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Roger Ball!

The Odyssey of John Monroe “Hawk” Smith Navy Fighter Pilot

Copyright 2006, 2008 by Donald E. Auten

iUniverse Star, 2006 & 2008 - 488 pages


Review by Dennis Hall, 23Jan2012


Roger Ball! is a biography of US Navy legend John Monroe “Hawk” Smith, his soul mate and wife “Miss Jenny”, and their adopted son as they made way through over thirty years of first their upbringing, their chance meeting and wonderful courtship, marriage, and their combined focus for a successful, rich career in naval aviation with all its engagement with extended family. 


When I first saw the book’s title “Roger Ball!” I had an impulsive urge to read it.  My learning of the naval aviation usage of the saying "Roger Ball" stems from enjoying the movie Top Gun.  Early into the opening, there is a scene depicting an F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot with call sign Cougar on glide slope for landing on an aircraft carrier.  The Landing Signal Officer aboard the ship exclaims, “Roger Ball” and soon thereafter the fighter’s arresting hook snares the arresting cable to bring the jet to a full halt on the flightdeck.  Hence, a book with the title “Roger Ball!” is dead-on for locking on my impulsive interest.


The author, retired Navy Captain Donald E. “Duck” Auten, flew Navy attack jets and jet fighters for several years all the while making tailhook arrested landings on and catapult launches off of US Navy aircraft carriers all around the globe, day and night, calm weather and severe.  He even had the exhilarating job as aggressor pilot playing the role of bandit for mock dogfights with fighter pilots sharpening their aerial warrior skills.  His own outstanding Navy career is testament to his own courage and commitment to being a naval aviator and all who contributed to making him such from the very beginning and throughout his career.  He worked closely with hundreds of Navy professionals at all levels of each organization in which he served.  As was he, others keeping them on course to success mentored each of them to varying degrees.  Yet, often there comes along a leader who particularly stands out, and for Don Auten and many of his peers, that legendary leader is naval aviator John Monroe Smith, call sign “Hawk”. 


As author Donald Auten explains, “Roger Ball!” is the clipped transmission the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) who is stationed at the stern of the aircraft carrier makes.  The LSO exclaims to the pilot of an aircraft as he or she commences his or her final approach to the deck of a carrier, “Roger Ball”, a verbal confirmation that the LSO has sight of the aircraft, that it is in the proper configuration for landing, and within parameters to continue the approach to successful recovery on the flightdeck.  In naval aviation lexicon “Roger Ball!” most simply means, “You’re looking good.  Keep it coming!”


John Monroe “Hawk” Smith dreamed during his adolescence and young adult years of the 1950s of earning the coveted US Navy wings of gold. He did ultimately do so during the early 1960s, first as a radar intercept officer (RIO), and then ultimately earning wings as a fighter pilot.  Author Donald Auten takes the reader through each phase of all “Hawk’s” thirty years involving tours in the cockpit to his significant contributions of leadership and command, including the shaping and development of TOPGUN.


Tom Wolfe describes in his book titled “The Right Stuff” that there is a vital and unique combination of skills a fighter pilot must simultaneously possess … the stuff …  to successfully negotiate through the demanding regime of mental calculus, emotional focus and ranges of compression, and physical challenges for winning in the air combat arena on a sustained, repeated basis.  Author Donald Auten explains in great, intriguing detail the arduous flying curriculum, allies’ coalition military air combat exercises, and Naval Air Force deployments marking “Hawk” as owning that rare stuff


It is intriguing to learn about the mix of ingredients that tempered Hawk’s mettle through growing up playing competitive, arduous, exhausting, exerting sports, including motorcycle racing, doing well in academics, working hard for cash, and stepping up to serve voluntarily whenever needed.


Roger Ball! Illuminates that a successful Navy career predominantly requires a strong home front.  This support for high probability of career success and actualization author Donald Auten addresses through writing about the delicate balancing of family and career.  These naval aviation careers require months, possibly years of separation from the home front, with very real potential for fatal demise or serious injury.


Author Donald Auten takes us to the late 1960s when aeronautical engineers in the free world and behind the Soviet Union’s iron curtain rolled out variable-sweep wing fighters and bombers.  Their wings swept in and out to change the geometry of the aircraft to meet changes in aerodynamic requirements to win aerial combat fights or extending range for dropping bombs on target. These designs expanded the scope of air combat significantly, as the wing designs allowed high swept-back maneuverability, yet fuel efficient extended-wing lift for cruise or loiter time.  The United States produced the FB-111 and B-1 bombers for its Air Force and the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet for its Navy.  Meanwhile a collaboration of Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy produced the Tornado, and the Soviet Union the MiG 23 and MiG 27.  Roger Ball takes the reader to those overwhelming times when aeronautics, politics, and budgets intertwined to meet a stark reality that aerial combat success required a whole host of new shrewd and complex tactics and strategies. 


As a civilian, I have flown twice aboard Navy C-2 Greyhound turboprop aircraft out to sea to land or “trap” on aircraft carriers underway.  Until reading Roger Ball! I did not fully appreciate the dynamics of the pilot and Landing Signal Officer in getting our plane down on the flightdeck in one piece.  I had taken the role of the Landing Signal Officer for granted.  My understanding was that a pilot essentially flew down to the flightdeck using his or her visual acuity to line up on the lens system radiating up from the aircraft carrier’s stern to bring the aircraft in for a ‘trap’ on the flight deck. Now I know that “recovery” of aircraft to a carrier is a ‘my life depends on you’ dialogue of verbal instructions or orders, and intuition between the pilot and LSO.  My uninformed perception had been that LSOs are essentially a back-up system to simply aid the pilot, but primarily it was all on the pilot.  I did not appreciate the magnitude of differential equations each LSO’s mind must run on each approach to viscerally put a pilot into the glide slope that earned the significance of calling “Roger Ball!”  Adding to that set of demanding requirements of the LSO is the environment of daylight, dawn and dusk, nighttime, rain, snow, wind, and sea states, plus being physically, mentally, and maybe emotionally draining each minute out there on post.  I’ve been out there on an aircraft carrier’s flight deck both during catapult launches and arresting hook recoveries. Despite the tight-fitting goggles, cooked jet fuel residue found its way past the seals and made my eyes stream with water.  I cannot imagine hours on end of my eyes being subjected to those stinging conditions.


Roger Ball is a must-read book yielding a harvest of appreciation for the men and women who serve in all services of the US armed forces and its allies.


                                                          Review by Dennis Hall, 23Jan2012

                                                                              Founder, Avere Group



Donald “Duck” Auten is the author of “Roger Ball”, a captivating book covering the career of an exceptional Naval aviator and leader, John Monroe “Hawk” Smith, Captain, USN (Ret). “Roger Ball” captures and presents a comprehensive, personal narrative spanning the many training and development phases in the molding of a remarkable Navy pilot, officer, and leader, “Hawk” Smith.

  As a former Naval officer, reading “Roger Ball” allowed me to again experience, through “Hawk’s” eyes and emotions, the many facets of life that comprise the close-knit world of Naval aviation, both in war and in peace. 

  I liked how “Hawk’s” traits of dedication, integrity, and courage of convictions were to become his moral compasses throughout the book. Bottom line:  If you want to become a part of the world of Naval aviation, then “Roger Ball” is your book. I highly recommend it as an addition to any reader’s library.

William Kemp, USN (Retired) 


“Duck” Auten has crafted a masterpiece in Roger Ball! To those of us who were fortunate enough to know and learn from Monroe “Hawk” Smith and his beloved Miss Jenny, this “can’t-put-down” saga is a perfectly focused look into the heart and soul of a great American and an outstanding leader. Between the lines, “Hawk’s” tactical prowess, courage under fire, and loyalty to his profession serve as an example to us all, now and going forward.

“Hawk” lived and breathed turnin’ and burnin’ and he made some excellent ball-flyers even better, all because he was and is completely and consummately dedicated to Naval Aviation. “Hawk’s” absolute commitment to doing it right the first time, every time, and keeping it fun all the time, created a generation of highly successful fighter aircrews who are forever indebted to “Hawk” for showing them how to fly, fight, and win…and take care of the talented Sailors who make it all happen.

The TOPGUN mantra, courtesy of General Adolf Galland, sums it all up…”Only the spirit of attack, born in a brave heart, will bring success to any fighter aircraft, no matter how highly developed it may be.”

Thanks “Duck”…Bravo Zulu! We love ya “Hawk” and Miss Jenny for your spirit, bravery, and leading the way!


Mike Denkler, Captain, USN (Retired)

TOPGUN Instructor 1982-84

29 June 2010



When I was a kid my Grandmother’s house was situated in the approach pattern for NAS Norfolk and I grew up with my eyes glued to the sky. I lived and breathed airplanes and thought the men who flew them were truly larger than life. One of those men was a close high school friend of my parents, my “Uncle John” Smith, and although I never really saw all that much of him, I certainly got an earful around the supper table—some truths certainly, some lies probably, but all the stuff of legend.


Fast forward 30 years and imagine my delight at finally getting my hands on a copy of Roger Ball. I was thrilled to learn more about Uncle John and his colorful career in naval aviation (is there any other kind?), but ultimately I took away so much more. Through Donald Auten’s gifted narrative, I got to revisit a time and place I had too little appreciation for when I was there, I got a sense of what it was like at the controls of some of the greatest aircraft of the 20th century, and I got to see how one man, true to himself and firm in his convictions, can make a lasting difference.


I also came to understand that there are certain timeless tenants in leadership that some people just “get” while others learn them through slow, often painful experience, if at all. John Smith got them. Much of what is hailed as “best practice” in business and government today just made good sense to John 40 years ago. The cast of characters that parade through the pages of Roger Ball are case studies in leadership style: what works and why, what fails and how.  I hadn’t picked up Roger Ball to find career inspiration, but it was there nonetheless, and I could almost hear John chuckling to himself. 


From Pensacola to the Mediterranean and across the wide Pacific, Roger Ball offers vivid moments of determination, exhilaration, panic, calculation, and pride. Anyone with an interest in naval aviation, a love of history, or an appreciation for the dynamics of leadership and motivation will be amply rewarded in its pages. Moreover, I guarantee they’ll be highly entertained!


JC McDonough

Glenelg, MD

May 2010


When hearing of my interest in true stories of war, airplanes and 'Fly Boys' I always get a remark like "That's unusual for a woman!". Perhaps my love of those things can be explained by having had a father who, in WWll as a B-25 pilot with the USAF, was killed on a day in the Pacific in April, 1944 known as 'Black Sunday'.

When reading the story of John Monroe 'Hawk' Smith one comes away with the understanding that this is a flesh and blood man who is not only a figure of near mythical proportions in the pantheon of Naval Pilots, but is one who has also become a living Icon. In reading about his leadership skills, the changes he brought about and the way in which the Navy now deals with some of the policies he brought to bear,  as well as the respect with which he is generally regarded among his 'brothers', it seems very much deserved.  His loyalty and bravery stand out, as does his allegiance to our Flag and to our Nation as well as to his fellow Naval brothers, regardless of station and rank. 

In reading about some of the sorties he and others flew, the author has the ability to bring the reader into the action, capturing the smells and sights  so that they leap off the pages and into our senses!  Some to be sure are heart stopping, some are achingly tragic, but others are also so humorous that it makes the reader laugh out loud! The author paints beautiful pictures with his words. 

It is obvious to this reader that this is a community of large and fragile egos, with genuine love, loyalty and respect not only to this Nation, but steadfastly to each other! It brings to bear that we are damned lucky to have this caliber of youngster willing to love their country enough to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we may remain a free Nation!  We owe them a real debt of gratitude and I for one, salute them, and believe they are TRULY genuine heroes!


 I'm indeed very grateful that the author brought them to life on these pages!  A GREAT READ of the first order!" 


Ms. Mary Lee Rogers,

Nashville, TN

5 March, 2010


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 30 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. A hero is one who has everything to lose, everyone to expose the pain of his loss, and yet goes about a dangerous profession, year in and year out, STICKS to his mission in the face of possible and sudden evisceration, held by a thread to life by skill, cunning, luck and dedication. That's a hero. Not the rock star, nor a politician, rarely a multi-billionaire. Heroes are found within the level and vertical battlefields of wars mostly, and also among those with the dedication to improve the humanity of man in places where hostility lurks; in countries, boardrooms, firehouses, anywhere that character is essential and practiced, and bold actions are taken selflessly, persistently, at great personal risk.

The world might have lost Hawk on many occasions, and we would have to subtract from our experiences all that he contributed during his fortunate long career and great influence as expressed by so many. Donald Auten faced the same level of risk across his own thousands of hours of Navy flying. We would lose the gripping story herein told had he not had the full benefit of a life longer lived.

I enjoyed every line, every encapsulated story, the sum of which was a fabric of adventure and an honorable life well lived managing the incredible machinery, the fickle nature of human relations within the ranks, the meddling politicians -both the effective and the intrusive - with sticky noses, the humorous and the humorless, the endurance of Miss Jenny, all put together in a tale of high adventure and much about a very important survival component of our national security.

I dare not critique specifics about navy flying, for after all, my aviation experience is limited to taking the stick of my brother's 85 hp Luscombe over the eastern Colorado range and some of the mountain terrain - with my pilot-brother alongside. And yes, perhaps I know a little bit about airplanes and ships. Just permit me to say that this non-flier knows as well as he can the story herein told, even without the Wings of Gold proudly worn by those who know the story all too well.

Well done, Duck. Well done, Hawk. It is an honor bestowed on me to be given a chance to see the little I've seen, and read as richly as experienced by those who have seen much. Thank you, gentlemen, all.

And PS: You need a sequel, we want to read more. I know the material is there!

Steve Henninger

Designer/Builder of Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Model
Tailhook Member


"This is an excellent book that works on many levels.  It is a story of a man’s journey through an eventful navel career with an in-depth look at what it takes to be a fighter pilot.  It is a broad history of the Navy’s fighter program from being primarily a straight-and-level intercept aircraft in the mid 60s, through developing air combat maneuver training in the late 60s and the introduction of the F-14 Tomcat in the early 70s."

“… author Donald E. Auten (a naval aviator himself) does an outstanding job of putting the reader in the cockpit.  His descriptions of flying Navy aircraft in both aerial combat and carrier environments are without parallel.  His knowledge of the Navy has allowed him to write with an authority usually not seen in a biography of this type. "

            “Here’s the bottom line.  If you were at Miramar during the 70’s, you need to read this book.  If you ever ran across “Hawk” Smith anytime during your career, you need to read this book.  If you were ever in the cockpit, you’ll find yourself there again—if not, you’ll feel like you are there and know what it is to fly air combat maneuvers.”

 Reviewed by Command Jan Jacobs, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)

For U.S. Naval Institute, Proceedings; March 2007


"Roger Ball", Donald Auten's biography of John Monroe "Hawk" Smith, belongs on every Naval Aviation shelf.  I got it on a Friday and couldn't put it down until I finished on Monday.  Auten is an exceptional writer and a gifted wordsmith.  I can't recall a recent book that did such a great job of putting me in the cockpit.  As an author, I often paused during the story just to admire the flow of the words.   

Reviewed by John Fry

Editor, Association of Naval Aviation

San Diego Squadron for Vol. I, No. 2, April 2007 Edition


I don't normally buy new books but when I saw "Roger Ball" on Amazon.com I couldn't wait to place my order. I wanted to see if anyone could capture Captain John Monroe "Hawk" Smith on the written page. Don Auten comes close to not only capturing Hawk, but also in describing the rigors of Indoc, Navy Flight Training, carrier operations and the cockpit dynamics, excitement and G forces of a combat fighter engagement.

This is a "must read" for not only all fighter jocks, but for all men and women who wear the coveted "Wings of Gold". For those who have not experienced the pleasure, pain and terror of a Marine Drill Instructor or night carrier landings, you can experience it vicariously in Duck's book "Roger Ball". Thanks for the memories Duck and Hawk.

I wish everyone could know Hawk and Miss Jenny.  God 'tore up the pattern' when He made those two--and it was a grand pattern.


Chuck "Cowboy" Long

A-4 Super Fox Pilot

Captain, USNR (Retired)

15 July 2006



As a former Assistant Sales Manager, Alaska Sector, for Pan American Airlines, I found "Roger Ball!" a great read.  The bush pilots and TOPGUN Instructors have much in common.  A must read for anyone interested in the history of military aviation and the men who paved the way!

Ms. Dorothea Sullivan

Vancouver, Wa

28 July 2006



"Roger Ball" is a magnificent read about a great and distinguished "life well lived."  John Monroe Smith is a living legend in Naval Aviation: an all American boy living his dream...a dream of  becoming the best fighter pilot and carrier aviator in the Navy. He succeeded in being the best in a way that only one with unbridled passion, fierce commitment, boundless energy, unconditional dedication and relentless resolve can experience. 
If you had the honor and privilege of being part of carrier aviation, "Roger Ball" brings it all back: the thrill of the first cat shot and arrested landing; that special aroma of JP-5, hydraulic fluid, canopy cleaner and grease; the long hours of Alert 5's; the FCLPs; the SDO, IWO and Boat Officer; ACM with many Fox 1s and Fox2; the leadership challenges of dealing with wayward sailors and senior leaders who were the best and worst; the commitment to persevere in spite of all odds at sea and ashore; the sacrifice of family and shipmates; the satisfaction of being part of something much bigger than self; and the many memories of hearing those special words, especially on a dark, rainy night, blue water ops-"Roger Ball."
From a shipmate, friend and one who holds Hawk in great admiration, and with respect and gratitude.

Ed Allen

Rear Admiral, USN (Retired)

16 August 2006


Bravo! Fantastic!  The good, the bad and the ugly!  Realistic, authentic, no holds barred.  Detailed, down to earth!  A true fighter pilot - proud, courageous, and all Navy! 

Wow!!!!!  Duck sure has a winner.  Way to go!

 Herb Pierpan,

Colonel, USMC (Retired)

7 August 2006



Roger Ball is an "OK three" underlined--a perfect landing grade with a perfect start, perfect approach and target three wire arrestment. 

The chief beauty in this odyssey of John Monroe "Hawk" Smith lies not so much in its tribute to a pioneering Navy fighter pilot, or in the literary style, as in its simple understanding of the wonderment of naval carrier aviation. Hawk was a damn good naval officer with the exceptional character and leadership skills to become a legend by catapulting his profession into the "strike-fighter" 21st century.  Hawk was a "cut above", whose selfless desire was to become the best role model and achiever in developing the concept of "fight and win."  His achievements were unprecedented, and the reader will learn not only the true enjoyment and excitement of all aspects of the carrier aviation profession but, most importantly, the lessons of superb leadership in a most demanding and dangerous profession.  Hawk is a national treasure and the reader will marvel at his commitment and innovation in making naval carrier aviation the most lethal and formidable air combat force in the world. 

This book ought to be required reading for those who seek to learn about a true patriot who understands the principles on which our great Navy aviation fleet has been built, along with experiencing the breathtaking, dynamic hops in ultimate flying machines.

 This book is one of the best of its kind!


Jack "Stinger" Ready

Vice Admiral, USN (Retired)

14 August 2006


"Roger Ball!" gets an OK 3 UNDERLINED  in ANY LSO's book ! 

A SUPERB job capturing a large part of Naval Aviation and how things were done in the 1960's through the 90's.  All the many aspects of life in the Navy are captured and explained in such a way that anyone - military or civilian - can understand it.  What truly impressed Brenda and me was all the different view points Duck used and how well the storyline is woven together.  We get to see things from the cockpit, back & front seat; the briefing room, stateroom, home plate with Ms. Jenny's views, Ass't Maintenance officers desk, LSO platform, Ready Room, XO/CO desk/office, a variety of Naval Air stations and aircraft carriers, liberty ports and operating areas in many parts of the world!  WELL DONE!!!!!!!

Duck has done a GREAT job of capturing Hawk's innermost thoughts and feelings and laying them out in such a way that you can't wait to get to the next chapter to find out what happens.  

Well written!  "Roger Ball!" lays it down with such clear, concise terms that everyone who reads it will have a much better appreciation of what Naval Aviation is all about and the contribution it has made to our Nation. 

Thanks much for doing that and bringing back MANY memories of my 30 years in the Navy - ashore and afloat!"


Roger "Spook" Mcfillen,

Captain, USN (Retired)

Tomcat RIO

10 August 2006


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 or 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.  If others can lay just claim to being “the father of the Tomcat”, Hawk surely can lay just claim to being one of the many “midwives” who made the birth and early formative years so successful. 

Similarly, as almost a follow-on to Scream of Eagles: The Creation of TOPGUN and the U.S. Air Victory in Vietnam (Robert K. Wilcox, New York, NY, John Wiley & Sons, 1990), Hawk’s time as first the XO, then the CO of the Navy Fighter Weapons School at Miramar, is a rich tale of  “the best of times and the worst of times” at Fightertown USA.  Those of us who were there will never forget. 

For those many of us who served under Hawk’s fleet command in the VF-213 “Black Lions”, however, the book cries out for a sequel, as those years are relegated to almost footnote status.  That critical tour, and all that it contained—firmly etched in our collective memories as almost nothing else—and Hawk’s post-command and Major command assignments are all “rolled up” in only the last four pages of the book.  We all eagerly await the much-needed second volume, perhaps to be called  Knowledge Is Good:  Delta House Goes To Sea


ROGER BALL is unquestionably the “book of the 2006 summer” for those of us who never tire of reading about the Naval aviation greats who created a community, became a legend, and who molded us, for better or worse, in their own image.  For my part, I can only hope that my own efforts during my times in command did “Hawk” the honor that was intended.


Reviewed by

Timothy E. “Spike” Prendergast,

Captain, USN (Retired)

7 August 2006


"Roger Ball!" kept me chuckling to the very last page.  I admit, the acronyms were, at times, difficult (the glossary helped a lot), but that did not, in any way, detract from the enjoyment of the story.  The interspersed humor (especially the "mooned" photo episode) made me laugh out loud.

"Hawk" is certainly a remarkable human being and one we were very fortunate to have had ... not only serving in our military but also in contributing so much at almost every level.  What a man!

Ms. Mary Jane Johnston

Wife of WWII Marine

14 August 2006


Roger Ball!, the Odyssey of John Monroe “Hawk” Smith, is a “must read” for any young man or woman considering a career in Naval Aviation. Donald “Duck” Auten pulls no punches in telling the story of the life of a Naval Aviator – the good times and the bad times. Reading this book, you’ll get to live the life of an extraordinary Navy fighter pilot. You’ll experience the training required to become a Naval officer and then on to flight training. “Hawk” started his career in the back seat of an F-4 Phantom before he crossed over to pilot the Phantom and then on to the F-14 Tomcat. You get the perspective from both seats in the cockpit.

You’ll know what it’s like to join your first squadron and make your first cruise, the long hard hours at sea away from your loved ones and a well deserved liberty. You’ll know what it’s like to make a carrier landing, day or night - any kind of weather, when the rolling and pitching deck is the only piece of solid ground for hundreds of miles around. Most of all, you’ll learn what it takes to be part of a team where your squadron mate’s life depend on you and your life on them. You’ll share in the camaraderie, the antics, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat that can only be found in these people we call Navy fighter pilots.

Thanks “Hawk” for sharing your life and thanks “Duck” for so eloquently getting it down on paper.


Art Martin

F-14 Tomcat Association


20 August 2006


A great read! I served under "HAWK" as his Command Master Chief.  He is a unique person and mentor. He was the right person at the right time for NAVAL AVIATION, and a PATRIOT, with the courage and determination to do the things that needed to be done. I would do it all again if Captain John M. Smith was the boss. 

John J. Lynch

CSCM (SS/NAC) USN (Retired)

18 August 2006


In “ROGER BALL!”, author Donald E. “Duck” Auten tells the story of his friend  and colleague, John Monroe “Hawk” Smith, and in doing so, gives the reader an insider’s look at naval aviation and aircraft carrier flight operations. Hawk’s life as a naval aviator reads like a novel and it becomes obvious  that he was one of the driving forces in shaping our modern Navy.  He  epitomizes the phrase, “Best of the Best”.  Way to go, Hawk and Duck.  A great read!

Pat Gagnebin

USMC, Vietnam ’67 and ’68

12 September 2006



I was married to a Navy Fighter Pilot and we raised a wonderful family together.  We are all still very close. When he took over as Commanding Officer of an F-14 squadron, the VF-213 Black Lions in 1978, we felt fortunate to have Monroe and Miss Jenny on-board as Executive Officer and true "Fighter Lady".  Miss Jenny and I kept the wives together while the men were at sea and even joined them in the Mediterranean when USS AMERICA was in port.  It was an exciting time of life that I find myself in awe of - all over again!   The whole of Navy Aviation scenarios came back to life when I was reading "ROGER BALL!"  I am so proud that I had the privilege to play a small role in this via my husband's career and experiences.  It was the best and worst, happiest and saddest, most thrilling and most lonely of times.  But I wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way. Now I have sisters and brothers all over the U.S.A. and I want them to read this book to further understand the incredible lives we led as members of the elite team of Naval Aviation!  I would highly recommend this book to anyone considering a career in the USAF, Navy, USMC or Army aviation.  Fly Navy!

                                                                                                             Ms. Emilie Appelgate

                                                                                                             Former Navy Wife - the toughest job in the Navy!

September 2006


Hello Aviation Aficionados!

Just bought a book titled "Roger Ball".  It's the story of a friend, J. Monroe "Hawk" Smith, a retired Navy Captain and Fighter Pilot.  I can't put it down!  

It's written by another retired Naval Aviator, Captain Don Auten, who knows how to put words together. The book's won the iUniverse's"Editor's Choice" & "Publisher's Choice"  Awards.  It's that good.  Do yourself a favor, check it out and get if for yourself or as a gift for anyone who has "slipped the surly bonds of earth" or anyone interested in aviation.

It's a winner!

(PS  This has been a non-paid non-political announcement.)

Len Kaine

Captain, USN (Retired)

Crusader Pilot

President and Founder of the Golden Rule Society

17 September 2006



Roger Ball draws an accurate picture of life flying jets from Navy carriers during the ‘60s and ‘70s.  It puts you in the cockpit and makes your heart race!  For me, memories came flooding back.  But it’s far more than an action biography of Hawk’s Navy flying career; it’s a book on leadership and management and winning and doing it all with the highest integrity.  Roger Ball is a ‘must buy’ for anyone wanting to improve his/her leadership and management skills, and, of course, for anyone who has flown, (or is thinking about flying,) airplanes with tail hooks. 

Dick Pottratz

Commander, USN (Retired)

Commanding Officer VA-27 Chargers

23 October 2006


The story of Monroe “Hawk” Smith, wonderfully told by Donald Auten, is a classic tale of challenge, disappointment, and triumph, set against the action packed backdrop of carrier aviation.

For one who had the great pleasure and privilege of serving with Hawk, it is particularly gratifying to hear his voice, intonation, enthusiasm and humor captured so well.  You are there as he coaxes an F-14 Tomcat pilot into a successful crash landing aboard the carrier Enterprise. He takes you into the air as he duels some of the world’s best pilots during the development of transitional weapon systems and tactics. Roger Ball captures the heart-pounding sweaty-palmed episodes and the resulting exhilaration of having “cheated death one more time” that all tailhook aviators have experienced. But this story is more than one of “turning and burning”; it is one of inspirational leadership, career changing confrontations, and ultimately one of love of family and country. It is the story of a man who literally and figuratively kept his eye on the ball throughout his career – with an unwavering pursuit of excellence and a twinkle in his steely eyes. 

Naval aviation is the better for all of Hawk’s efforts. We who served with him and those who read his story are better for knowing such a unique man.

 Rick Hauck

Captain, USN (Retired)

NASA Astronaut

24 October 2006


If you haven’t read the book, “Roger Ball”, you are missing out on one of the best books written on Naval Aviation from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. Having known the "Hawk" and Miss Jenny since 1971, when we did the F-4 VTAS Opeval/Techeval at VX-4, Pt Mugu, Ca and worked with him or for him during the years of testing the F-14, as his XO at TOPGUN, to following him as XO/CO of the Black Lions, I read this book with a great deal of interest.

 What makes the book so relevant is that Duck has captured the heart and soul of the man we all fondly knew as “The Hawk” or “Monroe" the CO. But for all of us with wives, who worked even harder than we did, you will understand just what makes Miss Jenny so very special and why the wives I knew wanted to be just like her.  

 When so many of us where just trying to do our jobs and hopefully make a small contribution, Hawk was always leading the pack. He was never satisfied with knowing the answer to a problem, he had to make sure the problem was solved and that the answer and solution were the best possible. You will definitely walk away after reading "Roger Ball!" with a clear picture of Hawk’s dedication to excellence and his perseverance no matter what it might cost him in battling for what was right.

 You will really feel the anguish he felt when his career hung in the balance during the famous Christmas card episode at TOPGUN. If you didn’t fully appreciate the man that Hawk was by that part of the book, you sure did after. He was the epitome of the leader we all strove to be. But even during those trying times, Miss Jenny was the glue that kept the families together. Duck has brought her courageous attitude into focus.

 I read this book in a matter of a few days because I couldn’t wait to see what was next. I am now re-reading it, slowly, to saver the memories, the humor and the trials and tribulations of Hawk and Miss Jenny. Read the book and you too will come to love the man who should have been an Admiral but was more interested in making Naval Aviation better. You will learn the true value of having that special woman by your side through the good and the bad - Miss Jenny set the standard. I don’t know if we will ever see the likes of them again and that is a shame. 

Tom “Kunta” Finta

Captain, USN [Retired]

TOPGUN Executive Officer

14 December 2006


In October 1980, as a young Ensign, I checked in to VF-213, for my first of four Fighter Squadron tours at NAS Miramar and came face to face with my first skipper, CDR Monroe “Hawk” Smith—a man who was to inspire and mentor me throughout my career.  In the ensuing 26 years, I was to hear literally hundreds of stories and anecdotes about “Hawk”. I thought I had heard them all, but didn’t know the half of it. 

“Roger Ball!” is a veritable “Who’s Who” or perhaps rather a “Who Was?” in the Navy’s fighter community.  Hawk thrived in the “eye of the storm”—the maelstrom that was known as Fighter Town, USA and left his indelible mark in the annals of Naval Aviation and in the hearts of those he lead and served with. 

“Roger Ball” is the definitive story of Naval “Carrier” Aviation.  It will be of particular interest to anyone interested in military aviation but will be easily understood and enjoyed by the layman as well.  “Duck” Auten has done a superlative job of capturing the essence of a truly great American, John Monroe Smith, and interweaving the details of his very important life against the backdrop of 50 years of tumultuous World History. 


                                                                                    David “Jeep” Willis

 Commander, USN (Retired)

14 January 2006