The New York Times
Once an Eagleby Anton Myrer
Once An Eagle is the story of one special man, a soldier named Sam Damon, and his adversary over a lifetime, fellow officer Courtney Massengale. Damon is a professional who puts duty, honor, and the men he commands above self interest. Massengale, however, brilliantly advances by making the right connections behind the lines and in Washington's/em>
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Once An Eagle is the story of one special man, a soldier named Sam Damon, and his adversary over a lifetime, fellow officer Courtney Massengale. Damon is a professional who puts duty, honor, and the men he commands above self interest. Massengale, however, brilliantly advances by making the right connections behind the lines and in Washington's corridors of power.
Beginning in the French countryside during the Great War, the conflict between these adversaries solidifies in the isolated garrison life marking peacetime, intensifies in the deadly Pacific jungles of World War 11, and reaches its treacherous conclusion in the last major battleground of the Cold War -- Vietnam.
A study in character and values, courage, nobility, honesty, and selflessness, here is an unforgettable story about a man who embdies the best in our nation -- and in us all.
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"It all seems so faraway," Celia Harrodsen said. "Paris and Berlin. And poor little Belgium. Sam, do you honestly think we'Il get mixed up in it?"
"I told you I do."
"Well, nobody else seems to think so."
"I can't help that."
Celia put her teeth on her lower lip. "You're just saying that because you want to go over there and see the world. Don't you try and fool me, Sam Damon." She shifted her position on the weatherbeaten bench and gazed across the front yard to the Damons' house, which looked pale and shabby in the soft June twilight, its clapboards peeling, troubled with shadows. From the porch the sound of voices reached them intermittently, and the occasional dry clink of a bottle touching a glass. "Anyway," she went on, "Father says we aren't so foolish as to get involved in futile European conflicts."
"Maybe," Sam Damon answered. He was sitting near her on the lawn, his big hands locked around his knees. "Only sometimes you get involved in something whether you want to or not. "
"Oh, you're so sure of yourself." He made no reply to this, which irritated her still more. She was a tall, slender girl with blond hair and deep blue eyes that looked at everything with piercing candor, and she stared at him for a moment, hard, then tossed her head. "You don't know everything."
"Don't I?" he said, and grinned.
From down the street near Clausen's Forge there came a loud popping noise that swelled into a high, sustained roar, and in a few seconds a Packard touring car came by, majestic and maroon, churning up dust in clouds. Its driver, a slim young man in a white duster and maroon cloth cap, lifted onehand from the shiny wooden wheel and waved, calling out something to them, inaudible in the engines clamor. The car swerved suddenly and the driver clutched the wheel again with both hands. Celia waved back. Fritz Clausen's dog, a bigheaded, shaggy animal, raced after it, yapping frantically, its tail thrashing round and round, and behind the dog came two children brandishing sticks and hooting in the golden dust.
"Look at him," Sam said. "Scared to death it'll run away with him."
"Well I never-! You can't even drive an automobile," she retorted.
"You want to bet?"
She stared at him. "Where would you have learned?"
"The truck. Down at the switchyard."
"Oh-a truck... Im going to have one of my own when I'm twenty-one. An Olds Runabout. Have you seen them? There was a colored picture in The Saturday Evening Post. With yellow fenders and green leather upholstery. It's just the pezazz. Don't you want to own one, Sam?"
He turned and looked at her for a moment. He was tall and solidly muscled, with a rather long, angular face and steady gray eyes that could unsettle her completely. She had watched him play football and baseball and had gone to three dances with him, one formal. She'd had a crush on him ever since she'd been thirteen, and his brooding silences drove her wild.
"-Well, don't be so inscrutable!" she burst out. "of course you want one. . .
"Sure," he said simply. "Someday."
"Well, there's no earthly reason why you shouldn't." She looked around her, exasperated. From the massive old tree beside them a green apple fell with a thick, solid sound.
"July drop," Sam murmured.
"July drop," she mimicked. "It's still June." She spurned the apple with her foot. "Father says you could have a tremendous future ahead of you-he says you've got a lot of the necessary qualities: mental aptitude and self-discipline... " She paused, watching Sam, who seemed to be studying the trunk of the apple tree where the sapsuckers had stitched it with rows of neat round black holes. "He says you're too impulsive, too dreamy, your head in the clouds. He says"-and she leaned forward so that her face was close to his-"you're wasting the most important years of your life, Sam. Farm jobs and playing baseball, and that ridiculous night-clerk job at the hotel ... Why on earth did you take it? Look at the rings under your eyes."
"It pays twelve-fifty a week, that's why," he answered shortly.
"You could be making a lot more than that, if you weren't so stubborn. . ."
There was a burst of laughter from the screen porch, and a lively voice with a trace of brogue cried, "No no no-they'll break through this summer and come goose-stepping down the Paris boulee-vards with the bands blaring and the glockenspiels twirling their wolf tails in a fine frenzy, just the way they did last time. They're professionals, Mr. Verney-they know soldiering from muzzle to butt plate, and that's where you want to put your money. I saw them in Peking. They never make a mistake."
"Somebody made a mistake at the Marne," old George Verney retorted in his hoarse, muffled monotone.
"A temporary setback, nothing more."
"if you call nearly two years-"
"You wait. They'll let the murdering sods of British bleed themselves white this season and then it'll be 'Hoch der Kaiser and on to Paris!' You mark my words... "
"Peg told me your Uncle Bill's come back to stay this time," Celia said. "Has he really?"
"I don't know. He never has before." she frowned, scratching at the worn wood of the bench with her nails. The Damons were poor: that was half the trouble. The Damons were poor and the Harrodsens were well off. Her father was president of the Platte and Midland Bank, and a past president of the Grange. They had the biggest house in town, and she and her sister were the best-dressed girls; her mother...Once An Eagle. Copyright © by Anton Myrer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
While attending Harvard University, Anton Myrer (1922-1996) enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps immediately after the Pearl Harbor attacks. He served for three years during World War II until he was wounded in the Pacific. He is also the author of the novels The Big War, The Last Convertible, and A Green Desire.
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