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Once an Eagle

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  2,216 ratings  ·  159 reviews
A story of two soldiers: Sam Damon, who puts duty, honour and the men he commands above self interest; and Courtney Massengale, who advances by making the right connections behind the lines and in Washington's corridors of power. The conflict between the two begins during the Great War and reaches its conclusion in the Vietnam War.
Paperback, 1291 pages
Published May 7th 2002 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1968)
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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
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
S.A. Bolich
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
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
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
(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'

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
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
Feb 15, 2010 G rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Sep 16, 2008 Dena rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Robert Curtin
Excellent book on leadership!
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
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 !
Dave B.
‘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
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.
James Oliver Burns
This is a great read, Especially if your military, retired,serving or having served. It really captures the different kind of leadership that goes on in our military today,to find out how true to life this is also read the Generals by Ricks
John Harder
Sam Damon, the protagonist of Once an Eagle could be the result if General Lee and General Grant had a baby – I imagine the martial coupling would occur on the Mason-Dixon Line. Both Lee and Grant had character down to the bone, but they manifested it different ways; Lee the marble monument and Grant the rumpled, humble but brilliant tactician. Soldier “Sad” Sam Damon knows when to maintain the persona of a man above events, but through it all he was a soldier’s soldier.

Once an Eagle is a story
Probably my favorite book of all time and a superb treatise on leadership too. The TV miniseries with Sam Elliott as Sam Damon was superlative too.
Kelly Crigger
A classic tale that's laced with valuable lessons about life and leadership. A must read for anyone considering a military career.
great character developement and a great look at what it means to be a leader and not a manager
This book was required reading for me, so that may have colored my opinion of it. I thought it was a good introduction and slight history of the wars we have been in over the past century. The book follows Sam Damon throughout his career, with Courtney Massengale as his counterpart throughout much of that time. It's 1,291 pages and I think it could have easily been condensed down much lower than that. The main stories occur during WWI, WWII, and beyond. Some outside pieces hello fill out that pi ...more
Edwin Lang
This was an extraordinary story of the life of a simple man focused on a life of quiet integrity and service: Once an Eagle introduces us on page one to Samuel Damon, Nebraskan, talking with a girl, Celia, who had a crush on him since they had been thirteen, a man who seems sure of himself, brooding, inscrutably and frustratingly taciturn, disciplined, intelligent and ‘impulsive, dreamy, with his head in the clouds’. He has decided to join the Army and I think what makes this book both readable ...more
I caught on quickly where the author was going with his character development the second he chose to have the main character as a rural Nebraska farm boy. This choice of course was to create a believable character who can embody one of the most challenging contradictions, a person of power and influence who doesn't lust after power. In early American history this was the ideal for all leaders, to chose someone who wasn't ambitious but the reluctant leader, the one who would give up power when as ...more
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Once An Eagle 4 53 Feb 08, 2015 10:08PM  
  • This Kind of War
  • Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945
  • The General
  • Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam
  • Fields of Fire
  • The Village
  • Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton
  • The Final Storm (World War II: 1939-1945, #4)
  • Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice
  • Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime
  • Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa
  • The Defence of Duffers Drift
  • About Face: Odyssey Of An American Warrior
  • Infantry Attacks
  • The Centurions
  • A Message to Garcia
  • First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps
  • On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
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...
The Last Convertible A Green Desire The Big War Once an Eagle (Part 2 of a 2-Part Cassette Edition) (Library) Once an Eagle (Part 1 of a 2-Part Cassette Edition )(Library)

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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.” 13 likes
“if it comes to a choice between being a good soldier and a good human being -- try to be a good human being".” 5 likes
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