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Once An Eagle

4.33  ·  Rating Details ·  2,894 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
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.

Paperback, 1306 pages
Published April 3rd 2001 by HarperTorch (first published June 1968)
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John A lack of military background is not an issue. I have no Army or soldiering background, and I understood the concepts. It is worth the read and is one…moreA lack of military background is not an issue. I have no Army or soldiering background, and I understood the concepts. It is worth the read and is one of my all time favorites. Have fun! (less)

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This is a novel as big as a life.

Usually, when I go to airports, I am well prepared. I have my main book; my backup book; my backup to the backup; and my ultimate backup, if I meet with a series of delays or the other backups are terrible or I somehow find time to read all the others. On my way back from Florida, though, I suddenly found myself in Tampa's airport with nothing to read, so I purchased this 1,200 page doorstop with the knowledge that it'd last.

Once An Eagle traces the arc of a so
May 04, 2012 Szplug rated it really liked it
Myrer's mammoth novel is an engaging, disciplined, and, ultimately, powerful examination of American military life—its hardships and demands, its rewards and sacrifices, its meaning and tragedies, its uses and abuses—as filtered through the evolving life story of Sam Damon: raw and naïve recruit in the First World War, seasoned veteran in the Second, despairing old schooler in the looming presence of the Vietnam folly. Damon meets his diametric archetype in Courtney Massengale, his coeval and li ...more
Marcia Brisson  Van Camp
My old boss Jim Rutherford said this was one of his favorite books and since he had great taste in literature I was curious. My dad had an original copy and said he loved the book as well and that it had been required reading as part of his military work...War College perhaps? Well...the copy my dad had was big and heavy...about 800 pages and for any DC metro know that it is real real hard to carry a book like that. I tried to find it on kindle but no luck and then I tried to convince ...more
S.A. Bolich
Mar 16, 2012 S.A. Bolich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is perhaps my all-time favorite book. Like many a young second lieutenant, I often stopped for a "what would Sam do?" moment when faced with tough situations. This is the quintessential novel about leadership and honor and the American soldier. "Sad Sam" Damon, who shuns the advice of everyone as a young man to pursue a military career, doggedly sticks out the drudgery of being an enlisted man pre-World War I, believing fully in destiny and that he will find his in the army. And does he eve ...more
Pete Combe
I rated this book so low because of the expectations I had going in. So many military folks talk about what a great primer this book is on leadership, and I simply didn't find that to be the case. Overall, I am indifferent to this book for a couple of reasons:

1. The two contrasting main characters are overblown exaggerations of real human characteristics. Sam Damon is unfailingly brave, concerned only about others, and though he has moments of tactical doubt he never doubts his convictions (even
Jan 07, 2012 JDK1962 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(IMHO, few books deserve five stars. I'd give this book six stars if I could. Go out to Amazon, and look at the distribution of reviews. Virtually EVERYONE who reads this massive book rates it five stars. You should read it. Period.)

I love this book. I read it for the first time probably 10-20 years ago, and find that I can easily open it at any point and get engrossed again in Sam Damon's journey. It's just this incredibly broad and rich tapestry.

What I think I love most about this book is Sam'
Aug 20, 2012 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I give this book 5 stars because it is extremely well written and engaging. However, I hated almost every minute of it. I read it in the first years of my husband's Army career and found it extremely depressing. The hero of the story is never fully appreciated by his military leadership, constantly being overlooked and overshadowed by a more charismatic officer, who probably could have coined the acronym 'CYA'. I see that many reviewers admired the character of Sam and wanted to be an Officer l
Mike Kershaw
Dec 09, 2012 Mike Kershaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the five books that I thought every officer should read. This ia a classic that became popular in the late 80s and early 90s. This epic novel is follows the lives of two army officers from WWI to the Vietnam era. It was made into a mini-series in the 70’s and has been reprinted by the Army War College. Myrer has taken some of the most outstanding combat leadership of WWII (Darby, York, Truscott, Eichelberger, etc..) and crafted it into a historical novel of epic proportions, centering on ...more
Abby Jones
May 26, 2015 Abby Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've had a hard time trying to figure out what to say about this book. It is like the pinnacle of all slice of life stories as it follows Sam Damon from boyhood through WWI, WW2, and Vietnam. When you finish reading it there is a hollow in your heart from living a whole other life for a time. The writing style of this book is superb. I could recommend it on that alone. His battle scenes are beautiful in their terror, horror, and glory. His descriptions, both short and long, paint the picture of ...more
Feb 15, 2010 G rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to G by: BG Jefforey Smith
My favorite novel. It is thick but every bit as timeless and brilliant as a couple of other sweeping epics, the Illiad and the Odyssey.

A quick look and it is obvious it is about war and soldiering, however, it is so well crafted that it would leave any reader uplifted and touched. Yes, war is ugly, yet the virtues that the hero, Sam Damon, possesses are what we should hope that all of our soldiers ascribe to model their own values upon. Although the story is a work of fiction, throughout the boo
Morgan Oats
Man, if there ever was a book that made me reconsider my decisions and reflect on life, morals, and the important things in life it is Once An Eagle. Sam Damon is easily my favorite fictional character, and Once An Eagle has propelled its way towards the top of my all time favorite books.

This book has taken me through a roller coaster of thoughts and reflections. I admire Sam so much, as anyone should, and wish his life had been easier. Sam is a man of legend from the beginning of the book. He a
Ben Lowsen
Myrer in some ways wrote the ur-military "adventure" book, as its ubiquity on military reading lists suggests. It is the story of a youthful US volunteer - Sam Damon - who earns the Medal of Honor and an officership in WWI, stays on with the US Army in the interwar period, fights skilfully and bravely in WWII, and ascends to high command. Myrer emphasizes traditional military virtues in describing Damon's wars, but devotes at least as much space to describing life in a peacetime military. Myrer ...more
Garrett Rebstock
Hands down, my favorite books I have ever read. There was no finer example of how I've heard it put "The unoffical Field Manual on Leadership and Army Values." It was a nine hundred page epic that took me a few months to get through, but the slow pace was nice. I bookmarked many passages and quotes that I found deeply inspiring from a soldier and leader's standpoint. I damn near flooded my twitter and facebook feed with quotes from this book. It is on the officer's reading list for a reason. Dam ...more
Jul 19, 2009 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I bought this book because I discovered it was on the required reading list at the US Military Academy at Westpoint. This intrigued me because the book is a work of fiction and I couldn't fathom why a work of fiction would be a required read at Westpoint. I know many grads of Westpoint and know a former instructor and a current instructor and two of my Eagle Scouts are cadets at Westpoint so I also read it for that reason.
What I discovered was probably one of the most succinct theses on leade
Mar 18, 2012 Roger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: absolute-fav
I suppose this review will be at the end of a long line of reviews but I'd be remis not to discuss it. This book is one of the reasons I went into the US Army. Its one of the reasons I became an officer after 7 years as an enlisted man. It clearly laid out what the standard was and is for those who wish to lead soldiers, both in professional and personal conduct. Also for those "shit happens" moments where all you can do is drive on and hope it works. As a company commander this was mandatory re ...more
Kevin Keating
Jun 06, 2015 Kevin Keating rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book when I read it in my early teens. Read it again later. One of my favorite books ever. Great historical fiction.
Not sure about the category for this one either. Maybe Historical fiction since it's about the World War. To tell you the truth, I read it long ago and don't remember a lot about it. It's very long and that's generally not a good thing in my mind. But I've hung on to it and as I remember I enjoyed it fairly well.
Sep 16, 2008 Dena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: war and history buffs
Recommended to Dena by: no one - got it with a gift card at Barnes and Noble
I am about halfway through and I am really enjoying it. I can't tell the bent of the author although I did read the review that it was a great anti-war book. But not like you'd think. There are a thousand things that make war horrible and military life unpleasant - things that seem ridiculously unfair to a civilian. But the thinking of Sam Damon is fascinating and admirable and I wonder how many soldiers today think that way......

Finally done. It was a puzzling view. I thoroughly enjoyed it and
If you want to know who I wanted to be when I was 18, read this. I hadn't read it then, but the hero of this book is pretty much the upright, shining knight in (khaki) that I wanted to be.

I didn't read it until much later (1993), but Sam Damon is the Army officer I dreamed of becoming: decisive, clear-sighted, morally upright, compassionate about his soldiers, and even well-read. He is clearly contrasted with Courtney Massengale, the shiny careerist staff officer that is so easy to despise (and
Jul 25, 2011 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book of all time, this is the story of the American dream from the perspective of a military officer in the first half of the twentieth century. It captures the naivete,the skill, the courage, and the dogged determination of Americans as they emerged from one period of Manifest Destiny into another.

This is the main track of the book; it has many side tracks and crossings. The most important of these is the humility of the hero, a humility that is now largely lost among Americans.

Sep 21, 2007 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Military Wives and Soldiers
Shelves: military
This is on many infantry company commanders' must-read lists for their platoon leaders and XO's. Officer's wives will love it too. It's easy to feel as if you know the characters. Most Army wives have been through long deployments and can relate to the joys and heartwrenching times during their husband's career. And, all Army wives had felt their husband's pain of having to work with a soldier who is out for himself, knows how to kiss butt perfectly,is a fraud, etc. Basically, a true Masengale. ...more
Jun 11, 2010 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never thought that I'd be reading a book like this; that is, a military story. The narrative, though, is highly compelling, and the writing, though it has a tendency to lean on the highly metaphorical for basic physical description, is balanced, forgiving, humanistic, and mostly quite beautiful--precisely because it does not pander to audience, but seems to be an authentic determined display of what the author wants... hard to say this isn't almost essential reading, but I've been on a bit of ...more
Jun 16, 2015 Wendy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doorstops
Recommended by the Mele Family!
Robert Curtin
Sep 01, 2014 Robert Curtin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book on leadership!
Aug 12, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, military
Someone mentioned this book today, and it sent a shiver up my spine. I can't remember when I read it - could it really have been more than 40 years ago?

What I do I know is that I read it before the Army put me through college, before I ever jumped out of an airplane, and before any of my military service (active or reserve).

How memorable, inspirational, and formative was the book? After this many years, I can't say with any exactitude. But, to my young, impressionable mind, I fear that this boo
Delia Binder
As an Army Brat with several family members and friends either in the US Military or formerly in the US Military, I consider myself reasonably aware of the classics, and the popular choices, of Military Fiction. Imagine my surprise when, in a discussion a few weeks' back about good military fiction versus bad military fiction, a book called Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer came up in conversation (it is Required Reading for Officer Candidate School, apparently).

Since I had a business trip with se
Jun 02, 2009 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Favorite quote from book: "We stand at an immense fork in the raod. One way is the path of generosity, dignity and a respect for other races and customs; the other leads most certainly to greed, suspicion, hatered and the old, bloody course of violence and waste - and now, God help us, to the very destruction of all the struggles and triumphs of the human race on this earth. My old friends and fellow townsmen: which will it be?"

Such a sad but predictable ending.
Curt Fields
Feb 09, 2014 Curt Fields rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having pretty much grown up in the military this book was like a roller coaster ride for me. Sam Damon was the man and soldier I wanted to be when I joined the Army, a good man, soldier, officer and leader. Courtney Massengale is everything I came to hate about the service one of those guys you hate because he is connected and less then honorable. This is an amazing read and will have a permanent place on my book shelf. Anton Myrer is a great storyteller. Enjoy !
David Ortiz
Jan 13, 2016 David Ortiz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave B.
Jun 06, 2014 Dave B. rated it it was amazing
‘Once an Eagle’ is a massive story that integrated subplots and first person narratives with accounts of military campaigns. This book is rich with ideas on leadership that transcends time and crosses the line between military and corporate worlds. Sam Damon is the ‘everyman’ ideal character and I enjoyed following his military career from start to finish (a timeline of almost 50 years). Myrer does an excellent job explaining what it takes to become a leader that others willing follow and I took ...more
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Military Readers: 2015 August - Once an Eagle 1 2 Aug 06, 2015 08:12AM  
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Anton Myrer, who died of leukemia in 1996, was a best-selling author whose themes were America's loss of innocence and the use and abuse of power. He is particularly remembered for The Last Convertible (1978), a summation of the American experience during and after World War II, and for Once an Eagle (1968), which traces the life of a regular Army officer and his family from before World War I to ...more
More about Anton Myrer...

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“That's the whole challenge of life - to act with honor and hope and generosity, no whatter what you've drawn. You can't help when or what you were born, you may not be able to help how you die; but you can - and you should - try to pass the days between as a good man.” 18 likes
“if it comes to a choice between being a good soldier and a good human being -- try to be a good human being".” 6 likes
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