Daughter of legendary fighter pilot visits Air Force museum

  • Published
  • By Rob Bardua
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Telling her father's story has become the top mission for Christina Olds.
Ms. Olds, the daughter of the late triple ace and Air Force Cross recipient Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force July 14 to see her father's F-4C Phantom, which is on display in the museum's Modern Flight Gallery, before attending a book signing appearance in Dayton.

"I love this place," she said. "The first time that I saw my father's F-4 was in 2001 before he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and that was very emotional and impressive, but what has happened to me since then makes it much more meaningful."

And much has happened since 2001. During World War II, her father quickly became a double ace credited with 12 aerial victories and a squadron commander at the age of 22. During the Southeast Asia war, he commanded the famous 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and became the first Air Force pilot to score four combat victories with F-4s in Southeast Asia.

In 2007, Gen. Olds passed away before he was able to write his memoirs.

"When I was living with him in his last six months, he talked about how sad he was that he hadn't finished his memoirs and I said, 'Don't worry, daddy, I'll finish them for you,'" Ms. Olds said. "And he said, 'Alright young lady, then that's an order!'"

She always had an inkling that she would end up writing her father's story. What he did write was in bits and pieces and not in chronological order. Then, in 1995, he stopped writing altogether because he just did not want to sit in front of a computer.

"He wanted to be out living life and traveling around, visiting pilots, going to reunions and giving speeches, which he did all over the world," she said.

Last April, her hard work paid off and a book titled Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds by Christina Olds and Ed Rasimus.

According to Ms. Olds, writing the book has helped to increase her understanding of who her father was and the significance of his many accomplishments.

"(My appreciation) is completely deeper now," she said. "I was proud of him before but now knowing what he did and how it affected all of the pilots he flew with, what he meant to people and understanding what he did in Vietnam is just so overwhelming for me."

Looking to better tell the story of all those who fought in Vietnam, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force officials plan to renovate the Southeast Asia Gallery, which will include a new Robin Olds exhibit in the spring of 2011, said museum research historian Jeff Duford. Items on display will include a flying helmet, flying suit, parachute harness and aircrew survival knife used by General Olds.

General Olds' personal story, including his considerable leadership role commanding the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing; his part in forming a prominent veterans group known as the River Rats; and what many consider one of his greatest achievements, "Operation Bolo," will be featured in the new Southeast Asia Gallery.

Operation Bolo was a successful operation that used deception to lure the enemy into a trap that saw half of their MiG-21 force shot down with no Air Force losses.

"Operation Bolo was so clever that it has become an essential strategy and tactics lesson that is required study for military personnel to this day," said mr. Duford.

But for now, Ms. Olds is taking one more look at the aircraft her father flew, and the memories start to sharpen back into focus.

"I can still visualize him standing in front of the F-4 like he did when we were here before," she said. "He's not with us now, but he's still here and that to me is just phenomenal."