaughter. The thing started at 0500, and they had to be in place at 0430. When he got up, he thought,  "Exactly what the devil is it that made you agree to this?" Save for the hour, however, it was a delight. It was grand but what a comment on time.

Highlights from Henry and Peggy Howe are the memories they have of their five-week trip down under last fall. They spent four days aboard the Coral Princess II on the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling some of the loveliest waters they had ever seen. They explored the Daintree National Park by four-wheel tour bus and encountered the salt-water crocodiles and flightless emus. Then they went to Darwin and lived in Karnda National Park with the kangaroos, wallabies, and more crocodiles. They spent a week driving (yes - on the wrong side of the road) through the outback around Alice Springs, Ularu (Ayers Rock), Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta. They topped off the Australian adventure with a week in Sydney seeing the local sights and the Blue Mountains. They visited only the North Island in New Zealand, where they spent another week climbing the trails around Mt Ruapehu and rafting on the Tarangi River, then lounging in the hot thermal pools. Their underground adventure took them into the glow-worm caves.

Sometimes Don McCarter feels his and Johnnie’s daily activities have become so routine that making a change is a real challenge. They have been blessed to have their kids living close by. They get to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with everyone in attendance with no long distance travel. It is also convenient for them to participate in grandchildren’s activities. Each summer they travel to Hendersonville, NC, for a reunion with Don’s brothers and sister and their families. The group size increases every year. Johnnie and Don love the North Carolina mountains. They especially enjoy the trails in the national parks where the trails are blazed to prevent them from getting lost. Don’t laugh. A lot of people take the wrong turn in those hills. Walking, tennis, and workouts at the YMCA help to keep the body upright and mobile. John and Kathy Dates and Jim and Judy Tulis visit Florida occasionally, and Don and Johnnie really enjoy the time with them. Don took a master gardening course at the Florida Extension service and has been certified as a Florida Master Gardener. He spends a lot of time coordinating the activities of the community garden sponsored by their church, and he volunteers about seventy hours a year at the Orange County plant clinic. Gardening in Florida is an eye opening and mind-boggling experience.

In January, Sam Barazzone, plus Gwen, and Charlie Neel and Dean Jones wowed the cold-weather skiers and brought Breckenridge slopes to their knees. Lynda Neel and Jo Jones remained grounded.

As is their custom, Hector and Joan Negroni will be spending the winter (Jan-May 2013) at their Bonita Springs, Florida, home.

Al and Becky Nunn said that their daughter, Ashley, was married last October. Her husband, Charlie King, is the father of two children, Sophie, age 10, and Henry, age 7. They were married at "The Quack Shack" in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Becky and Al rented the "shack" for a week for her wedding party and "30 of their closest fiends" to stay during the preliminaries to the festivities. While there, Al was treated to an unexpected and unplanned ride in the Rescue Squad van and admitted to the local hospital after experiencing a period of disassociation. Diagnosis was Transient Global Amnesia, a condition which shows symptoms similar to those of a stroke, but is temporary in nature, with no after-affects, and occurs to perhaps one in 300,000 persons. He was the one this time and was released the next day, following the diagnosis. Wedding went off without a hitch. Ashley lives with her husband and his children in Falls Church, VA, so that's close enough for frequent phone calls and occasional visits. Al’s recently resigned from the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross there.  Becky continues her activities with theater, having directed four plays for the local theater group, The Lancaster Players. She is currently in rehearsal as director for "How the Other Half Loves," opening March 8.

Nelson and Teri O’Rear had a wonderful Christmas season, starting with spending several days over Christmas with their daughter and her family in Michigan. Then, they enjoyed several days when their younger son’s family visited them in Granger, IN, along with their older son’s family, who also live in Granger. They also celebrated their sons and daughters-in-law anniversaries with a special evening at a very nice local restaurant. Wrapping it up, on New Year’s Eve, their oldest granddaughter and her boyfriend flew from Virginia to spend a couple of days with Nelson and Teri in Granger and Chicago.

Thanks for all who contributed. We hope to hear from you others next time.

 

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"There are pilots and there are pilots; with the good ones, it is inborn. You can't teach it. If you are a fighter pilot, you have to be willing to take risks." Brig. Gen. Robin Olds

Fighter pilots used to say that there was a glass case in the Pentagon built to the precise dimensions of then-Colonel Robin Olds, who would be frozen and displayed wearing his rankless flight suit, crushed fore and aft cap, gloves, and torso harness with .38 and survival knife. Beside the case, was a fire ax beneath a sign reading :

"In case of war, break glass."

It was something of an exaggeration, but it contained an element of truth. Robin Olds was built for war. And he was born to fly. It was imprinted in his genes. Born in July 1922, Robin was the son of the influential airman Robert Olds. As a disciple of Billy Mitchell, the elder Olds became a prominent advocate of strategic bombing and did more than anyone to make the B-17 an operational reality before World War II. Olds' influence was acknowledged by no less an authority than Curtis LeMay.

A big, strapping kid, Robin had drawn attention when his high school football team won the Virginia state championship in 1937. He turned down athletic scholarships in favor of West Point and entered the corps of cadets in 1940, destined for the Class of '44.
Among his classmates was later Colonel William J. Hovde of World War II and Korean fame. Billy Hovde used to insist, "I was Robin's ballroom partner . . because I was the only one in the class who could dance backwards."

At West Point Robin made All-American as a tackle and was named lineman of the year in 1942. Such was his success that he was inducted into the college football hall of fame in 1985.
But more than anything, Robin wanted to fly-and he wanted fighters. He got his   wish. He became one of only a dozen West Pointers to make ace ( in comparison to 30 Annapolis alumni.)

Robin was commissioned and rated a pilot on June 1, 1943. a 20-year-old second lieutenant. He joined the 479th Fighter Group in February '44, and upon arrival in England that May he had 640 hours total time. Twelve months later he was a Major leading a squadron.

Robin was a team player as long as the team wanted to play. When the leaders were only interested in suiting up, he exercised some initiative. In other words, he went freelancing. In his first two dogfights he was alone with his wingman, having left formation to hunt on his own. As he wryly noted long afterward, "When I shot down my first two airplanes I was relieved to see that they had black crosses on their wings."

Robin used to say that the two best things about World War II were London and Colonel Zemke. When the 479th's first commander was shot down in August 1944, Hub Zemke moved over from the fabled 56th Fighter Group and rejuvenated the Mighty Eighth's last fighter outfit. Not that Robin needed any rejuvenating, but the group had plodded along in pedestrian fashion.

In a few weeks Zemke turned things around, and added to Robin's already formidable determination to succeed as a shooter and a leader. The group converted to P-51s in September but Zemke's Mustang broke up in a storm over Germany the next month and he became a POW. However, the lesson had been learned and absorbed.

Robin became commanding officer of the 434th Fighter Squadron at age 22, and he never forgot it. Decades later he said, "As a Major I was responsible for feeding and housing my men, training my men, and rewarding or punishing them. As a colonel I had to check with some general for permission to visit the latrine."

Unlike many pilots who regarded airplanes as tools, Robin could be sentimental   about his machines. Near the end of the war he was one of six P-51 pilots who attacked a German airdrome and found himself the lone survivor. He nursed his crippled Mustang back to base but found that it stalled at 175 mph, rolling violently. But as he said, "Scat VI had taken me through a lot and I was damned if I was going to give up on her."
Somehow he got the bird on the runway and kept it in one piece.

When the European war ended, Robin had made ace in both the P-38 and P-51, probably the only pilot ever to do so. Postwar After VE-Day Robin returned to the States and reverted to his permanent rank: a 23-year-old Captain. He married Ella Raines, one of the most glamorous actresses of the era, and got on with his career.

He briefly returned to West Point as assistant football coach but chafed at the thought of missing the new jets entering service. Therefore, he arranged a transfer to March Field, flying P-80 Shooting Stars. He thrived there, becoming a member of the first jet flight demonstration team and that same year, 1946, was second in the jet phase of the Thompson Trophy Race.

Robin went to England as an exchange pilot in 1948, flying No. 1 Squadron's Gloster Meteors. The American Major commanded the prestigious British squadron in 1949, enjoying the high jinks typical of an RAF mess : a mixture of drinking and physicality that appealed to him.

Upon return to the States, Robin commanded the 71st Fighter Squadron at Pittsburgh. He was thoroughly unhappy in Air Defense Command, protecting Steel Town from Soviet bombers when friends were bagging MiGs in Korea.

Almost beside himself, he wrangled a temporary assignment to the Far East, and the world looked good again. As he explained, "I had to go behind my boss's back, but I thought it was worth it. My wife even had induced labor so I could see my daughter before I left, and I was on the way out the door when the phone rang. It was my CO. He said, " Gotcha. If I don't go, you don't go."

The CO was another ETO triple ace, Colonel Jack Bradley, who was equally eager to hassle with MiGs. Robin missed Korea, and he never got over it. He made full colonel April 1953, which made him eligible to command a group, but the war was winding down.

Robin served penance in the Pentagon 1958-1962, waging a notably unsuccessful campaign to keep guns in new fighter aircraft. "Missiles were immature technology for years and years after that," he insisted, not without reason. His pet project was an F-102 with bubble canopy and a gun, which came to naught.

Robin also had other ideas.

While visiting an aircraft storage facility he noticed some Navy piston airplanes " with all these lovely hard points under their wings." He figured that if the "squids" weren't using all their Douglas Skyraiders, the Air Force should take up the slack. Eventually the Air Commandos were flying A-1s as the fabulous Sandys, providing close air support in South-east Asia.

From 1963 to '65 Robin assumed command of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters. There he formed an F-101 aerobatic team, demonstrating the Voodoo's low-   level performance across Europe-without official approval.

Accounts vary, but if Robin truly broke regulations as a way of getting kicked out of Europe, it worked. Third Air Force wanted to court martial him, but General Gabe Disosway of USAFE took pity and dispatched him to ponder his evil ways at Shaw AFB, South Carolina.

Robin later said that a rotund star wearer had intoned, "Olds, you're the kind of Air Force officer who should be sent to Southeast Asia." As if that were a bad thing.

Wolfpack Robin got exactly what he wanted: command of an air-to-air fighter wing, hunting MiGs. The disappointment of Korea drifted a dozen years astern. Robin's arrival at Ubon, Thailand, was uncharacteristically low key. He knew from his own sources that all was not well in the 8th TFW and resolved to see it from the perspective of the FNG-the "freaking" new guy.

He went through the normal in-processing routine like any other newbie, paid close attention and spoke little. By the time he reached the front office, he reckoned that he knew all he needed to. He began cleaning house.

First he cut loose the deadwood, the ticket punchers and careerists who had " sniveled some counters "- missions that counted toward completion of a tour when in fact they had not gone north. Then he began learning the way the Wolfpack did business so he could improve upon it. He stood before the Phantom crews and said, "I'm going to start here by flying Green Sixteen ( tail-end Charlie ) and you guys are going to teach me how. But teach me fast and teach me good, because I'm a quick learner."

Sitting in the audience was Captain Ralph Wetterhahn, a future MiG killer. Like so many other pilots and WSOs, he was energized by the new CO's press-on attitude. Years later, Wetterhahn compared Olds' arrival with that of Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) in Twelve O'Clock High.

The old ways were not only out, they were deceased. A new regime had arisen, and the Wolfpack began showing results.

Under Olds' predecessor, who seldom flew combat, the 8th had eked out a meager kill-loss ratio. Like the rest of the Air Force, it had barely broken even with Hanoi's MiGs, peaking at a 2-1 exchange rate. Under Robin, the Wolfpack shot to the top of the Southeast Asia league, bagging 18 MiGs, and when he left, the wing's kill ratio stood at 4-1.

Robin entered his second war with over 4,000 hours, mostly in fighters. At 44 he was flying against Vietnamese pilots probably half his age. But he came into his own at Ubon. He ruled over a fiefdom like a feudal baron, enjoying the excitement of the hunt by day and discussing the great game with his men at arms by night. He would have been completely at home in Arthurian England; better yet in Arthurian legend.

The free-wheeling environment at Ubon fueled morale, and the Wolfpack's was stratospheric. Dedicated consumers of booze and red meat, they reveled in the warrior ethic. In contrast, today's sedate, sober young professionals are superbly educated, highly competent, and terrified that they might say something that somebody would find objectionable. Robin did  not want to live in that world.

And he didn't.

Unsatisfied with the restrictive rules of engagement, Robin began seeking a way around them. He found it in the realm of deception and began planning Operation Bolo. On January 2nd, 1967, he led the Wolfpack into an aerial ambush of MiG-21s expecting to jump a formation of F-105s. Instead of bomb laden "Thuds" the Vietnamese found a passel of hungry Phantoms.
Bolo's seven credited kills exceeded the 8th's tally during all the previous CO's tenure. Robin got one himself, becoming the only pilot to score in WW II and Vietnam. Over the next year he added three more.

Upon return to the U.S., Robin was acclaimed as America's top gun of the war to date, a record he retained for the next five years. But he was contemptuous of the Air Force's attitude toward air combat, exclaiming, "The best flying job in the world is a MiG-21 pilot at Phuc Yen. Hell, if I was one of them I'd have got 50 of us !"

Despite his MiG-killing fame, Robin was perhaps proudest of the strike against North Vietnam's best-defended target: Thai Nguyen steel mill. In an ultra low-level attack, leaving rooster tails on the paddies behind them, Olds and two wingmen put their bombs on target. He considered it a dangerously wasteful effort, as the mill had been hit repeatedly, but its smoke stacks had remained standing. What he valued most was the courage and skill of his aircrews.

After Vietnam, having promoted Robin to Brigadier General, the Air Force sought a safe place to stash him. For reasons both ironic and obscure, he was assigned as commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy, where his brand of irreverent individualism could infect hundreds of future officers.

Robin's influence on the cadets was profound. One who became a FAC and author was Darrel Whitcomb, who recalls, "In the fall of 1968, I was a first class cadet at the Academy when he was our commandant. Every Friday evening he would have the first classmen from a different squadron to his house for dinner. I was in Seventh Squadron. The evening of our visit, I was late to arrive because. I had my very first solo. I walked in as he was telling a war story. Seeing me in my flight suit, he asked if I had just had a flight. Needless to say, I had to share my big event.

He listened and then said, ' This deserves something special.' He left the room and came back about five minutes later with one of his flying scarves. It reeked of whiskey and cigars. He put it around my neck and said, ' Well, now we have another new Wolf cub.'

"I was absolutely blown away by his act and felt at that moment, that if he had asked, I would have flown that T-41 to Hanoi for him."

After Colorado Springs, Robin was packed off as Director of Aerospace Safety to finish his career but got an unexpected reprieve. When the Vietnam war heated up again in 1972, his four MiGs remained the U.S. record.

Offering to take a reduction to Colonel for a chance at the fifth MiG, Robin instead was dispatched to learn why the Navy was running up a 12-1 kill ratio while the Air Force struggled to maintain parity. He found what he feared : most Air Force fighter crews "couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag." Commander John Nichols, a Navy MiG killer brought to Udorn, Thailand to teach dog fighting to the Air Force blue suits, saw Robin taxi his F-4 into the chocks after a practice mission. "The canopy came open, followed by General Olds' helmet in a high, lofting arc. He was not happy."

Robin retired in June 1973. With 17 career victories ( thirteen in WW II plus four in Vietnam ) when he died this year, he was America's third-ranking living ace. The top        three now are Walker "Bud" Mahurin ( 24.25 ), Alexander Vraciu ( 19 ) and Clarence
"Bud" Anderson ( 16.25. )

In retrospect, I'll never forget the first time I met Robin in the late '70s. He wore a Nehru jacket with what resembled a peace symbol pendant. Looking closer, I saw that it was a stylized rendition of "the track of the Great American Chicken" that actually said "War."

Robin cultivated image of the warmongering fighter jock, but just beneath the barbarian façade lurked a powerful intellect. In unguarded moments he allowed the esthete to pop up  for a quick look-see, before pulling the manhole cover back over his head.
On one occasion we were discussing history and Robin smiled. "In 416 BC, Hannibal conducted the first recorded battle of encirclement." He looked at me from slitted eyes.
"You know, someday I'd love to tell old Hannibal how Cannae became the basis for  Operation Bolo."

That was what detectives call . . A Clue. Robin Olds, who some regarded as an alcohol-fueled throttle jockey, had the gray matter to reach back 2,383 years and apply the lesson of antiquity to the jet age.

But there was more.

Far too many military personnel, policemen, and politicians mouth their oath of office as a rote exercise. Not Robin Olds. He thought about the words, absorbed, them, and passed them along. In addressing newly commissioned officers he said, "The airman swears that he will obey the orders of the officers appointed  over him. Do you realize what responsibilities that puts on your shoulders ? Your orders have to be legal   and proper. Think about it, before you give one. But think about how to protect and defend the Constitution. Because do you know what that is ?  That is by, for, and of The People. It is not the President; it is not the Speaker of the House; nor the Leader of  the Senate. It is the People of the United States; who, hope-fully in their wisdom will guide their forces properly."

Robin had been writing a memoir for several years. Says F-4 pilot and novelist Mark Berent, "It was well written, as you'd expect from Robin, but it wasn't really about him. It was more about people he knew."

Another Air Force officer who read part of the text said that it began as an ethereal discussion with the ghost of Robin's father. Robert Olds had asked his son the status of the U.S. Air Force and got a detailed debriefing on what's wrong with the service. It was a long list.

When he died on June 14, not quite 85, Robin left the work incomplete. The fact that his book remains unfinished represents a major loss to aviation literature. However, I bet that by now Robin has cornered Hannibal in some corner of Valhalla and thanked him for the example of Cannae.