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Black Lion ONE, Resurrection and Ascension of the Black Lions
The historical biography of John Monroe “Hawk” Smith, Navy fighter pilot, is a gripping account of valor, sacrifice, and adventure during one of the most tumultuous periods in carrier aviation. Roger Ball!, the first work, takes the reader on Hawk Smith’s wild ride. Black Lion ONE, the sequel, continues the odyssey of “Hawk” Smith with the same white-knuckle intensity and on-scene story-telling narrative as its predecessor. Through the brutal war in Vietnam, U.S. tactical aviation forces suffered horrible losses— stagnation of air warfare doctrine development, strategy, tactics, and the very restrictive Rules of Engagement—were instrumental in the debacle that was the Vietnam Air War. When they needed it most, Navy leadership saw a handful of innovative and courageous fighter pilots with the steel resolve to fix the problem. Commander John Monroe “Hawk” Smith was one of those. Hawk was a charismatic visionary and a natural leader—an idea factory connected to a dynamo. He had persistently demonstrated an impressive drive to revitalize fighter tactics and doctrine to engage emerging world threats. It was a surprise to no one when Hawk, having completed a stunning tour as the commanding officer (CO) of TOPGUN, received orders as Commanding Officer to a front-line F-14 Tomcat Squadron—VF-213, the Black Lions. Hawk joined the Black Lions at the beginning of their turn-around cycle in preparation for their deployment in March 1979 aboard the USS America (CV-66). Several critical factors portended to a most arduous work-up period and deployment; they had only eight months to complete the training ordinarily crammed into twelve months. There were issues lurking, but Hawk was a man who did not shy away from a challenge. With renewed vigor and reinforced resolve, Hawk committed himself to resurrecting the Black Lions into the consummate fighter squadron. The turn-around clock ticked away, but soon the Lions had a plan of action, a motivated team, and competent leadership. Signs of improvement were slow initially, however the Black Lion team continued to show their colors during a series of training events in preparation for the deployment—chief among these was the first-ever Fighter Derby at NAS Miramar. This was the “World Cup” for Naval fighter squadrons and would establish the pecking order and stature of each. The Black Lion crews, under grueling circumstances, engaged in all air-to-air training opportunities available to include Constant Peg, a highly classified, “black program” which exposed tactical aircrews to the capabilities of Soviet fighters. Although the lessons were rather sobering, the results of the training added greatly to the Lion’s fighter warcraft. The Lions sharpened their claws in preparation for the Fighter Derby. When the event arrived, they flew skillfully and tenaciously. When all the smoke had cleared, the Black Lions had taken first place. The Fighter Derby hailed a victorious conclusion to a torturous climb from chaos and impossibility to recognized supremacy. Every Lion, from the greenest airman, to the most salt-encrusted chief, to the most combat-hardened officer shared the load. Hawk’s boys had risen to the occasion—they had built the consummate fighter squadron— the Black Lions!
Reviews
Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite - 5-Star Review

Black Lion One: The Resurrection and Ascension of the Black Lions - Saga of Captain John “Hawk” Smith is a work of non-fiction that chronicles military events, and was penned by author Donald E. Auten. Focusing specifically on fighter pilots in the US Navy, this gripping work forms a biographical account of John Monroe Smith, known as Hawk, continuing the story from Roger Ball! into this new sequel. Showcasing all of his natural charisma and tactical talent for the job, Hawk is called in during the terrible war in Vietnam to deliver much-needed assistance. Joining the Black Lions Squadron brings many challenges and exciting times which Auten recounts with vivid details.

Author Donald E. Auten has put together a true tribute with excellent and accurate information that any military and/or flight enthusiast is sure to enjoy reading. The technical terminology and explanations of different squadrons, deployments and detachments are all included with vivid and intricate details, so fellow Navy pilots will relish those references as it brings the past back to life. I also enjoyed how the author brought the character of Hawk to the fore, seeing him for more than his achievements, but also his personality and how he handled such pressures in his life. The triumphs and losses are well described with almost cinematic levels of depiction in the author’s evocative words, and overall this makes Black Lion One a truly immersive read from cover to cover. A recommended and accomplished work of biography.

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