By Submitted by Tom Hardy , Special to Silver Wings
/ Published July 12, 2007
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Yes, indeed. Colonel JB Stone played a significant role at Brig. Gen. Robin Olds' memorial service. He delivered one of the eulogies at the U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel. He told of the first time he meet Col. Olds, who as the new Wing Commander of the 8th Fighter Wing, called a meeting of all the pilots. At the time Col. Stone had about 60 or 70 missions north, had an engine shot out from under him and several bullet holes here and there on some pretty hairy missions.
General Olds told the pilots, "I'm your new boss. I'll be flying your wing for a couple of weeks and at the end of that time, I'll be better than any of you." Col. Stone muttered under his breath, "We'll see." It came out a little louder than Col. Stone intended. The general heard it and immediately fixed Col. Stone with those steely eyes, and repeated his statement forcefully again. And Col. Stone said General Olds did exactly as he had said. He was a warrior who would fearlessly go where others feared to tread. And Col. Stone was later picked to help General Olds plan and execute Operation Bolo, wherein F-4s masqueraded as bomb laden, F-105s to lure MiGs to come up and attack them. Seven MiGs went down in flames. The Military Channel has run the episode several times titled as "Ambush" in the Dogfight series.
General Olds' oldest daughter, Susan, lead off the remembrances with stories of being a teenager living at the Academy while General Olds was Commandant of Cadets for three years. Robin taught her to drive on the Academy grounds and ride horses at the equestrian center. It was okay to date more than one cadet at a time because no one would dare do anything untoward with the Commandant's daughter.
General Ralph Eberhart was a senior Cadet Wing Commander when Robin took over. He told of the famous incident of Robin's first meeting with the Cadet Corps. General Olds had been directed to lose the handlebar mustache, his trademark as leader of the "Wolfpack." On a given signal at the end of General Olds' speech, 4,000 cadets whipped out and donned black-paper handlebar mustaches and began stomping and shouting, "Olds, Olds, Olds." Robin rose to his full height, jaws clenched eyes blazing, then extended his long middle finger and flipped them all a big sweeping bird, with a huge grin on his face.
Brigadier Gen. Bob "Earthquake" Titus spoke of how Robin transformed the 8th Fighter Wing into the 'Wolfpack". "Go get 'em, men.", from the leadership was replaced by "Follow Me." Deadwood was sent home and tactics changed. Base services were available 24/7 to the men he was sending into combat. No more shutting off the hot water at midnight or closing the bar.
He told of a pilot, I believe named Conway, who while gleefully celebrating a successful mission proceed to rearrange or destroy some of the O'Club furnishings. He was ordered to report to Col. Olds office at 8 a.m. He was there promptly. The colonel was dreading the chewing out he was going to have to administer for something he himself had been guilty of many times. He braced himself, put on his sternest visage and entered his office at 8:15 a.m. to find Conway standing at attention. Conway saluted smartly and said, "Sir, you're late." That cracked the colonel up. The damage to the Club got paid somehow and another tale was added to the lore of Robin Olds.
Marine Capt. Jack McEncroe told of his close friendship with Robin living near in Steamboat Springs. Thirty years of watching Robin's God-Awful backswing on the golf course, 30 years of skiing through the trees in fresh powder up to their knees, 30 years of listening to Robin telling the Cross-Eyed Bull story.
Verne Lundquist, Hall of Fame Sportscaster, tried to demonstrate Robin's backswing, which featured a couple of contorted pauses on the way up then a mighty downswing. On one occasion the ball carried to the green, bounced a couple of times and went into the cup. "You just got a hole in one! It went into the cup," shouted Verne. "Well, that's the point isn't it," said General Olds. When General Olds was selected for induction into the College football Hall of Fame as an All American on offense and defense at West Point, he asked Verne, "Is this a big deal? Do I have to go?" Verne affirmed his importance of his attendance and the general went and made a gracious acceptance speech. On another occasion he and General Olds were being harassed by some obnoxious guy who wanted to pick a fight with the general. General Olds stood up, squared his shoulders and said, "I've killed more people than you will ever know, for less reason than you are giving me right now! Now sit down and shut up!"
Verne told of another experience with Robin. They were touring Germany and stopped at a tavern where there were some pictures of Luftwaffe aircraft on the wall. When they asked the proprietor about them he said he had been a pilot, but had been shot down. He and Robin started comparing notes on location, time of day cloud formation, and tactics, and after several drinks they were convinced that indeed, it was Robin who had shot him down. A few months later, Verne and Robin were watching some of Robins gun camera film being shown on TV and Robin suddenly exclaimed, "That's the guy!" As Verne said, "If it's not true, it should be."
Christina Olds and her daughter, Jennifer Newman, wrapped up the remembrances. Christina remembered her Dad dropping her off at the Arnold Hall recreation center for a date with some cadet. "Dad said he'd be back at 10 p.m. to pick me up," she said. She called him about 8 p.m. and asked him to come pick her up, the Cadet didn't show because of some infraction. Christina figured the cadet ended up in bombers and certainly not in fighters.
When General Olds' health started failing last February, Christina quit her job and moved to Steamboat to take care of her dad. She took him on long drives through the mountains with a picnic lunch to share at some scenic spot.
Jennifer told of her grandfather helping her set out a bowl of salad on the snow covered porch to feed Santa's reindeer. Sure enough, the next morning the salad was gone and reindeer tracks were in the snow all over the porch. A long time later, she came across some wooden reindeer feet that Robin had carved to make those tracks.
Christina said that it was only in his last week or so that General Olds' started to get really tired. He still would tell those who called that he was just fine, just getting old. She was with him when he drifted off to sleep peacefully and after a few minutes, drew his last breath.
Christina orchestrated every detail of the funeral service, the flyby, the graveside service, of course with help from General Olds' friends and splendid cooperation and coordination from the Academy Staff and the hotel where the reception and following Fighter Pilot Wake was held.
The flyby consisted of aircraft in trail at 30 second intervals. First a T-33, second another T-33, third a P-51 Mustang, fourth a MiG 17, fifth a flight of four F-16s from the Colorado Air National Guard and sixth a flight of four F-4's.
The F-4's, one from Tyndall AFB, Fla., and three from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, are actually drones to be used in weapons testing. But for this occasion, they were flown by pilots and led by Lt. Col. Anthony "ET" Murphy of Tyndall. Col. Murphy is also a member of our "Aspenosium" group of active duty and retired fighter pilots who get together for skiing, partying and presentations by those involved in fighter development, weapons and tactics. "General Olds was our leader and will be sorely missed," said Colonel Murphy
The Missing Man formation was slightly modified for this special event. As they approached the cemetery in wingtip formation, Colonel Murphy flying lead as Wolf One, as General Olds was known, initiated a sharp pull-up at just the right spot so that he was going straight up out of sight, directly over the gravesite. It was spectacular and the most well executed maneuver of that type I have ever seen.
One final note reinforces the fact that Christina is without a doubt her father's daughter. It involved the presentation of the flag to Robin's survivors: Susan, Christina and Jennifer. The first flag was presented to Susan, the eldest, the second to Jennifer, the youngest and the third was destined for Christina, but she had directed the presiding four star General to present it to Col. J.B. Stone, General Olds' comrade-in-arms.
This unselfish and completely unexpected act deeply touched Col. Stone and all who understood the bond between these two men. It is the kind of thing General Olds would have done. Christina did her father proud.