Once an Eagle

Once an Eagle

4.8 31
by Anton Myrer
     
 

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First published in 1968 at the height of the conflict in Vietnam, Once An Eagle captured the imagination and heart of a war-torn nation, reaching number one on the New York Times bestseller list twice and selling more than three million copies. Published in nineteen languages, Anton Myrer's novel was made into an acclaimed television

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Overview

First published in 1968 at the height of the conflict in Vietnam, Once An Eagle captured the imagination and heart of a war-torn nation, reaching number one on the New York Times bestseller list twice and selling more than three million copies. Published in nineteen languages, Anton Myrer's novel was made into an acclaimed television miniseries.

Thirty years after its initial publication, Once An Eagle has become a touchstone for the military professionals who devise and carry out our nation's defense. According to the New York Times, "Once An Eagle has worked its way over a generation into the mindset and lexicon of the American military." Named to the Marine Commandant's Reading List, it is required reading for all marines, is assigned to West Point cadets, and is featured in the United States Army War College's annual leadership seminar. Soldiers emblazon the protagonist's name-Sam Damon-across their tanks, and military officers at every level make decisions by asking themselves, "What would Sam do?"

Once An Eagle compellingly recounts the making of one special soldier, Sam Damon, and his adversary over a lifetime, fellow officer Courtney Massengale. Damon is a soldier's soldier, the consummate professional, decorated in both world wars for bravery under fire, who puts duty, honor, and the men he commands above self-interest. Massengale, the consummate political animal who disdains the average grunt, brilliantly advances by making the right connections behind the lines and in Washington's corridors of power.

Begun amid the carnage of the Argonne, the conflict between Damon and Massengale solidifies in the isolated garrison lifebetween the wars, intensifies in the verdant and deadly Pacific jungles of World War II, and reaches its treacherous conclusion in the last major battleground of the Cold War-Vietnam.

A sweeping chronicle of American warfare in the twentieth century, this gripping story portrays as well the often overlooked and cruel difficulties of life in peacetime. Once An Eagle is more than a novel of battle; it is a study in character and the values we continue to cherish: courage, nobility, honesty, and selflessness. Powerful and unforgettable, it is ultimately the epic story of a man who serves as an inspiration not just for soldiers, but for us all.

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Becker
The book is on the Marine Corps commandants' reading list—making it required reading for all Marines. The U.S. Army War College holds an annual leadership seminar that uses the book. For West Point cadets, who are assigned the book in classes and seminars, reading Once an Eagle has become a rite of passage, much like discovering Catcher in the Rye as a teen-ager.
The New York Times
New York Times
Remarkable . . . utterly engrossing. Myrer is a superb storyteller.
John W. Vessey
This classic novel of soldiers and soldiering ranks with Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front as time tested epics of war and warriors.
Atlantic
An ambitious, magnificently vivid novel...compelling. The battle scenes are among the finest I have ever read.
H. Norman Schwarzkopf
I fully understand why Once An Eagle has become a classic novel of war and warriors. Sam Damon doesn't preach, he lives his values and they are universal not only military.
Armed Forces Journal
It is my firm opinion that Anton Myrer's Once An Eagle deserves to rank with, or perhaps above, any one of those three truly great pieces of military fiction—Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage; Fix Bayonets! by Col. John W. Thomason, USMC; and What Price Glory, by Capt. Lawrence Stallings, USMC.
Louisville Courier Journal
Once An Eagle may be America's War and Peace and Anton Myrer a contemporary Tolstoy.
Denver Post
Reflects skillful research in military areas as well as technical mastery of the writing craft...Through the gentle but courageous character of Damon, Myrer graphically describes the criminal, dirty, wasteful, savage immorality of war...The Army career man will look on it as a monument.
Chicago Sun-Times
In ironic contrast, the story moves from jungle warfare to drawing rooms on the Potomac, and back again...Goes to the heart of our century.
Life
The work of a man who has thought long and hard about the nature of war, and has come up with something more than the simple truism that it's hell...one at last understands why the glibly optimistiic press releases about Vietnam have had so little relation to what is going on there.
Harpers
At long last we have what critics have been saying was lost to modern novels—an honest-to-God hero...a natural.
Journal of the Armed Forces
The most outstanding novel I have seen in long years. And it is far and away the best work of fiction with a military background I have ever read.
Providence Journal
Inspects down to thier most elusive motives those who have to make the agonizing command decisions.
New York Book World
Anton Myrer's battle scenes are among the finest I've ever read—they horrify, excite, frighten, and exult...the novel underscores the great agonized lesson of our century: that war's most terrible effects are on the survivors, not the victims...the validity and the urgency of Myrer's sentiments will not be denied.
Cincinnati Enquirer
A powerful, provocative and strongly-written novel...and an implied warning to the nation...One hopes that the Chiefs of Staff in Washington will read it with care.
Richard O'Connor
Once An Eagle tells more about the peculiarly American type of soldier - Pershing, Bradley, Van Fleet, Truscott - than a whole shelf of military biographies and regimental histories. Myrer not only makes the enclosed life of the American soldier in war and peace vividly real, but in passing tells us more about the American character and the way it has changed in the last half century than any book I've read in a long time.
Baltimore Sun
I would pick up Once An Eagle rather than Norman Mailer any day for a clue as to what is going on in Vietnam.
Philadelphia Bulletin
Too overwhelming, too awe-inspiring to keep to youself...magnificent.
David M. Shoup
The author's description of the military mind and muscle at work in combat and out are quite realistic...reading this book will be a great experience for those who haven't experienced what the author writes about so colorfully.
Henry H. Shelton
Once An Eagle is truly a classic. It caused us to reflect on core values...one of the key ingredients to the success we now enjoy. Sam Damon has been and will be a beacon of moral and physical courage for young American warriors.
William Livsey
A superb and inspiring account of soldiers and soldiering. It's about service - service to the magnificent young men and women that this great nation has committed to our charge - selfless service to the nation and its values and the relationship between the two. This nation will survive only as long as we inspire others to emulate Sam Damon and to act with humor and hope and generosity no matter what...
Sidney B. Berry
The best 20th century description of the American military professional that I know...emphasizes values and ideals...tremendous dramatic impact...Gernerals read Once An Eagle and think, 'I wish I could have been like that...' Lieutenants and captians read Eagle and think, 'I will try to be, maybe I can be like that...' Once An Eagle captured the heart, soul, spirit of soldiers and soldiering...will endure as long as there are soldiers.
George S. Patton
Beautifully written...masterpiece...description of firefights by far the best I have read...Once An Eagle gave me a real life...closer to the real scene than any other I know.
Eugene A. Salet
Never read anything that depicts army life and the battlefield with such deep appreciation...superb account...artistry and sensitivity.
David L. Grange
Inspired me...the essence of being a good man, soldier, officer and leader...the standard, the pride, the motivation...We are all better men because of Anton Myrer.
Hugh B. Hester
Accurate and appealing. The most brilliant and moving description of men in battle I have read... Truly a great book.
R. Ernest Dupuy
Magnificent...word pictures of combat superb...a remarkable book.
Douglas V. Johnson
Required reading...at the Army War College...a classic of military literature and a guide to honorable conduct in the profession of arms.
Robert H. Scales
Once An Eagle has been the literary moral compass for me and my family of soldiers for more than two generations. It's ethical message is as fresh and relevant today as it was when Anton Myrer wrote it during the war in Vietnam.
George S. Patton - MG
“Beautifully written. ...A masterpiece. .... Myrer’s descriptions of firefights are by far the best I have read.”
Hugh B. Hester - BG
“Accurate and appealing. The most brilliant and moving description of men in battle I have read... Truly a great book.”
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
“A classic novel...Sam Damon doesn’t preach, he lives his values and they are universal, not only military.”
David L. Grange - BG
“Inspired me...the essence of being a good man, soldier, officer and leader...the standard, the pride, the motivation...We are all better men because of Anton Myrer.”
R. Ernest Dupuy - COL
“Magnificent...word pictures of combat superb...a remarkable book.”
Eugene A. Salet - MG
“Never read anything that depicts army life and the battlefield with such deep appreciation...superb account...artistry and sensitivity.”
Robert H. Scales - MG
“Once An Eagle has been the literary moral compass for me and my family of soldiers for more than two generations. It’s ethical message is as fresh and relevant today as it was when Anton Myrer wrote it during the war in Vietnam.”
Henry H. Shelton - General
“Once An Eagle is truly a classic. It caused us to reflect on core values...one of the key ingredients to the success we now enjoy. Sam Damon has been and will be a beacon of moral and physical courage for young American warriors.”
Douglas V. Johnson I - LTC
“Required reading...at the Army War College...a classic of military literature and a guide to honorable conduct in the profession of arms.”
David M. Shoup - General
“The author’s description of the military mind and muscle at work in combat and out are quite realistic...reading this book will be a great experience for those who haven’t experienced what the author writes about so colorfully.”
SENATOR JOHN McCAIN
“A great generational story of our US military, warts and all.”
General Martin E. Dempsey
Once an Eagle is simply the best work of fiction on leadership in print.”
BG - Hugh B. Hester
"Accurate and appealing. The most brilliant and moving description of men in battle I have read... Truly a great book."
General - H. Norman Schwarzkopf
"A classic novel...Sam Damon doesn’t preach, he lives his values and they are universal, not only military."
BG - David L. Grange
"Inspired me...the essence of being a good man, soldier, officer and leader...the standard, the pride, the motivation...We are all better men because of Anton Myrer."
COL - R. Ernest Dupuy
"Magnificent...word pictures of combat superb...a remarkable book."
MG - Eugene A. Salet
"Never read anything that depicts army life and the battlefield with such deep appreciation...superb account...artistry and sensitivity."
MG - Robert H. Scales
"Once An Eagle has been the literary moral compass for me and my family of soldiers for more than two generations. It’s ethical message is as fresh and relevant today as it was when Anton Myrer wrote it during the war in Vietnam."
General - Henry H. Shelton
"Once An Eagle is truly a classic. It caused us to reflect on core values...one of the key ingredients to the success we now enjoy. Sam Damon has been and will be a beacon of moral and physical courage for young American warriors."
LTC - Douglas V. Johnson I
"Required reading...at the Army War College...a classic of military literature and a guide to honorable conduct in the profession of arms."
General - David M. Shoup
"The author’s description of the military mind and muscle at work in combat and out are quite realistic...reading this book will be a great experience for those who haven’t experienced what the author writes about so colorfully."
Senator - John McCain
"A great generational story of our US military, warts and all."
General - Martin E. Dempsey
"Once an Eagle is simply the best work of fiction on leadership in print."
The Atlantic
“An ambitious, magnificently vivid novel...compelling. The battle scenes are among the finest I have ever read.”
New York Review of Books
“Myrer was an excellent storyteller...Once An Eagle is that very rare thing, a genuine ideological novel. When one of these becomes standard issue to the Corps of Cadets we would be remiss if we ignored it.”
Washington Post
“A classic.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425033302
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
12/01/1976
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"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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What People are saying about this

Douglas V. Johnson I
“Required reading...at the Army War College...a classic of military literature and a guide to honorable conduct in the profession of arms.”
Colonel Fontenot
I've never been without a copy since college. Several times I've decided what to do after figuring out what Sam would do. At mid-career at the staff college at Fort Leavenworth, I agonized whether to go on for a second year of studies. It wasn't stylish in the Army then. But Sam studied military history at night and I wanted to be like Sam. So I stayed.
Colonel J.D. Morelock
It's really got a cult following in the Army because Sam Damon is the officer you hope you will be and Courtney Massengale is the officer you hope you don't work for.
Henry H. Shelton
“Once An Eagle is truly a classic. It caused us to reflect on core values...one of the key ingredients to the success we now enjoy. Sam Damon has been and will be a beacon of moral and physical courage for young American warriors.”
David M. Shoup
“The author’s description of the military mind and muscle at work in combat and out are quite realistic...reading this book will be a great experience for those who haven’t experienced what the author writes about so colorfully.”
Martin E. Dempsey
Once an Eagle is simply the best work of fiction on leadership in print.”
Eugene A. Salet
“Never read anything that depicts army life and the battlefield with such deep appreciation...superb account...artistry and sensitivity.”
David L. Grange
“Inspired me...the essence of being a good man, soldier, officer and leader...the standard, the pride, the motivation...We are all better men because of Anton Myrer.”
John McCain
“A great generational story of our US military, warts and all.”
Robert H. Scales
“Once An Eagle has been the literary moral compass for me and my family of soldiers for more than two generations. It’s ethical message is as fresh and relevant today as it was when Anton Myrer wrote it during the war in Vietnam.”
R. Ernest Dupuy
“Magnificent...word pictures of combat superb...a remarkable book.”
H. Norman Schwarzkopf
“A classic novel...Sam Damon doesn’t preach, he lives his values and they are universal, not only military.”
Hugh B. Hester
“Accurate and appealing. The most brilliant and moving description of men in battle I have read... Truly a great book.”

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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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Once an Eagle 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
HankGreenberg More than 1 year ago
Absolutely one of the best books I've ever read. I served in the military and have great respect for the men and women that served during the impossibly horrific wars that Sam Damon lived through. Anton Myrer hits the nail on the head with this novel. It's an epic. It's one of those that I wish could have gone on for a thousand more pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has been in my library since 1968, and I re-read it each year. Sam Damon exhibits the character, courage, honesty and values that all men should aspire to. Although Sam is a fictional character, he has been a inspiration for me for over 35 years. A 'six' star read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a soldier, this should be a must-read for you. If you are a human, this should be on your top ten. Meyrer brings to light some issues that our military today struggles with: retention in a post-war draw-down with a thriving economy; maintaining the soldier spirit through all the political BS; most important -- being a good human over a good soldier (p.815). A real page turner, but if you plan to read it all in one sitting you'd better pack a healthy lunch.
Bobc743 More than 1 year ago
For a baby boomer who gave his first ever grammar school book report on "Guadalcanal Diary" this book later became my all time favorite. I understand it is required reading at West Point and the author certainly deserves that kind of respect from our military. For those of us old enough to remember the television mini-series, it makes the book an easy read when you picture Sam Elliot as Sam Damon.
CatManDo More than 1 year ago
I have purchased this book as a gift for several friends. I read it about 10 years ago. It is about the career of a young army enlisted man who joins in World War I, who advances up the ranks to General, then retires a General and goes to Vietnam during the conflict there. It chronicles America in war and peace over a 60 year period. It is the best book about the military and one of the best books on any subject I have ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do agree. Plus, I was joking. About the kidnap part. Your ad warmed us of a kidnapper and rapist, but then you added to have us give you a place to meet at. :/
kenstar23 More than 1 year ago
This is a one of he best books that I've read along with 'Soldier of the Great War'. It covers the all the major wars of the 20th century with Sam Damon as the honorable and brave soldier who gives everything he has to serve his country. Very well written and utterly believable.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Once an Eagle is a great book for colloge students. This book will encourage a lot of young adults. To do what you love even if it seems impossible is my theme that i got from this book. It includes funny moments, sad moments, happy moments and so on. I would recommend this book to anybody that thinks that his/her dream is impossible to reach, expecially to the people who want to go to the army and stant up for his country.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the most interesting story that I had ever read. It was a story about a man named Sam Damon that wanted to show the world that he could do anything only if he put his mind to it. Sam had a character like no one else. He was one of a kind. His character should be the mark of what a American is really about. Honestly, trustworthy, has courage, is not self-center, but believes in himself and the people around him. You got to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be very interesting. It was amazing how Myrer told the story like he was their with Damon. The author did a great job keeping the story interesting considering how long the book was. The story was very motivational and his desire to win encouraged me to succeed at whatever I do and never give up. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs encouragement or just wants a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best books that i have read in years. The author did an amazing job describing war and how anyone can achieve their dreams if they really push themselves. This is a great book to read if you are unsure about going for your dreams because it talks about a man that no one really believed in but he believed in himself and he ended up being the man everyone looked up to.... it was an amazing book....
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. I read it a little a while ago, and I'm still in middle school. This book is so good, that I keep re-reading it. It is a story of a great man name Sam Damon who is an excellent commander. He goes through tough times, but always comes out on top. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Why have they never made the TV series available to the retail market? It was a wonderful book, but also, an excellent movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw the mini-series and was captivated. I read the book and was afraid that I might be disappointed. Sometimes, the book isn't as good as the movie and vice versa. The book was so good that I sent it to my dad who was a career Army office and retired as a bird colonel after 33 years. He really liked it, so much so, that I couldn't get it back from him! He would read it and then, re-read it again. Daddy passed away this year and I don't know where the book is, so I'm going to get myself another copy! I wish I could see the mini-series again....it was excellent and cast perfectly. You HAVE to read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a good book to read but it is rather long and difficult at times to understand. It shows how a man will do anything for his own pride, courage and dignity. I would reccommend this book to anyone trying to identify themselves as a person.