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ROGER BALL!: THE ODYSSEY OF JOHN MONROE "HAWK" SMITH NAVY FIGHTER PILOT + Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 484 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (October 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605280054
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605280059
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,730,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Roger Ball!" straps the reader to a high-G odyssey and catapults him into the life of John Monroe "Hawk" Smith—Navy fighter pilot. It captures the adventures and hardships of deployment, the pressures of command, and the unforgiving and very lethal nature of tactical flying.

"Roger Ball! heralds the disciples of fighter doctrine, the inauguration of TOPGUN, and articulates the monumental success it had in resurrecting the Navy’s air dominance during the Vietnam War. "Roger Ball!" traces the selfless sacrifices of Hawk and other key fighter crews in developing the world’s deadliest fighter—the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Finally, it captures the spirit, the commitment, and personal sacrifices of the men and women of naval aviation.

"Roger Ball!" is a highly personal story of an extraordinary fighter pilot set during one of the most tumultuous times in naval fighter aviation. All those who also have been there and all those who have a desire to understand life as a Navy fighter pilot will savor the telling of Hawk’s story. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Author

This work reflects the efforts of numerous people who improved the technical accuracy, the historical fidelity, and offered small clusters of important personal recollections that could not be found in official documents or historical records. For their efforts in breathing life into "Roger Ball!" I wish to thank the following individuals: Admiral Leighton W. Smith, USN (Retired); Vice Admiral Michael T. Bucchi, USN (Retired); Rear Admiral John R. Wilson, Jr., USN (Retired); Rear Admiral Paul T. Gillcrist, USN (Retired); Rear Admiral Jay A. Campbell, USN (Retired); Captain Ronald E. McKeown, USN (Retired); Captain Clinton L. Smith, USN (Retired); Commander Richard K. Pottratz, USN (Retired); Commander Katherine S. Auten, USNR (Retired); Commander Joseph H. Zahalka, USN (Retired); Commander Richard A. Redditt, USN (Retired); Colonel Earl Young, USA (Retired); Commander Joseph F. Satrapa, USN (Retired); Commander Jeremy Gillespie, USN; Major Chris Guarnieri, US! MC; Mr. John Sherwood (Naval Historian); Senior Chief Robert L. Lawson, PHCS (AC), USN (Retired); Sergeant Alan J. Weiss, USAF (Retired); Technical Sergeant Yancy Mailes, USAF; Mr. Mark Evans (Naval Historian); Mr. Robert Young (Naval Historian). Finally, but most importantly, I also wish to thank the person who, more than any, gave me criticism, enthusiasm, and a steady wind over the deck: Colonel John Grider Miller, USMC, (Retired).

John Monroe "Hawk" Smith will never be a household name, but I hope this work paints a portrait of a U.S. military officer, like thousands serving America today, who was willing to work and struggle, often at great personal risk, for those principals, people, and institutions he held dear.

If "Roger Ball!" is enlightening, these men and women helped make it that way. If it is poignant, I have successfully told Hawk’s story. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 50 customer reviews
This is a biographical account of a Naval Aviator and his amazing career in the Navy.
Douglas Stracener
I really enjoyed how the author, Don Auten, wrote in the third person and deftly interspersed Smith's personal comments.
Frank Lee
His stories were always fascinating and you always felt better after a visit from that guy.
Richard J. Mason

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By CAPT Spike Prendergast, USN (Ret.) on August 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
ROGER BALL! The Odyssey of John Monroe "Hawk" Smith, Navy Fighter Pilot by Donald E. Auten (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006)

Reviewed by Captain Timothy E. "Spike" Prendergast, U.S. Navy (Retired)

When I assumed command of a fighter squadron in 1989, part of my brief remarks was a promise to try and lead as I had been taught by three of my former COs. One of those was Monroe "Hawk" Smith, under whose command I had learned the truest meaning of the dictum "If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right!"

Don Auten's highly readable biography of "Hawk" is a most welcome and much needed addition to the personal "fighter pilot library" of anyone who served at Miramar in the 70's and 80's, ever flew the Tomcat, attended TOPGUN, or served with Hawk or under his command. Filled with the names of Miramar and Navy fighter "greats" known to us all, like Jack Ready, "Hoser" Satrapa, "Bad Fred" Lewis, "Cobra" Ruliffson, "Thunder Bud" Taylor, "Boomer" Wilson, and many others, just reading it took me back to the Fightertown flight line, the LSO platform, the TACTS trailer and the "WOXOF" bar at the Miramar O'Club.

ROGER BALL details Hawk's many personal--and unique--contributions to the fleet introduction of the F-14 Tomcat, including OT&E, carrier suitability and first fleet CQ, and the initial thrills (and the initial disappointments...thump...bang!) of this now-legendary fighter aircraft. The story of his many key assignments at VX-4, as CAG LSO with the first F-14-equipped airwing, and during the AIMVAL/ACEVAL projects "fill in the details" of the early critical days of the aircraft and the community that would form around it.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Scooter Driver on April 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Roger Ball is an interesting read, and brought back some memories of similar frustrations with inept or out of touch senior officers. I enjoyed reading the book and agree with the other reviewers that it is an excellent story about carrier aviation and the fighter community in particular. I can recall having the same frustrations with the de-emphasis and, in some cases, the outright ban on ACM. No one paid any attention to the ban, but we didn't receive any formal training either.

I simply could not understand how a theoretical and untested defensive maneuver for which we were were not trained and did not practice would have been much use if I had been jumped by a MIG over North Vietnam in 1965 or 1966. A run in with a solo Vautour on a MED cruise in 1967 during an exercise with the French brought home to me as it did to Hawk that we had some very serious holes in our training.

Auten's book is the best documentation that I have read about the changes that Vietnam War wrought upon the military. After years of lip service, innovative officers like Hawk and real world training programs like TOPGUN finally made "train like you fight and fight like you train" a reality in all front line unit tactical training for all of the military services.

I was a bit disappointed with the book from time to time because it suffers from some factual errors, weak writing, and poor organization. There is no Lava Wharf in Subic Bay. There is, however, an Alava Pier on the Subic side and a Leyte Wharf on the Cubi Pt. side. While I do not believe that this book contains any intentional errors or distortions, little errors such as this can cause a knowledgeable reader a bit of pause in regards to the accuracy of a non-fiction book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William J. Sanvidge on August 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
What a great way to tell the story of carrier avaition, than by telling the story about the life of one pilot who excelled in a Navy flight career. Hawk embodies Naval Aviation. This book tells the whole story with the thrills, risks, and not so good features. It tells great fighter stories, about harrowing carrier missions, about a good officer leading and caring for his men, about the many sacrifices of sailors and families during long separation and about some not so good officers in command who drive good people from a Naval career with their poor leadership. Super book!!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Henninger on December 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure reveals that I have read and submit this review of Roger Ball! as a non-aviator and a civilian who has no military service history. My perspective is outside the box of subject familiarity, but inside the envelope of passionate interest in naval aviation over many decades. I lived and worked in Peru and South Africa for a number of years at NASA-funded satellite tracking facilities. During those years I began a project to build a large model of USS Enterprise CVAN-65. The model and eighty-five embarked aircraft ended up at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, donated and set-up in 1982 (and maintained continuously thereafter) by me. I was a one-man show engaged in the complexity of a modern aircraft carrier. It's been done, but not by many.

It was John Monroe Smith and Capt. C.C. Smith Jr. who gave me my first look during a full week visit in late February 1975 aboard Enterprise during the turbulent cruise which endured the 'thump-bang' mystery of F-14 engine breakup, and the heartbreaking loss of South Vietnam in April 1975. It was Hawk who escorted me to the LSO platform for the view of a lifetime. It was Hawk who engaged in small talk with a non-flier. It was Hawk who responded in 1980 after I saw him on ABC's 20/20 discussing the Black Lions and the continuing challenges of coaxing the F-14 to become the best it was designed to be. It was Hawk who compelled me to join Tailhook Association, of which I've been an associate member for nearly 28 years. And, it was Hawk who just recently recalled who I was after our first meeting in the South China Sea in 1975, 32 years later.

I have a concept of heroism.
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