WWII fighter ace and ‘Wolf Pack’ founder Robin Olds dead at 84

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.



PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, the go-get-’em fighter ace and venerated founder of the “Wolf Pack” fighter wing died June 14 of congestive heart failure, the Air Force said Monday.

He was 84 and had been regarded by many in the Air Force as a living legend.

During World War II, Olds shot down 12 German planes and was credited with crippling another 11½ on the ground. In Vietnam he shot down four North Vietnamese MiG fighters.

After leaving Vietnam in December 1967, Olds served as commandant of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy through 1971 and retired in 1973 as a brigadier general.

He is perhaps best known for his Vietnam War service as the first commander of what was then the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand — now the 8th Fighter Wing based at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

“He was our founder,” wing spokeswoman Capt. Tiffany G. Payette said Monday.

A commemorative tribute to include a four-jet “missing man” flyover and the sounding of Retreat was scheduled for Tuesday at Kunsan, Payette said.

Olds maintained close ties to the wing through the years. In 2003, at age 81, Olds made a three-day visit to South Korea.

“We invited Gen. Olds here so our young warriors could be inspired by a living legend,” then-8th Wing commander Col. Robin Rand said at the time.

Olds flew the P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang fighters during World War II, and was credited with 107 combat missions, according to his official Air Force biography.

During the Vietnam War he flew the F-4 Phantom II and completed 152 combat missions, 105 of those over North Vietnam.

Olds, who died at his Steamboat Springs, Colo., home, is survived by two daughters, Christina Olds of Vail, Colo., and Susan Scott-Risner of North Bend, Wash.; one granddaughter, Jennifer Newman of Santa Monica, Calif., and a half-brother, Fred Olds of Virginia.

Olds used ruse to lure enemy planes in ’67 operation

The 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base traces its nickname back to the Vietnam War and its first commander — Col. Robin Olds.

Olds commanded what was then the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Base in Thailand.

While commanding the 8th TFW from September 1966 to September 1967, Olds led it to 24 victories over MiGs, the greatest aerial-combat record for an F-4 Phantom fighter wing in the Vietnam conflict, according to the Air Force.

During his command, Olds masterminded one fighter sweep — Operation Bolo — that helped lure North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighters into a trap.

Olds knew that U.S. Air Force F-105 Thunderchief aircraft stuck routinely to the same call signs, routes and altitudes in flights over North Vietnam.

Knowing that the North Vietnamese deemed the F-105s more vulnerable than the F-4 Phantom jets, he conceived a plan that would capitalize on the enemy’s views by leading a large formation of F-4s while using F-105 call signs and flight paths.

The Phantoms took off on Jan. 2, 1967, and the MiGs took the bait.

Olds’ Phantoms pounced, shooting down seven MiGs.

Olds recounted the operation in a 2003 telephone interview with Stars and Stripes.

In the final briefing before the mission, he told airmen “OK, you Wolf Pack, let’s go!”

It was a name, he said, that he “purloined” from the World War II-era 56th Fighter Group, a unit that boasted many aces.

The name stuck and the 8th Fighter Wing still calls itself the “Wolf Pack.”

— Franklin Fisher