Ernest Arthur Olds

14 July 1934 – ????

oldsThen Maj. Ernest A. Olds and 1Lt. Albert E. Rodriguez comprised the crew of an F4D Phantom fighter/bomber sent on a mission over North Vietnam on March 11, 1968. Their mission area was near a railroad which runs parallel to the Nguon Nay River in Quang Binh Province.

The F4 Phantom D model had only arrived in Vietnam the previous May and was initially part of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron’s aircraft inventory. The D model was improved over the C model with the addition of a lead-computing sight and central air data computer for both bombing and navigation. The computer automatically determined the weapon release point for all bombing modes – dive or level, at night or in bad weather. The D model also launched Walleye television guided missiles and laser guided bombs. All in all, the Phantom was the “hot” aircraft of the day, and pilots were proud to fly them.

Rodriguez and Olds are both in “pilot” classifications, so it is unclear which is the pilot and which was the backseater/bomber/navigator on this flight, but given the ranks and the fact that Rodriguez’ military occupational specialty is classified, it is rather safe to assume that Olds was the pilot and Rodriguez the “guy in back” – the one with the extensive systems knowledge.

At a point about 5 miles southwest of the city of Ron, Olds and Rodriguez’ aircraft was shot down. Other aircraft in the area saw the crash site, but heard no emergency beepers, nor did they see any parachutes indicating that one or more of the crew ejected from the crippled aircraft.

Because the area in which the aircraft went down was a populous one, there is reason to believe that, if the crew survived, the enemy knew their fate. The area was not conducive for rescue efforts, although one would have commenced if there had been any indication that the crew was safe.Since 1968, the Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of the fates of Olds and Rodriguez. Then on July 24, 1989, it was announced that remains “discovered” and returned by the Vietnamese to the U.S. had been positively identified as being those of 1Lt. Albert E. Rodriguez.

The Rodriguez family can now lay their well loved son to rest. They know now that he is dead. In light of the thousands of reports of Americans still in captivity in Vietnam, however, they may never know when – or how – he died.

NOTE: Ernest Olds was seen alive in the German propaganda film “Pirates in Pajamas.”


Married Susan E. Nock of Salisbury, MD in June, 1956. Children – Ernest W. Olds, born in Tucson, AZ in 1957; Ellen Olds, born at Misawa AFB, Japan in 1959; Jeffrey Olds, born at Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, NM in 1965. Ernie and Susan Olds subsequently became grandparents to six grandchildren.

Ernie’s Distinguished Military Career:

1956: Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Upon graduation, was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the USAF.

1957: Basic Jet Pilot Training at Webb AFB, Big Spring, TX.

1958-1960: Trained at the Interceptor Advanced Flying School at Moody AFB, Valdosta, GA. Upon completion of his training Ernie was assigned to the 4th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Misawa AFB, Japan where Ernie and his family lived on the base for three years.

1961-63: Ernie and his family returned to the USA and moved to Ann Arbor, MI where Ernie enrolled as a full-time graduate student at the University of Michigan, earning two masters degrees in 1963 – one in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and the other in Instrumentation Engineering.

1963: Assigned to the USAF Missile Development Center at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo.

December 1965: Applied for the Pilot / Astronaut training Program at NASA

1966: Transferred to Flight Test Division at Griffin AFB in Rome, NY. Ernie was in the final selection process for the NASA Astronaut Program when he learned that he had been eliminated from further consideration.

1967: Re-assigned to McDill AFB in Tampa, FL where he received training in the F-4 Phantom jet plane. Upon completion of the F-4 training, Ernie moved his family back to MD and left for Da Nang AFB, Vietnam in September 1967.

March 1968: Ernie was shot down over hostile territory and was listed as Missing in Action (MIA) from March 1968 until May 1978 when his status was changed to Killed in Action (KIA).

1996: Ernie’s cremated remains were repatriated to the United States and entombed in a Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. Ernie ended his career as a Colonel in the USAF, having received the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, National Defense Medal, and other medals and awards posthumously.