“The most courageous leader I ever knew”: What were the qualities that caused a Vietnam War comrade of the late Brig Gen Robin Olds to say that of his former commander? The success of Operation ‘Bolo’, the momentous aerial engagement between US Air Force F-4 Phantom IIs led by Olds and North Vietnamese MiG-21s on the second day of 1967, provides ample evidence
The US Air Force suffered many problems during the Vietnam War. On top of technical issues, there was generally poor leadership at the wing and squadron level. A ‘Wing King’ — a commander — was not expected to fly missions as part of his command assignment, with the result that the men at the top were not personally aware of what crews faced on the front line. Many crews viewed the upper echelons with contempt, as they studiously avoided difficult missions, and were so rusty when they did fly a sortie that their lack of experience made flying with them, even on easy taskings, more difficult for experienced junior crews.