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Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds by Robin Olds with Christina Olds and Ed Rasimus, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2010, $26.99.

 Veteran fighter pilots and members attending annual gatherings of the American Fighter Aces Association were sometimes privileged—especially if he’d already had a few— to hear retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds spin one yarn or another about a clash with German Messerschmitt Me-109s, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17s or some pencil-pushing representative of the U.S. Air Force establishment. Olds passed on to the ultimate reunion on June 14, 2007, leaving behind one of those autobiographies that one was always going to get around to organizing, but never quite did. Fortunately for posterity, Olds’ daughter Christina and longtime friend and former Vietnam War fighter pilot Ed Rasimus completed the job and also saw to it that the result conformed as closely as possible to the general’s admonition that “Nobody’s going to put words in my mouth, either.”

Fighter Pilot would make a great movie script, even if Hollywood took no artistic liberties with it at all. One of West Point’s All-American football stars in 1942, a 13-victory ace by 1945, a wingman in the Air Force’s first aerobatic team in 1947 and among the finest wing leaders of the Vietnam War, Olds re – counts his exploits with conviction and service professionalism combined with humor— and also the fundamental love of flying that distinguished him as a fighter pilot who knew damn well, through all the highs and lows he experienced, that he wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Those fortunate enough to have met Olds will likely recognize his narrative voice, and should express kudos to Ed and Christina for a job well done in providing future generations with the closest literary equivalent to listening in on an Olds “bull session.” As such, Fighter Pilot may well take its place among military aviation’s classics.


Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here