Roger Ball!

by Donald E. Auten
iUniverse Star

"His only deficiency lay in his reluctance to acknowledge that he was not bulletproof."

This biography recounts the life and career of Navy pilot, John Monroe “Hawk” Smith. While it is a tribute to one particular naval aviator, it reads like an homage to the courage and bravery of all military men and women who strap themselves into fire-breathing fighters and tear through treacherous skies to keep others out of danger.

Hawk’s background is related through a nostalgic look at his formative years in South Carolina and how his early fascination with speed drew him to hot cars and motorcycle racing. However, the author’s afterburners really kick in when the young man makes his decision to sign up for Naval Aviation Observer training in 1963. Officer Candidate School follows, and readers are soon immersed in tours of duty, comrades in arms, aircraft carriers, fighter planes, and the Viet Nam war. Detailed and riveting reenactments of areal dogfights and carrier landings in low visibility and high seas inject edge-of-your-seat excitement as Hawk’s story unfolds. Auten’s tale of Smith’s strength, character, and resolve repeatedly illustrate why he was eventually made Commanding Officer, Navy Fighter Weapons School—more familiarly known as TOPGUN.

This biography will certainly appeal to those interested in the development of naval fighter aircraft and pilot training. The author is meticulous in his reporting of time, place, and events. For those less familiar with military terminology, he has provided a detailed glossary. The title, Roger Ball!, is taken from the radio transmission often used by the Landing Signal Officer of a carrier to inform the pilot that his final approach is in proper configuration. It’s a quick way of saying “You’re looking good. Keep it coming.”

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