Robert Olds was born on June 15, 1896, in Woodside, Maryland. He enlisted in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on January 16, 1917, and completed flying school on May 15, 1917. Sgt Olds was commissioned a 1st Lt in the Signal Corps on June 7, 1917, and then served as Commander of the 17th Aero Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas, and then in Canada from August to October 1917. His next assignment was as a flying instructor at Scott Field, Illinois, from October to December 1917, followed by service as an instructor and later as Officer-in-Charge of Flying Training at Ellington Field, Texas, from December 1917 to September 1918. Capt Olds served at the aviation instruction center in Issodun, France, and then Clermont-Ferrand, France, from September 1918 to January 1919. After serving as a flight examiner with Second Army in Toul, France, Capt Olds returned to the United States in August 1919, and then served in Washington, D.C., from August to October 1919. His next assignment was as an Air Service Operations Officer at Fort Ruger, Hawaii, from October 1919 to July 1921, followed by service as Operations Officer and then Commander of the 5th Observation Group at Luke Field, Arizona, from July 1921 to April 1923. He served in the War Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Service in Washington, D.C., from April 1923 to September 1927, and then attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Field, Virginia, from September 1927 to July 1928. His next assignment was as an instructor at the Air Corps Tactical School from July 1928 to July 1931, followed by service as Operations Officer for the 2nd Bomb Group at Langley Field from July 1931 to June 1933. Maj Olds attended Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from June 1933 to June 1935, and then served as Chief of Inspection on the staff of General Headquarters Air Force at Langley Field from June 1935 to March 1937. Col Olds' next assignment was as Commander of the 2nd Bomb Group at Langley from March 1937 to January 1940, followed by service on the Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps from January 1940 to May 1941. He served as Commander of the Air Corps Ferrying Command from May 1941 to March 1942, and then served briefly as Commander of III Bomber Command before serving as Commanding General of 2nd Air Force from May 1942 to February 1943. Gen Olds was medically retired in February 1943, and died on April 28, 1943. His remains were cremated and his ashes were dispersed from a B-17 bomber. The Liberty Ship USS Major General Robert Olds was named in his honor.
His Army Distinguished Service Medal Citation reads:
For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility as Commanding Officer, Air Corps Ferrying Command, United States Army. General Olds pioneered the North Atlantic Ferry Service from Canada to England, which work included the establishment of ground installations on both sides of the Atlantic as well as the organization and very successful operation of the ferry service itself. In addition General Olds set up an extensive flying force to ferry airplanes from American factories to take-off points for trans-atlantic flights by the British Ferry Service. In consideration of changing conditions in the European battle fronts he then opened the South Atlantic ferry delivery and later the Pacific Ferry Service. The objectives desired have been achieved and surpassed owing to the energy and ability of General Olds. The success of these ferry services under his leadership and inspiration has contributed in a very high degree to the defense of our country and its allies.