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Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,121 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews

Robin Oldswas many things to many people. To his West Point football coach he was an All American destined for the National College Football Hall of Fame. To his P-38 and P-51 wartime squadrons in WWII he was the aggressive fighter pilot who made double ace and became their commander in nine short months. For the pioneers of the jet age, he was the wingman on the first j

Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published April 1st 2010)
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Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds is a fantastic read, a 5 Star permanent shelf addition that is very easy to follow and doesn’t get bogged down anywhere. Robin Olds was a true warrior, a very young fighter squadron commander in WWII (and a multiple ace) and a Wing Commander in Vietnam during the hottest part of the airwar, where he could have been an ace all over again-you need to read the book to find out why he didn’t get his fifth kill. This book is an excellent explanat ...more
Mark Mortensen
Jun 17, 2014 Mark Mortensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam, wwii, memoir
Robin Olds graduated from West Point Military Academy and among his many credentials he later served as commandant of the Air Force Academy. The top notch fighter pilot with strong leadership skills remained on cutting edge from WWII to Vietnam as a “triple ace”.

The man with convictions was not a “yes” man and true to his character he spoke out against the rules of engagement in Vietnam. Brig. General Olds’s assessments were spot on and his grit in later years elevated my status of the man to a
William Young
Sep 12, 2011 William Young rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. You want to read a story about a life lived large? You want to read this.

Robin Olds lived the life I would have liked to live when I was a kid, before I realized there would be no more aerial dogfights between rival fighter pilots. It's all missiles over-the-horizon, now. Oh, sure, it'd still be hella fun to fly a modern jet fighter, but the glory days of the business are in the history pages. Which is where we now find Robin Olds, having died a couple of years back.

His memoir has it all, a
Dec 01, 2013 Chrissy rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! This book covers the span of Robin Olds military career starting from his time at West Point through his WWII and Vietnam fighter pilot days to his time as commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy and eventual retirement and everything in between. The retelling of specific aerial battles isn't always top-notch, but the true essence of this book shines in regards to giving an insiders' view into fighter pilot culture and mentality. His love for flying is readily apparent, and you ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Vijai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never been left so humbled as reading this book did. I am afraid anyone can even dare say differently for this was a man who dedicated his life to the love of flying with a knife sharp focus.

Also, amongst the many lessons I learnt reading this book, one will remain etched in my mind forever - if you believe you deserve better, go after it. Mr. Olds in this memoir recounts so many events where he has grabbed success from the yawning mouth of despair and defeat because he knew he was the b
Frank Theising
As a member of the U.S. Air Force assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing it seemed only fitting that I read the memoirs of the man who led the unit to fame in Vietnam and who coined the unit nickname “Wolfpack.” I have mixed feelings about this book. Robin Olds was unquestionably a great pilot who led from the front and inspired his men during our nation’s most frustrating and challenging war. His no-nonsense attitude, initiative, and commitment to being the very best at his craft are traits I highly ...more
When I first opened the book I felt I was going to get a bare bones honest look into Robin Olds life based on interviews I had seen of him. Fighter Pilot doesn't disappoint on this level in fact it exceeded my expectations. Usually a memoir like this will try to hide warts that the author doesn't want to the reader to see. I'm sure there are a few things that Olds didn't want to expose but he exposed more than I expected him to expose which made this book candid and refreshing.

After reading the
Chris Broyhill
Dec 27, 2011 Chris Broyhill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have an entire collection of biographies and memoirs so I am no stranger to the genre. But it is rare, extremely rare, for me to be moved by one of these works. Inspired often, motivated sometimes, but rarely moved. Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Fighter Ace Robin Olds is a story that moved me. I finished the book in the wee hours last night and I felt like I couldn’t get to my computer fast enough today to write about it.

Before I go further though, I need to admit a certain bias – fo
Not quite a year ago, I bought this book and yesterday, I finished reading it.

I first learned of General Olds through the Edward Sims book, "FIGHTER ACE", in the late 1970s, which mentioned only his Vietnam War service. But this autobiography gave me a fuller picture not only of the dedicated pilot/warrior and fighter ace (inclusive also of his Second World War service), but also of Robin Olds the man, warts and all.

Here was a man who was dedicated to his family, his country, and the men that
May 25, 2012 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was in Thailand at Udorn shortly after Col. Olds' tour ended at Ubon. Even a couple of years after and at a different installation, his reputation and zeal as a "balls out" fighter pilot and leader were the standard against which everyone else was measured, both individuals and units.

For those reasons and my own life-long passion for all things that fly and the Air Force, I have been waiting to read his biography. While it is a good read and there are many details and stories that will be of i
Francis Gahren
Apr 18, 2013 Francis Gahren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, leadership
My Take

An excellent book about a unique man – one that many wanna-be fighter pilots look to emulate, but can’t hold a candle to the real deal. In my time in UPT and in the Air Force as a pilot, I saw many guys trying to be like Robin Olds, but they were all phonies. I have a feeling he would have rooted them out on the spot for faking it – I’m sure he could have sensed it.

Enjoyed the book – Olds was a true American patriot who led men in combat. Enjoyed reading about his dad (a WWI pursuit pilot
Sep 10, 2010 Colleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My dad is reading this right now and loving it... of course, he keeps reading so much aloud to me that I might not actually need to read it myself...

Okay - so I finally got to read the book and really liked it. I love flying, history, and people who tell it like it is. Robin Olds has so many great stories from WWII through Vietnam and beyond that I just devoured the book. Being an AF pilot (though not a fighter pilot - just married to one), it was even more fun since I am familiar with many of t
Michael Gibby
Jun 06, 2014 Michael Gibby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a dang good book. Be prepared for some cuss words, it is about a military fighter pilot after all. But, beautifully written and entertaining throughout.
Kyle Hajek
Apr 27, 2014 Kyle Hajek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first, I thought this book was a little self-aggrandizing. "I shot down 12 enemy planes in WWII! I went on a date with a movie star! I was the first person to shoot down a plane with a P-38 gone all dead-stick!".

Then I verified it, and holy crap, it was all true. Not only did he shoot down those 12 planes in WWII, he got 4 MiGs in Vietnam, where he absolutely did lead from the front, and everyone who served with him really DID regard him as one of the finest leaders in the entire airforce. Hi
Steve Lamb
Apr 12, 2014 Steve Lamb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Only the second book I've ever given 5 stars to. This is an amazing memoir. My father served under General Olds in Ubon, Thailand, and regaled me with stories of Generals James and Olds, who were very affectionately known as, "Blackman and Robin". My father ran the LOX plant there, and to hear the General mention "The guys in the LOX plant" literally brought tears to my eyes. If the General's daughter, who co-wrote this with her father ever reads this review, please allow me to thank you from th ...more
Mark Jespersen
Jan 19, 2012 Mark Jespersen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great memoir of an Ace fighter pilot during WWII and his stint in the Vietnam "conflict". Wow, very different strategies of airial battle and of airplanes. It was a an enjoyable story and great personal insight.
I'd give this book 3.5 stars if I could. It was hard for me to separate the quality of the book (4 stars) from the man so I decided 3 stars was as accurate as I could get. You can read any of the numerous glowing reviews in Goodreads to get feeling for Robin Olds' many positive qualities. Olds was a helluva fighter pilot; magnificently adept, intensely motivated, and damn lucky at times. In many ways, he led a charmed life that more closely resembled a movie or novel than anything a mere human c ...more
Matt Randall
Oct 26, 2015 Matt Randall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an amazing account of the air battles of WWII and the birth of the Air Force. Not only did he set the standard for the modern fighter pilot, but he also tried his best to morph the largely bureaucratic DOD to support what he thought was important. He was not perfect, but he was a man with integrity that I think all officers should try to emulate more.

After going through this book, I wonder how robin would feel if he saw the Air Force of today. I think I know, I bet he would wonder at the t
Greg Haas
Apr 18, 2015 Greg Haas rated it it was amazing
Fighter Pilot by Robin Olds One of the greatest fighter pilots of all time tells the story of what it was like to be a fighter pilot in WWII, including perspectives on how and why the percentage of planes and life loss was as about as great in training as in combat. While these facts take place in the European theater, not the Pacific theater, it none-the-less gives contrast and understanding of the relationship between the infantryman of “With The Old Breed” and the fighter pilots, as well as o ...more
Don Stanton
Aug 30, 2011 Don Stanton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would call this book a post mortem autobiography.
Written by a daughter that Idolized her father, most of the work taken from his documents, military records and personal papers.
I would have not given it this much praise had I not gone to the Wright Patterson Air Force museum. There inside the museum, more space was devoted to him than another single person (along with several of the planes he flew).
I found the book to be an honest portrayal of a flawed man do a few things astonishing well.
Nov 14, 2012 JC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book about an old school fighter pilot. He must have been a pretty fun guy to hang out with, at one point he inherited a monkey from a young pilot that was shot down and used to bring it to the bar while flying missions over North Vietnam from Thailand. "I'd put Stokley down on the bar and that damned monkey would make one pass down the length, knocking over every glass in his path. Sometimes he'd stop to jam nuts into his mouth or stick his fist way down in a glass and fling beer in all d ...more
Dustin Gaughran
Jun 08, 2011 Dustin Gaughran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've written a review on. I felt compelled. I fancy myself the fighter pilot that never was. I'm a pilot, but not the one I want to be, and reading this book was like reading into my imagination when I'm daydreaming. This guy, professionally, was almost everything I wanted to be. He even reminded me of myself. That's not to say I'm in any way comparable to him, because I'm not. But I understand the need to fly. Pilots only want to be pilots, and being a fighter pilot is ob ...more
Aug 05, 2010 jeand99 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love to fly. I love the sensation of high up in the sky, hands on the stick and be in control of the aircraft. Clouds up. Mixture of green and brown colours down. And in between? Empty sky!

For 1 year I joined a glider club. Just the kind of family, group, nerds I like to share my life with. Unfortunately I had to stop because it was too time consuming next to my kids and old house but ... one day I'll join them again.

I love reading about flying. Books. Magazines. Or whatever. When I was around
Ed Baldwin
Jun 27, 2013 Ed Baldwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every fighter pilot after Robin Olds is a wannabe. The game is changed. America only has a thousand fighters in operation, and the new ones cost $200 Million. They will fly themselves if the pilot asks them to. Olds came along when we lost more planes and pilots from mechanical failure, weather, or pilot error than combat.

Fighters are very hard to fly, and only a lucky SOB could have survived what Robin Olds survived. He bridged the gap from the World War II piston engine fighters through the j
Apr 03, 2012 Cmont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at a used book store right outside of campus and it was recommended by the owner of the shop because of my interest in aviation. This is one of a few books that I have read that I could not seem to put down. The book does an outstanding job of portraying the life, both good and bad, of arguably the best combat commander to serve in the United States Air Force. As a young man living in the shadow of his father who is a legend in his own time Robin is forced to prove himself as t ...more

Olds was the son of an Army Air Corps pilot, so he got to grow up around airplanes and meet people like the World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker. After graduating from West Point early in World War II, he went to flight training and was assigned to a fighter squadron in Britain. Flying first the 2 engine P-38 Lightning, and then the single engine P-51 Mustang, his squadron strafed ground targets and later defended bombers against German fighter planes. After the war and an unrewarding time as a v

Jay Jackson
Mar 24, 2013 Jay Jackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it.
Nov 21, 2014 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the recollection of one the most esteemed fighter pilots. His observations, thoughts, and stories makes for a very interesting read. He brings alive some of the most memorable battles of WWII and Vietnam from an aerial perspective. His reflections on leadership can be applied universally. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

The timeliness of reading this book is very appropriate. In the middle of drawing down from the nation's longest war, the downsizing of the milita
Sep 05, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I normally don't like reading military biographies, unless I can see that the authour has a skeptical eye, and presents all sides of the subject's personality. In this case, although I believe the authours have a bias, I can see that they did present many sides of the man.

I am struck by Robin Old's personality, in that he is very aware of those around him, remembering names and stories of support staff, including those that are native to the country he is operating in. He has a generosity of spi
Aug 06, 2015 Otavio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WW 2 Mustangs to Vietnam Era Phantoms: how a Fighter Fights

How a living, breathing human being becomes a legend: Olds parlays a WW 1 aviation heritage into a WW 2 Ace, and passes on all he knows to Vietnam Era lieutenants, who passed on that experience to Gulf War pilots. From the Sopwith Camels to the F-16 - Olds links the First Fighter planes to the best. There is an amazing amount of detail from dogfights to cat fights.
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“Fighter pilot is an attitude. It is cockiness. It is aggressiveness. It is self-confidence. It is a streak of rebelliousness, and it is competitiveness. But there's something else - there's a spark. There's a desire to be good. To do well; in the eyes of your peers, and in your own mind.” 4 likes
“Rather than flying willy-nilly into danger, we thought before we acted, acted quickly whenever we had to, yet still felt frustrated when the action passed us by and the older groups were given the more lucrative targets, or when operational reports told of aerial battles that we had missed.” 1 likes
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