"I have seen flak at high altitude and low level over Berlin, the Ruhr... I have seen it darken the sky... I have seen tracers like your're waving a hose... but I have never seen the absolute sheets of fire that erupted in the skies of Thai Nguyen". -Robin Olds
Wearing a handlebar mustache throughout most of his Vietnam tour, exuding an image of ruggedness and bravado, Robin Olds was undoubtedly the best-loved and most successful fighter wing commander of the Vietnam War. Despite the severe restrictions placed on aerial fighting in 1967, Col. Olds used his experience of thirteen air-to-air victories in World War II, and in some cases bent more than a few rules, to blast four MiGs from the sky during the time he commanded the 8th TFW, known as the "Wolfpack".
Ironically, it was on a grand attack mission to the Thai Hguyen steel mills that Robin Olds' mettle was put to the most severe test of the war. With only one approach to the target possible, the North Vietnamese set up a gauntlet of 85mm, 57mm, 37mm, 23mm, and countless other automatic anti-aircraft guns. Any attacking aircraft had to fly down the gauntlet at low-level, during daylight, for over 20 miles.
Extremely bad weather approaching Thai Nguyen on mission day and combat tactics required that only three aircraft go in. Even with an entire wing of pilots to choose from, Robin Olds decided to lead the attack.
Artist Matthew Waki states: "As wing commander it was possible for Robin not to fly on this particular mission. But his way was to lead by example. I can think of no other mission that better represents Robin Olds' leadership, courage, and character. My painting shows Robin leading the pack, flying on a mission he didn't have to, confronting the most intense anti-aircraft fire of his two-war career. His F-4C Phantom II has just received a hit in the right wing fuel tank as his flight makes a turn on final approach to the target. Despite an inbound speed of 500 knots all three aircraft were hit. Incredibly, all three F-4s bombed the target and made it home".