Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Tackling Robin Olds

Re: "Fighter Pilot, The Memoirs of Legendary Fighter Pilot Robin Olds," Robin Olds with Christina Olds and Ed Rasimus, St. Martins Press, New York, 2010, Page 258

Alas, true confessions…‘twas I who did the dastardly deed!

Lee Workman and I were roommates at Ubon, Thailand in 1966, flying F-4C Night Owl missions over North Vietnam with the 497th TFS. We’d been there 3 months and felt like “old heads.” Because we flew nights, we’d finish up around 5 am and then go to the club for “supper” and a few beers at the bar, usually feeling no pain when the day-time jocks were showing up for breakfast.

One fateful sunny September morning, Lee and I were feeling good (after more than a few beers) and heading out of the club for our “hootch” when we saw this tall guy in a flight suit coming into the club. Mind you, we all had sanitized flight suits with no rank, but immediately we knew he was a new guy because he didn’t have any 8th TFW patches. Worse yet, he had a 101 “Voodoo” patch on his shoulder so we naturally assumed him to be a “Recce Puke” and, to top it all off, he had a knife pocket on the inside leg of his flight suit which was strictly verboten. (Ubon had started the tradition of no knife pockets on our flight suits because “fighter pilots” had their knife pockets on their G-suits! Only trash haulers and bomber pukes wore them on their flight suits because they don’t pull any “G’s.” If you came into the club with a knife pocket on your flight suit, combat rules demanded that it be ripped off immediately by whoever saw it first.)

So true to form, Lee and I immediately grabbed this guy, tackled him to the ground and after a pretty good wrestling match, succeeded to rip off both the 101 patch and the knife pocket. Only problem was, the guy’s flight suit was in that perfect, soft, and delicate condition that those old cotton flight suits would get after a year’s worth of washing. Lee came up with the knife pocket and half the flight suit leg, and I came up with the 101 patch and the entire flight suit arm. The “new guy” got up, stood there in his underwear looking rather dumbfounded, and said with a grin, “I’ll get you S.O.B’s.”

I don’t remember having a beer afterwards as it’s told in the book – but it may well have happened! All I remember is Lee and I leaving the club to hit the sack and the “new guy” going to get another flight suit. It wasn’t until the mass intel brief that evening that Lee and I discovered who the “new guy” was. Like a scene from "Twelve O’clock High," the entire auditorium was called to attention as Olds entered (in a new flight suit) and the briefing officer announced, “Gentlemen, meet Colonel Robin Olds, our new Wing Commander!” As Lee and I squirmed in our seats, Olds introduced himself and gave us the famous challenge that he would learn from us for 30 days and then he would show us how to do it better. The rest of the book about Ubon is spot-on how Olds truly turned the 8th TFW around from one of the worst wings to the best wing in SEA. He was everything that was ever said about him and one of the great American aviators of all time. I consider it a great honor and privilege to have known him and flown with him.

All the time at Ubon, Olds never said another word to either Lee or me about the flight suit “incident.” But twenty years later in 1986, I was a Colonel at Ramstein when Olds came through on a memory lane tour. We had an impromptu 8th TFW reunion at the club and he immediately came up to me and said, “Mineau, you still owe me a flight suit!” What a guy!

Kris Mineau USAFA ‘64 North Reading, MA 22 August 2010

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