The Ballad Of Robin Olds
This giant of a man dominates the wing briefing room inside the command post at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base. Handlebar moustache extending well beyond the limits specified by the grooming regulations. Flight suit zippers open from boot laces upward. I don't remember the shoe shine, but Robin's boots would probably have taken a poor second to any random lieutenant's.
Grungy coffee mug latched in the iron grip of a huge right hand. Scarf protruding unceremoniously from the flight suit collar. Receding hairline—this jock's been around for awhile. Cold, steely eyes boring holes into the cheek bones of a fearful, though belligerent audience of brand-new Wolfpack fighter pilots.
"There's not a target up there worth your ass and that beautiful airplane."
Real attention-getter. We had come here to die for the Red, White and Blue; and we knew already that the F-4 was anything but beautiful. This guy shot down 13 German aircraft flying ships that were real airplanes. Must have been awhile since he's had his hands on a fighter.
But nobody says a word. This is the boss. If he says the Phantom is beautiful, it's beautiful.
Robin was a typical fighter pilot. Dubya Dubya Twice fighter ace, he missed Korea because Air Force had him waltzing a squadron of F-86As all over the lower 48. Despite his best efforts at volunteering for combat, he wound up doing double duty at Greater Pittsburgh Airport commanding both the base and a fighter squadron. He spent the duration of the 'police action' in Pittsburgh. That oughtta piss anybody off.
When Vietnam came along somebody fucked up and sent him to Thailand to help kick some North Vietnamese ass. Finding the tactics in need of much repair, he convinced Seventh Air Force to try something new. As a result, the Alpha Day Strike Force was born.
. . .And Robin went MiG hunting. He killed four of the sunzabitches, and maybe more, but four is all he gets credit for.
The man was a genius. Golden hands. He could fly anything with wings and engine right up its own asshole. Eyeballs in a class with Hoot Gibson. He could see a MiG BVR (beyond visual range) to the average jock.
. . . Is there an average jock?
Operation Bolo happened six months before I got there; I read about it in the papers. It was a small, cheap trick of the stature of Huckleberry Finn, but it worked. Nguyen took it—hook, line, and sinker, then paid for it with seven of his airframes.
Robin led the Wolfpack north masquerading as Thuds (F-105 Thunderchief; more Thud stuff later.) Nguyen launched with glee and fangs at max extend to get the surprise of his life. That night the Ubon O'Club ran out of booze, glasses and mirrors.