First exhibits of Southeast Asia War Gallery renovation open at National Museum USAF

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DAYTON, Ohio ó As the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force opens the first exhibits of the on-going Southeast Asia War Gallery renovation, visitors have the opportunity to learn about some of the most well-known groups and individuals from that war.

One of the great Air Force leaders who emerged during this war was Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1966-1967. His charisma and courage endeared him to his people, and under his leadership, the “Wolfpack” became the U.S. Air Force’s top MiG-killing wing in Southeast Asia.

“Gen. Robin Olds is a legendary figure in the Air Force’s history,” said curator Jeff Duford. “With his skill, daring, and larger-than-life personality, Olds was both an exceptional combat leader and a highly-decorated ace fighter pilot.”

Olds also played a key role in the creation of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, which was formed in Thailand in 1967 to improve tactics and coordination among aircrews flying over North Vietnam. Rich in tradition, the group was later nicknamed the River Rats and has grown into a fraternal organization that builds awareness of prisoners of war and those missing and killed in action, provides scholarships for the children of those lost in action, and promotes the importance of American air power.

These stories accompany the museum’s new Southeast Asia War air-to-air combat exhibit, which is highlighted by the F-4C Phantom II in which Olds and Lt. Stephen Croker, the weapons system officer, destroyed two MiG-17s in a single day on May 20, 1967. Visit for more information about air-to-air combat in Southeast Asia, including fact sheets on Olds and the River Rats.

Several artifacts belonging to Olds are included in the exhibit, such as his flight suit, helmet and g-suit. Other artifacts on display include flying clothing and equipment from Capt. Richard “Steve” Ritchie and a party suit from Capt. Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue. Ritchie and DeBellevue were two of the U.S. Air Force’s aces during the Southeast Asia War.

An interactive touch-screen with video footage of Olds and the River Rats is also available in the exhibit.

“We are excited to present visitors these exhibits telling the courage, service, and sacrifice of Air Force people during the Southeast Asia War,” said Duford. “These displays have many new and compelling images, videos, and artifacts, with much more to follow during the next two years.”

Museum staff began renovating the Southeast Asia War Gallery last fall in preparation for the 50th anniversary this year of the first U.S. Air Force campaign during the Southeast Asia War. The improved exhibit space will reopen in four phases by late 2012. Throughout the renovation, access to aircraft and other exhibits may be temporarily limited.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Street, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission and parking are free. For more information about the museum, visit

Updated: July 18, 2011 — 3:23 PM
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