Subscribe
Retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds speaks to Wolf Pack airmen last week about his experiences as the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander during Vietnam. Gen. Olds spoke for about an hour and shared many stories from his career and some thoughts about today's Air Force and Wolf Pack.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds speaks to Wolf Pack airmen last week about his experiences as the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander during Vietnam. Gen. Olds spoke for about an hour and shared many stories from his career and some thoughts about today's Air Force and Wolf Pack. (Courtesy of Senior Airman David Miller)

Retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds speaks to Wolf Pack airmen last week about his experiences as the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander during Vietnam. Gen. Olds spoke for about an hour and shared many stories from his career and some thoughts about today's Air Force and Wolf Pack.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds speaks to Wolf Pack airmen last week about his experiences as the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander during Vietnam. Gen. Olds spoke for about an hour and shared many stories from his career and some thoughts about today's Air Force and Wolf Pack. (Courtesy of Senior Airman David Miller)

Lt. Col. Rob Givens, the 35th Fighter Squadron commander, presents gifts to Gen. Robin Olds last week during his visit to South Korea.

Lt. Col. Rob Givens, the 35th Fighter Squadron commander, presents gifts to Gen. Robin Olds last week during his visit to South Korea. (Courtesy of Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Erickson)

Wolf Pack pilots of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry Col. Robin Olds, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, away from his F-4 Phantom on Sept. 23, 1967, as he returned from his 100th combat mission over North Vietnam. The four-time MiG killer, often termed "the hottest pilot in Southeast Asia," found a vast, emotion-filled crowd gathered to bid their chief farewell. The veteran pilot led the Wolf Pack to 24 MiG victories in one year, the greatest aerial-combat record for an F-4 wing in the Vietnam conflict.

Wolf Pack pilots of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry Col. Robin Olds, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, away from his F-4 Phantom on Sept. 23, 1967, as he returned from his 100th combat mission over North Vietnam. The four-time MiG killer, often termed "the hottest pilot in Southeast Asia," found a vast, emotion-filled crowd gathered to bid their chief farewell. The veteran pilot led the Wolf Pack to 24 MiG victories in one year, the greatest aerial-combat record for an F-4 wing in the Vietnam conflict. (Courtesy of USAF)

Preparing to nail the 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd red star to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing MiG-kill scoreboard is Col. Robin Olds, wing commander and the first quadruple MiG killer of the Vietnam War. Other victors in the May 20, 1967, encounter with MiG-17s, 40 miles northeast of Hanoi, are (left to right) Maj. Phillip Combies, 1st Lt. Stephen Crocker and 1st Lt. Stephen Wayne (front center).

Preparing to nail the 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd red star to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing MiG-kill scoreboard is Col. Robin Olds, wing commander and the first quadruple MiG killer of the Vietnam War. Other victors in the May 20, 1967, encounter with MiG-17s, 40 miles northeast of Hanoi, are (left to right) Maj. Phillip Combies, 1st Lt. Stephen Crocker and 1st Lt. Stephen Wayne (front center). (Courtesy of USAF)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — An American fighter ace who downed 17 enemy planes in two wars was in Korea last week to spend time with the Air Force fighter wing he once commanded.

Robin Olds, a retired brigadier general, now 81, came to Kunsan Air Base for a three-day visit with the 8th Fighter Wing, which regards him as a “living legend.” He talked to airmen, fielded questions, dined and played golf.

During World War II, Olds shot down 13 German planes and destroyed another 11 on the ground. In Vietnam, he shot down four communist North Vietnamese MiG jet fighters.

The wing, known as the “Wolf Pack,” traces its nickname to Olds and the Vietnam War.

“We invited Gen. Olds here so our young warriors could be inspired by a living legend,” Col. Robin Rand, the 8th’s commander, said in an Air Force news release.

Though now designated the 8th Fighter Wing, the unit was called the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing when Olds, then a colonel, served as commander from September 1966 to September 1967 at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. That’s when he masterminded Operation Bolo, a fighter sweep that lured communist North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter jets into a trap: 8th TFW F-4 Phantom jets jumped them and downed seven MiGs with no U.S. losses.

Olds recognized that U.S. Air Force F-105 Thunderchiefs routinely used the same call signs, routes and altitudes in flights over North Vietnam, and that the North Vietnamese deemed the F-105s more vulnerable than the F-4s. So he conceived a ruse: He’d lead a big formation of F-4s over the North, but they’d use the same call signs and flight paths of the F-105s, hoping the MiGs would attack what they thought to be Thunderchiefs.

On January 2, 1967, the Phantoms took off. The MiGs showed up, the Phantoms pounced and shot seven MiGs out of the skies.

After Bolo, Olds was called to Saigon, where he fielded reporters’ questions about the successful mission.

“They asked me to describe it, and I don’t remember the exact words,” Olds said in a telephone interview Friday. “But I remember saying something like … ‘We lured them up, they took the bait, we fought, and they lost.’”

In the final briefing before the mission, Olds recalled saying, “OK, you Wolf Pack, let’s go!” It was a “whoop-and-a-holler, and away we went. And to this day, the 8th Fighter Wing uses the name, ‘Wolf Pack.’”

Olds took the name from the World War II-era 56th Fighter Group, a unit that boasted many fighter aces. “So 22 years later … I ‘purloined’ the term,” he said.

Olds returned to the United States in December 1967 and became commandant of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.. He held that post until January 1971 and retired from the Air Force in 1973.

Capt. Chris Penningroth, an F-16 fighter pilot with Kunsan’s 35th Fighter Squadron, got to hear the 6-foot-2-inch Olds speak to wing members Thursday.

“He’s a physically big man,” said Penningroth. “Listening to him talk, you get a strong sense of his integrity. So from a moral standpoint, I’d say, strength. He’s an American, almost stereotypical fighter pilot, as it were, warrior.”

Airman 1st Class Oscar Alicea, a personnel clerk with the 8th Mission Support Squadron, was also impressed.

“I think he’s a hero,” he said. “He’s an ace fighter pilot … we’re all very proud here of the Wolf Pack, and its been an honor really to have him here.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up