I've thought about this discussion since the last response in September 2015. Today, a guy on Facebook posted the photo below, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bolo. Not sure, but I assume this is a version of the photo that Darren Howie may have sent to some of you as PMs nearly two years ago(?). This photo is purported to show Olds taxiing back to parking at Ubon after landing from Bolo on 2 Jan 67. It's a black and white half-tone, taken from a magazine or book (is it from the '97 Air & Space issue Pete talked about earlier in this thread?), and isn't as clear as one might hope. Further, there's no absolute way to establish the provenance of the serial number or the actual date the photo was taken. But I think it establishes it more likely than not (to borrow a term from the NFL) that 63-7680 had a "slick" radome on or near 2 Jan 67. Note also the ECM pod on the right outboard station, and the obvious slick nose (no IR/RHAW chin pod), and the white numbers "680" visible on the vertical stab. The ECM pod is likely the detail to make the date more believable (I'm not aware of any other missions in 1966-67 where 8 TFW F-4s carried ECM pods on the right outboard station).
I also want to add to Pete's theorem about fighter pilots not being prone to remember the minute details of configurations and markings: I agree completely with his assessment and experience that most pilots would not reliably remember details like this...unless, they had a *reason* to remember a detail like this...the second photo Darren described was of Olds having a cigarette underneath a slick radome F-4. That photo was auctioned off with a description that it was a framed photo from Olds's personal effects; and that it had a description on the back of the frame that said it was Olds, just prior to launch on Bolo. Now, that does not *prove* that the photo was actually taken on the morning of Bolo; and it does not show the tail number, or the nose gear number...but if Olds himself looked at that photo on his desk for untold years after the event, it's possible that *he* believed it was in fact a photo of himself, having the last smoke before launching on Bolo. That is, I think Olds believed he remembered that detail (the slick nose radome) because he had a memento and reminder in front of him every day that showed that exact detail.
For all we know, it may be that he actually "requested" a slick-nose jet when building the schedule for Bolo...I know that many Phantom pilots believed that the slick radome gave them a speed advantage, because of the cleaner air flow. Even if there was only a nominal speed advantage of a few knots, if Olds and JB Stone tried to build a 4-ship of slick-nosed Phantoms to lead Bolo, that would be a reason to remember that detail, i.e., if the slick radomes were part of the plan, and not just a random detail that didn't contribute to the mission planning, that would be a detail he would remember.
Let me emphasize that I don't have any source that says Olds, or any of the Bolo planners, specifically asked for slick-nosed F-4s. I'm just using that as an illustration of why a detail seemingly so mundane or random in most instances would stand out in Olds's memory that he would have been so insistent when he discussed the Bolo painting with Keith Ferris. I believe, that whatever the reason, he in fact *had* a reason that made it an important enough detail to impress upon Ferris to include in the painting.
Finally: is this photo "proof" that 680 had a slick nose on 2 Jan 67? I don't know. I can't verify the provenance, or that it is even AF37-680 on that vertical stab. But to me, it makes it more probable than not, that 680 had the slick nose when Olds flew it during Bolo. I'm still hopeful that someone will come forward with clearer photos and provenance of dates to establish that 680 had a slick nose (or that it didn't).
Thanks for letting me be a part of the discussion. It's really fascinating the details that you guys are able to dig up 50 years after the events we try to understand.
Photo via Michael France/Facebook (probable Official U.S. Air Force Photo)
Photo downloaded from online auction site (2015); auction description said from Robin Olds's personal effects; inscription on back reads "Morning of Bolo"