Once an Eagle

Once an Eagle

by Anton Myrer


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Once an Eagle is simply the best work of fiction on leadership in print.” —General Martin E. Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Required reading for West Point and Marine Corps cadets, 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 II, and reaches its treacherous conclusion in the last major battleground of the Cold War—Vietnam. Now reissued with a new foreword by acclaimed historian Carlo D'Este, here is an unforgettable story of a man who embodies the best in our nation—and in us all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062221629
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/12/2013
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 1291
Sales rank: 92,839
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 2.10(d)

About 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.

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.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

Customer Reviews

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Once an Eagle 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 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 10 months ago
great book
Anonymous 11 months ago
Not really a book about how to be a soldier. Really a book that should speak to all of us on how to be a man. To walk through life with integrity. To increase the dignity of one's fellow man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perhaps one of the best novels describing the tortures of man’s wars I’ve ever read. Heart searing, and brought me to tears many times. As a vet, I appreciated its accuracy as well. Worth your time.
pairodimes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was both delighted and disappointed with this book. The archetypal solemn, midwestern hero was a compelling character. The military and historical anecdotes and clever dialogue where enjoyable. However, the book followed the same old pattern throughout, action scenes where only the hero had the wisdom and fortitude to pull out a victory for the good guys with pages on end of painful, shallow relationships impacted by the military lifestyle. There is one thing that the book really does well, it leads you to fully realize the horrors of war and the greed and unthinking selfishness of men that brings us there.
sturdybeggar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel as if I should've been drawn into this book more than I was and that it should've affected me more than it did. A great story of war, leadership, and human relationships, but I just felt as if I never became immersed in the story and the characters the way I thought I would be - something held me back, but I don't know whether it was me, or something in the writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is a reason this is on the Marine Corp Commandant’s reading list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Long but worth it!
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.