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WHAT IS ONCE AN EAGLE?
ONCE AN EAGLE by Anton Myrer and John W. Vessey. 832 pages. U.S. Army War College Foundation Press, Carlisle, PA. 1997. $15.00.
The U.S. Army War College Foundation Press recently reprinted Once An Eagle-the book some have called America's War and Peace. Once an Eagle was first published in 1968 to wide critical acclaim. After the story appeared as a 1970's 12-hour television mini-series, the book returned to the New York Times best seller list and reached number one. It has been published in 19 languages.
Once and Eagle is one of the most important military novels ever written. In its stark and realistic descriptions of men in combat, it ranks with Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (Fawcett Books, New York, 1995) and Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (Tor Books, New York, 1997). In its penetrating analysis of human and technical challenges and leadership and command's moral dilemmas, it is a fitting companion to Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny (Little Brown and Co., New York, 1992) and C.S. Forester's The General (The Nautical & Aviation Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1988).
Once an Eagle is the story of Sam Damon, a Nebraska farm boy who wants to go to West Point but does not have the political connections necessary to gain an appointment. He enlists in the regular Army and serves in the 1916 Mexican border operation. Two years later, in France, he becomes an infantry squad leader and wins the Medal of Honor and a battlefield commission.
At World War I's end, Damon, a major, must revert to the rank of first lieutenant to remain in the post-war Army. As a company grade officer, he survives through the long, lean inter-war years, moving from post to dreary post in the American west and to overseas bases such as the Panama Canal Zone and the Philippines.
Author Anton Myrer paints a sharp portrait of the Depression-era U.S. Army. He accurately portrays the often-degrading conditions endured by Soldiers' families, including those of George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton Jr. and Omar Bradley, as the men honed their professional skills in preparation for the expected war.
Throughout Damon's career, he is overshadowed by Courtney Massengale. Although Massengale does not have Damon's leadership skills or combat experience, he is seen as the epitome of the ambitious, poised and polished staff officer.
Damon, continually dogged by his "Mustang" origins, resolutely defends enlisted Soldiers and their interests during an era when enlisted Soldiers were considered little more than unskilled laborers. Damon's critics, Massengale foremost among them, dismiss him as never having made the psychological shift from being a noncommissioned officer to being an officer.
When World War II begins, Damon is sent to the southwest Pacific, where his competence in combat eventually leads to division command. Near the war's end, Damon once again faces Massengale, now Damon's corps commander. Damon's division is decimated in a Japanese counterattack after Massengale prematurely commits the division's reserve elsewhere for no sound operational purpose other than that of receiving the glory of having captured intact a Japanese-held city. Damon survives the action but is faced with the moral conundrum of how-or even whether-to expose the powerful and politically connected Massengale. The story easily could have ended here. But, in a short, final section, Myrer extends the story by following Damon-and Massengale-into the early years of the Vietnam conflict.
Recalled in 1962 from retirement as a lieutenant general, Damon is sent on a fact-finding mission to Vietnam (called Khotiane in the book). Damon must once again confront Massengale, who is now a four-star general and the commander of the military advisory group. Damon discovers and attempts to derail an effort by Massengale to bring the United States into a full-scale war in Southeast Asia. However, before Damon can act, he is killed in a guerrilla grenade attack.
In creating the character of Sam Damon, Myrer provides the benchmark for what an American officer can and should be. Damon, though, is human and, therefore, far from perfect. What sets him apart is that he continually analyzes himself and tries to be the best officer he can be. On another level, Damon is a metaphor for the U.S. Army itself in the first seven decades of the 20th century. It came of age in World War I, achieved greatness in World War II and withered in Vietnam.
This new edition of Once an Eagle carries a foreword by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John W. Vessey Jr., whose own career might well offer the closest parallel to that of the fictional Damon. Current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Henry H. Shelton writes: "Sam Damon has been and will be a beacon of moral and physical courage for young American warriors."
By republishing this book, the U.S. Army War College Foundation has made this vital work accessible to a new generation of Army leaders. Many of today's general officers and colonels read the book early in their careers, and because of that, the book has profoundly influenced the shape and character of the post-Vietnam U.S. Army. Re-reading the book allows today's senior leaders to reflect on the course of their own careers.
COL David T. Zabecki, USAR, 7th Army Reserve Command, Heidelberg, Germany
WHO IS SAM DAMON?
Col Sean Byrne writes:
Click here: Looking for Sam Damon
He concludes Sam Damon is patterned after Army General Huebner.
From Fort Bragg, NC , May 15, 1998
THE TRUE MEANING AND CONTEXT BEHIND THIS BOOK
"As a teen this book shaped my life, but saddened me as behaving like "Sam Damon" brings you scorn and confrontations with the "Courtney Massengales" of the world. I looked for real life characters who marine Myrer used as a basis for Sam Damon. My conclusion is that Sam Damon is actually marine General Evans F. Carlson who founded the marine Raider Battalions in WWII---he marched with the Chinese Route Army, was a tactical genius with fluidity of thought and egalitarean (not snobby) like Myrer's GEN Sam Damon and made an impassioned speech against war after WWII. "Massengale" is the embodiment of the careerist types at the WWII hqmc who opposed a human mc based on small unit excellence in favor of mass battalions using robotics and frontal assaults to create a seperate service bureaucracy now bloated to 174,000. Myrer is really writing against the mindless carnage of the mc butchers who ran the frontal assaults in the north Pacific in WWII who were eager with other men's blood to create the mc seperate service bureaucracy for them to command over like a "Courtney Massengale".
This book is timeless for we are in the same quandry today with the military profession run by "lifer-careerists" who as another reviewer wrote, do not love "Soldiering or Soldiers". They simply want to be in charge like Courtney Massengale. These men do not want to put a big gun on a light M113A3 armored vehicle for our Airborne, thus we will have to throw something together like Gen Damon does in the book when he straps a 37mm gun to a jeep to knock out Japanese tanks, in a WWII island fight--- otherwise our men will die. The reasons are selfish--they want a role for heavy armor types that will not make it to the fight in time (too heavy to airdrop in) just like Massengale wants his liberation troops to take the town while Damon and Chrysler have to take the enemy's suicidal banzai attack by themselves. I like the TV mini-series better than the book in that Damon calls Massengale "on the carpet" then and there as the real Damon (Carlson) would have done. We could use a General Damon today who would resign in protest and get us the light tracked tanks/AFVs and the Iowa Class Battleships we need for our U.S. Airborne/light divisions. As the book shows, men die from a lack of fire support every time we go to war.
The book is awesome in that Damon and Massengale meet one last time for thinly veiled early-Vietnam type meeting with a charismatic enemy leader like "Ho Chi Minh", and Damon is able to stop the war from widening at great personal cost. This is profound since if we had maintained better relations with the Vietnamese leaders its possible we could have tolerated a peaceful socialism with French control diminishing over time than the 2 wars that were fought. I concur with all the superb reviewers that this book is a MUST READ for every American and military Soldier. How do we get this? The armed services should create a set of questions and those that read the book and others from a required reading list would answer them for correspondance course credit. We need to build young "Sam Damons" in our armed forces and I hope we can utilize this finest of books to make it a reality.
The book's ending to me says it all--and I have to say it--if you have to choose between being a good Soldier and being a good human being--BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING. This is the message that "Once an Eagle" builds to. This is our moral compass, our call to action today!
It is up to each.... generation..... to fight the evil of its day....our time has come!...it is NOW." Airborne!
1st TSG (A) --This text refers to the paperback edition of this title
WHO IS COURTNEY MASSENGALE?
Emery Nelson writes:
First thing, the author had to know that this is the name of a U.S. feminine hygiene product.
A combination of bad habits, perhaps Gen MacArthur's quirks? Or perhaps General Mark Clark?
General Clark was awfully eager to ride through Rome triumphant and took heavy casualties to get this "victory". Was this what Anton Myrer was thinking of when he wrote of Massengale's backstab of Damon's men?
I remember when I was very young reading a newspaper piece by Bernard Fall, which talked about an American General with similar experience (staff officer in both wars, worked for Mac in WWII) and Asian land war dreams. What sets off alarm bells is the part about using the Nationalist Divisions on the in the Golden Triangle (they are still there, growing, harvesting and selling opium). I remember that Fall felt this was foolish (for the same reasons as Damon) and eventually the general was sent home and retired. Fall who was a communist, admired men like Carlson very much, but hated American military men in general as fools with power and blamed this general and others for our involvement in VN. He regarded the American General in the article as, arrogant and "impotent" (I understood the meaning of the word but not it's context).
I think this is the man, but after our conversation several months ago on this subject, I searched as thoroughly as I know how and couldn't come up with it. Maybe I'll look up the early General officers in VN and see if I can approach it from that direction.
I did get the name of a woman who does research for the Washing Post who speaks French. She said she would do some digging. I will try and get back to her and ask again. One of the problems is most Generals who were making decisions in the early days are dead and the ones that are not, claim they were against the war all the time. Revisionism is the order of the day. "Many men have a hand in the birth of Victory, but defeat is a bastard."
P.S. If anyone can give me a name of some old living generals who were in VN in the early years I'll see what more I can dig up.
THE EFFECT THE BOOK AND TV MINI-SERIES HAS HAD ON AMERICANS...
Karl Riker (RikerKK@amazon.com) from Boston , October 13, 1999
Very useful Very informative. Once an Eagle explains in concise prose the maxims of leadership and relates military truths that are so much the dramatic foundation of popular military fiction titles like The Triumph and Glory or superb films like Saving Private Ryan.
Mitchell E Ayer (email@example.com) from Houston, Texas , October 10, 1999
A truly inspirational book
This is one of the finest books I've read. Killer Angels is the only book I can think of that comes close to it. But I believe this book is better, because Sam Damon puts his duty to his country ahead of everything. This should be required reading in schools so that the citizens in our country will know that war is possible and horrible. The only remedy is preparation and vigilance. It is apalling that our military cannot even enlist the required number of men it needs to keep up to strength. It is apalling that our country lacks a missle defense system to protect our shores. We can thank the ultimate Courtenay Massengale-William Jefferson Clinton and the other ignorant social welfare planners of his ilk. We all need to do our duty as citizens to force the politicians to do what is right. --This text refers to the paperback edition of this title
From Tuscon , September 26, 1999
Great book about the military
I read this several times and it is a classic of what it means to be a military professional. I also recommend Bob Mayer's Special Forces books or Company Commander a classic in the genre.
firstname.lastname@example.org, LTC Miller retired from Mpls, MN , August 27, 1999
The book is a guide to military & non-military leadership. I am a retired Army Guard and Reserve officer of twenty eight years. I was first introduced to the book, "Once An Eagle" while I was going through OCS and college. I was amazed at the detail of thoughts of the young Sam Damon and how much they paralleled my own thoughts. I could really identify with him. I tried throughout my military and civilian careers to model myself after the leadership examples of Sam Damon. I looked for and became very aware of the Massengale officers. Once you are aware of that type of "problem" you can combat it. Later I re-read the book when I was a company commander. Boy had Sam become smarter. It really helped my at that stage of my career.
This past weekend I saw a huge write-up in the Minneapolis Star and was suprised that the book had that big of a following. I am re-reading the book again, for the third time, and I find my self re-identifying with the characters. I recommend this book for all young NCOs and young officers to help them formulate a mentoring guide book, like a set of rules to work towards, that they can use in the daily experiences that will make up their careers. If you use the book to help focus your committment to leadership, you will have a great experience, a great career, and a love of adventure.
email@example.com from Rockaway, NJ , August 19, 1999
More Mustangs Like Sad Sam, Fewer Courtney Massengales
Quite Simply, one of the finest books about professional Soldiers ever published. This is the story of the U.S. Army from WW I to the beginnings of Vietnam. It is also the story of one true American hero, "Sad Sam" Damon, the former Night Clerk and Nebraska farm boy who receives the Medal of Honor in France in WW I and goes on to retire a general officer in the early stages of America's involvement in Vietnam.
Sad Sam is a Mustang who learned early to take care of the people he was responsible for. In the process, he also earns a battlefield commission. In the interwar years, he sweats out numerous moves,terrible pay and slow promotions. But, he never loses his way.
His foil is the ambitious, scheming West Pointer, Courtney Schuyler Massengale. Courtney Massengale is the quintessential "staff puke" who doesn't like to lead troops, doesn't like the field and doesn't like to get dirty. Like our vaunted Commander in Chief, he also doesn't like to tell the truth, either. As a result, he manages to manipulate his way to the top of the officer corps, where his brand of leadership (or lack thereof) can do the most damage.
I read Once and Eagle when it was first published (I was 14 at the time) and it made me realize that I wanted to be an officer just like "Sad Sam." I even tried to live my life by the code established with his dying words to the son of his dead friend Ben Krisler. He said to Lt Col Joey Krisler, "if you ever have to choose between being a better person and a better soldier, always try to be the better person."
It is reassuring to see that the Army and marine corps think so much of this book that they have influenced bringing it back into print. It should be the required leadership primer for all second lieutenants and ensigns. I hope every potential Courtney Massengale at West Point, USAFA, USCGA and USNA see themselves in its pages and mend their ways before it's too late (for them, their service and their troops).
This is a book about honor, integrity, loyalty and service. These are noble words for concepts which have been erased from the popular lexicon of everyday American life. While the military has once again re-discovered this book, I believe it should be introduced as required reading at the high school level, where it might have a real impact.
As a caveat however, I offer the quote from the flyleaf where Myrer found his title:
"So in the Libyan Fable it is told that once an eagle, stricken with a dart, said when he saw the fashion of the shaft, with our own feathers, not by others' hands are we now smitten."
This is a powerful warning to those who would do right by America and her armed forces. There are numerous enemies operating from within. This book gives us a wonderful hero but, it also warns us to look over our shoulders as well. The resurgence of this book should also serve as a reminder to the "perfumed princes" in the officer corps that their oath is to the Constitution, that their duty is to the country and that honor demands that they put the nation above personal consideration.
The men and women of the armed forces, who are sworn to obey the orders of the officers appointed over them, deserve no less. The nation deserves no less and Anton Myrer's novel from 1968 reminds us of that even today.
From Midland County, Texas , August 17, 1999
Required reading for those who would lead American Soldiers. This novel is a classic of the military genre. It takes some literary license, but basically it's the study of the development of two officers, one good and true to his oath and duty, and one careerist, ticket punching self serving typical 'REMF'. As a career enlisted Soldier, I recognizes both protaganists and the stage on which they play. It's a great exposition of the trials and tribulations of the Army in peace and war, and of an officer's struggle to survive long enough to make a difference when the balloon goes up. Required book for young Soldiers. A good read for any American, male or female. The TV series was good, as well. --This text refers to the paperback edition of this title
From Maine , August 17, 1999
An excellent tale of the military, good and bad
I first read this book many years ago and have reread it several times since, through my time at West Point, in the infantry and special forces. Now that I am retired I can safely say the characters rnig true, to include the bad ones. I recommend a couple of other books about the military if you are interested: Andy McNabb's SAS books which are #1 bestsellers in England and an excellent view into special operations-- the SAS wasn't that much different than SF. Closer to home I've enjoyed Bob Mayer's Special Forces series-- wish they were all in print-- as I had wished for years they'd resissue this book-- but you can get some here at Amazon.
firstname.lastname@example.org from the midwest , August 16, 1999
Once an Eagle in the news I read this book soon after publication, in Reader's Digest condensed books of all things. I found it affecting, as others have, and was impressed enough to list it as my favorite book in college applications. I don't know what I'd think of it now, but I do find it heartening that Myrer wins over the bestselling Tom Clancy tripe as a favorite within the military. Other fans of this book might be interested in reading the story "Military Goes by the Book, but It's a Novel" By Elizabeth Becker in the NYT of 8/16/99; it lead me to look up the book here. I assume this article had something to do with the sudden surge to #5 on the Amazon bestseller list. For those in the military who worry that the Courntney Massengales are running things, you might take heart in the following excerpts:
Gen. Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says it is the only book he has ever read twice. The Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., recently brought the book back into print because military schools wanted it for courses in ethics and leadership. . . .
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. Favorite passages are quoted routinely, especially Sam Damon's dying words: "Joey, if it comes to a choice between being a good soldier and a good human being -- try to be a good human being ..."
And the names of Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale have entered the language of the U.S. military as code words for the good officer who thinks first of the troops and the other one who thinks only of personal gain. When Shelton wants to exclude a candidate from a promotion, all he has to do is tell the board of review: "This is another Courtney Massengale."
"It's a household name and I've used it to say we shouldn't have an individual like that in the ranks -- someone who is motivated for all the wrong reasons, someone you don't want leading the troops," Shelton said. --
email@example.com from Silicon Valley , July 29, 1999
Quite simply, the best - Myrer and his hero Sam Damon. I am a retired Soldier. I have read "Once an Eagle" many times, and I cannot imagine life without this book on my bookshelf. I have presented copies to budding leaders and will continue to do so throughout my life. If you truly want to understand the Army, its ideals and those who do and do not share them -- if you want to understand the Soldiers who fought for you, from World War I to Viet Nam -- if you want to know what it truly means to be a soldier -- then read this book and try to be like "the Night Clerk," Sad Sam Damon. If only we had more Damons, and fewer Courtney Massengales -- in every walk of life. --This text refers to the paperback edition of this title
A reader from alaska , May 10, 1999
This is the best novel about a person and war that I have ever read. to see someone coming up thru the ranks like he did was outstanding. i also saw the nbc miniseries, which followed the book to a tee...i had two long tours in Vietnam and i wish we had someone like that to lookup to like this outstanding person in the book. i wish NBC, would release it for video so very one can see it.
From Alabama , May 10, 1999
Once An Eagle - The finest book I've ever read...and read..!
Literally the only non text book I read in four years of college...I've probably read it 5 times since. I've since worn out that first copy and I continue on another. Myrer has written, quite simply, the finest modern American war novel.
Damon's (Myrer's) prayer for strength in leadership ("...let me not fail them...") was on my desk or wall or wallet in every leadership or staff position I had for all my years of military service, as was his statement that a man must be prepared for the awful shrieking moment when he knows he may die on a lonely hilltop 10,000 miles from home.
I made my lieutenants read and discuss the book, named my tank 'Sad Sam' after Damon (my XO's tank was 'The Wolverine' after Ben Krisler)and had it been in print in the late '80s would have had my students buy it as their leadership primer. When he is old enough, I will ask my son to read it. Composed of the traits of fine American officers and sergeants, Sam Damon's life is a rich tapestry filled with great success and great failure. That is the magic of Anton Myrer, he created a character who was truly believable.
His protagonist, Massengale, is just as real - and he exists today in one or more arm chair senior officers. I've met him, as have others. A must read for all leaders, military or civilian...truly one of the finest examples of modern tragedy that anyone could write. I salute the memory of Anton Myrer...it was an honor to have read his work and known him through Sam Damon!
firstname.lastname@example.org from TEXAS , February 24, 1999
A True Classic
The best book and movie in years,needs to be out on tapes so all of us can have a copy/copys and every one needs to read this book a couple of times,it will help you understand that era and what people when through,it was a hard time for every one.I'm glad to have a copy of "Once An Eagle" on my bookshelf. --
email@example.com(Bruce Sanders) from Or. USA , February 10, 1999
The best text book for those who want to lead
I don't have the education to be as eloquint as these other reviewers, but I was a Soldier, and a NCO. I also had the privlege of working for Col. Bud Taylor, BG. Bob Brainard, and BG. Floyd Glass.All men who inspired trust & confidence in their men( & woman). I also worked for "ring knockers", who could destroy a unit within months. I really feel that if this book were REQUIRED reading for ALL acadamy students, we would produce the greatest leadership cadre in the world .Not just militataraly , but even those who don't stay on and make a carear of the military. The mini series was the best, & I too would love to have a copy(if any one knows how to get a copy please let me know). I've read the book 9 times, And look foreward to reading it again.
From Ft. Knox, KY , January 22, 1999
Absolutely The BEST military book I have yet to read
I cannot add much to the other reviews but as a young LT entering into today's U.S. Army, I was completed amazed at the lessons taught in this book. The author has managed to show the reader two of the leadership styles that exist in today's military, and how each of them worked/didn't work for the characters. A "MUST READ" for any leader of troops!
Steve Kimbrough (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Corning in Northern California , December 20, 1998
An Outstanding description of essential Leadership Qualities
I am excited to read the other recent Reader reviews and find that people are still reading Once An Eagle. Like some of the other readers, I read the book after seeing the TV Mini series. I was young and just beginning my Leadership career. The protagonist Sam Damon is an outstanding role model. He is much like the great marine 'Chesty' Puller...or my other hero, the Army's 'Stormin' Norman. Now I am 53, and a small town City Manager; I keep the book on the shelf with other leadership guides as a reminder of my roots, and that you can only lead if others trust you enough to go with you. One of the best parts of my life is to have actually met and been led by Leaders who had the qualities of Sam Damon. Col. Bud Taylor, BG Bob Brainard, Col Dave Gustufson, Col. Joe Sergeant, Col. Paul Myron, all of the CalARNG. Great First Sergeants like Fred Flores and all the NCO's who cared enough to train me. City Councilmen like Rex Sturdevant, Jack Terrell and Gary Strack. Managers like Mike Walker. Read ONCE AN EAGLE; you deserve a good role model! Read Chesty Pullers Bio too!
email@example.com from Prescott, Arizona , September 20, 1998
Simply a Classic!
This is one of those books that should be read by everyone & proudly displayed on your bookshelf. For those who love military historical novels and those who want to know something about combat & warrior code, this is the standard. A most impressive work. --
From Robins AFB, Ga , August 19, 1998
This book inspired me as a adolescent. It, and my father (an enlisted man who gained his commision) inspired me to join the Air Force to serve my country and, hopefully, lead troops. I accomplished both. Unfortunately, the "Courtney Massengales" are winning in the institution, so I'm turning down promotion and getting out. This is the finest novel of the American military and the idealism of young men. It should be required reading for anyone who aspires to leadership. --This text refers to the paperback edition of this title
HM2(SW/FMF) Clements (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Knoxville TN , July 18, 1998
This is by far the best book I have read. I remember watching the movie years ago and would love to see it again. Sam Damon personifies all the traits that should be commonplace in todays military but is pushed aside by political agenda. I have my own copy that I encourage my Sailors to read.
email@example.com from Leavenworth, KS , April 22, 1998
The leaders who should be but won't
I read this book as a 2LT and kept it with me for the next 23 years. It is a goal that every military officer should strive for. Unhappily, most become the antithesis of Sam Damon once promoted to the higher levels. Should be required reading at the War College.
firstname.lastname@example.org from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas , April 14, 1998
A must read for every Soldier-leader.
Put simply, this book (or at least excerpts from it) ought to be on every mandatory reading list of every leadership school of every service in the United States. If it were, leadership instruction would be a matter of saying, "Read 'Once an Eagle' and be prepared to discuss." Request someone help me find a copy of the movie.
email@example.com from New Braunfels, TX , March 30, 1998
After I began reading Myrer's 800 plus page book, I was hooked for the next two days until it was finished. Like Jones' World War II trilogy, Myrer writes of the struggle for decency in a human institution that often requires the suspension of decency in order to survive and succeed, both literally and figuratively. Jones' Prewitt and Myrer's Damon represent the outsider-champion in society; courageous people who are willing to tell the truth and do what's right, even when it is not to their personal advantage to do so. Myrer gets inside his characters and helps the reader understand their motivations. Anyone who puzzles over the human condition and who recognizes the way society is represented in its military institutions will want to read this book.
Mark Mayhew (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Brentwood, Tennessee , December 3, 1997
Anton Myrer's "Once an Eagle" a must-read for leaders You've had Total Quality Management. You've read Sun Tzu and Musashi on business as war. You've been to Outward Bound and you've undergone Team Building exercises until you're blue in the face. Now read the novel that has more to say about the qualities a real leader should have than any text written by a management guru--Anton Myrer's classic "Once an Eagle." The book is a youth-to-death story of "Sad" Sam Damon, a midwestern boy who steeps himself in military history and a code of honor that requires him to step forward and take the lead in almost every situation. Myrer has tapped into a simple truth. That's what real leaders do; they lead. While Sam Damon is a military hero, he's no marble monument. Myrer shows us that real world leaders are assailed with doubts, real fears, and insecurities that can lead them to cave in to expediency under extreme pressure. But in Sam Damon, Myrer shows us that true leadership can consist of recognizing your mistakes, swallowing hard, and stepping up to the plate again to do the right thing. Such a strong protagonist clearly needs a strong opponent. Myrer delivers with Courtney Massengale, a supremely brilliant and ruthless adversary whose weakness, as Sam Damon realizes, is that he does not love any man. It is the byplay between these two characters that Myrer uses to telling effect in illustrating how love is a key element in leadership. I know of half a dozen executives who have patterned their management styles on Sam Damon's lessons. They are the best bosses I ever had. This is a book that should be required reading in our service academies, and as part of every MBA program and civil service exam in the country. Fortunately, it's also a wonderful read. email@example.com from Lincoln Park, Michigan , November 6, 1997
Outstanding Great American Novel
THIS is the Great American Novel, capturing all the finest qualities in, not only an American Soldier, but in an American Man. This book would be a tremendous guide for a young man on how to, and not to, live a life. Of accepting and doing one's duty, of Honor, and especially, what it means to be a real adult man in society. Great Book!
firstname.lastname@example.org from usa , September 30, 1997
Once read, it will inspire you for your lifetime.
I first read this book in 1976, have read it three times since. I was quite pleased when it was made into a movie for tv. Starring Sam Elliot. He was the perfect actor to portray Damon. With sadness I could never find a copy of it in video store or anywhere else. Since i first read it I could never forget it. A book that everyone should read filled with triumph, sadness, glory, despair and HONOR. A story of a man we all would like to be and hope that others are like him.
A reader , June 13, 1997
Finest book I have ever read.
Why is Anton Myrer ignored when great authors are mentioned? His "Once an Eagle" is the finest book, of ANY type, that I have ever read. It is with geniune sadness that I hear he died last year. His great book will always live in my house.
A reader , April 19, 1997
A "must read" book for all leaders, civilain and military. I first was introduced to "Once An Eagle" in 1977 when it was made into a movie. As a Viet Nam veteran and National Guard officer, this story brought home the true life stuggles of those who serve our country and the battles, agains all manner of enemy, that those who have choosen the profession of arms must deal with. This is a story about leadership, integrity and pasison. Now, as a senior officer in the U.S. Air Force, I have read this book over a dozen time and it is a suggested reading for all my officers and NCO's. The characters of Sam Damon, Courtney Massengale are examples of what true leadership is and is not. My only regret is I don't have a copy of the movie.
A reader , February 25, 1997
A lifetime reading experience.
My father, an Army General, read this book three times before I finally picked it up. It was a tattered paperback, and I searched years for a hardcover copy with which to repay him for the finest reading experience I've had in my life. This book could stand alone as a novel that successfully unravels the mystery of man's endless cycle of construction and destruction. But it is at the same time a lifetime inspiration, telling the story of a small-town Nebraska son who's got the stuff to change the world around him, and does. Myrer's gifted description brings into mind's view the gas-lit town of Sam Damon's beginnings, the battlefields on which he fights, recognition of his life's love, and other life-shaping experiences with such impact that Once An Eagle constantly causes the reader to close this book and let what he has read sink to the bone, praying that the essence of this brilliant commentary will never be forgotten.
A reader , February 16, 1997
This may well be the best book I have ever read.
This may well be the best book I have ever read-and I have read it at least five times. It is certainly the best book of its type with which I am acquainted-better even than War and Peace. It is about everything: war, and the awful waste of combat; the price of idealism; the choices and compromises we make in our lives; love and truth; the search for the meaning of life; and mostly about the costs that living and choosing entail. The hero, Sam Damon, is one of those very rare characters in fiction who touches-and changes-the lives of readers. Caught in turbulent times, he only rarely gets to glimpse the "glory" and glamor of them. But he takes part in more than his share of the awful, bloody, dark side of historic events. Myrer's gift is that he is able, despite sparing the reader nothing of the truth, to transport this into an uplifting, optimistic experience. Reading Once An Eagle is an unforgettable experience, providing more insight about life and Soldiering, and being a person of honor and integrity, than dozens of good biographies or histories ever could. I envy the reader who has yet to experience this book for the first time.
February 1, 1997
Inspiring story of an all America Soldier
Anton Myrer, a former U.S. marine, has written the all-time greatest novel of a Soldier's life of service. The protagonist, Sam Damon, was commissioned on the battlefield but never forgot his simple and honorable roots as a citizen and enlisted man. He lived a life of dedicated service, loyal to his subordinates, leaders, the Army, and the nation, and rose to two-star General officer rank. His nemesis was a West Point graduate, Courtney Massengale, who was never a Soldier at heart, but merely a careerist... out for himself. On one level, these two characters provide contrasting types of military officers, one noble and self-sacrificing, and and the other obsessed with personal aggrandizement. On a more intimate level, these two characters represent the struggle within every Soldier's heart between the allure of promotion and prestige, and the call to duty and humble loyalty to his men and profession. Myrer died of cancer on Robert E. Lee's birthday in January 1996. I read the book before I was commissioned at West Point in 1976 and the story stuck with me throughout my own humble 20+ year career as a constant conscience and counselor against self-promotion. This is a character-building tale!
THE RETURN OF ONCE AN EAGLE MINI-SERIES TO TV
1976 Mini-series starring Sam Elliot
Col Sean Byrne describes the impact of the TV Mini-series:
"On a more personal note, I first became acquainted with Sam Damon while serving as a second lieutenant at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during the late 1970s. Television miniseries were then in vogue, and Once an Eagle was serialized by NBC. During the evenings Once an Eagle was shown, all activities that could be controlled were halted on Fort Bragg so we could run home and watch Damon's trials and tribulations. The following morning all the junior officers gathered for breakfast in their mess halls after physical training to discuss the previous evening's show, scene by scene. Damon became our mentor. While he was not perfect and we could pick out his flaws, we saw in him what we wanted to be and, more important, what we could possibly be as officers. He motivated us to raise both our expectations and standards. In his nemesis, Courtney Massengale, we saw the worst of the officer corps-and what we would do our best to fight against throughout our careers.
Over the years Damon has often served as my example when counseling junior officers and during formal officer professional development sessions. I have given copies of Once an Eagle as gifts so many times, that I find myself looking for paperback copies every time I go into a used book store. I have been a proponent of, and advocate for, Damon for nearly 20 years. Researching this article provided me with another role model-Clarence Huebner. It also reinforced the fact that our Army is, and always has been, made up of exceptional individuals who, though not readily recognizable to the general public, stand ready to answer the nation's call to duty."
Colonel Sean J. Byrne is commander, 8th Personnel Command (PERSCOM), Seoul, Korea. He received a B.S. from the University of Detroit and an M.B.A. from the University of Utah. He is a graduate of the U.S. marine Corps Command and Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. He has served in a variety of command and staff positions in the Continental United States, including chief, Enlisted Distribution Division, PERSCOM, Alexandria, Virginia; commander, 82d Personnel Services Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; deputy commander, 18th Personnel Group, Fort Bragg; Deputy G1, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg; and military aide to the President, Washington, D.C
Armed Forces Radio/TV is showing the entire mini-series to the Soldiers overseas and get advance word in Stars and Stripes. Those of us in CONUS could have a friend tape it for us to see then. He has asked me to get requests from all Soldiers who would like to see Once An Eagle, which I would assemble into one email for him. The Soldiers who are OCONUS requesting OAE will be most influential.
Please email me what you would say to AFRTV on why you would like to see OAE broadcast, and ask any OAE fans you know to do the same!
Mike Sparks email@example.com
Would hope that my comments in the note below, as taken from my article. "Looking for Sam Damon," below would be helpful. They spell out my feelings on this great book. However, it they are not enough, .....
If you read my article in its entirety, you will know that I consider "Once an Eagle" a true classic. But to only view it solely as only a great book does it a disservice. It is a great novel that should be viewed from many perspectives. The book is a magnificent character study and it provides a classic case of good versus evil. It does it with the key events of the 20th century in some cases in the background while in others the events drive the characters to the heights of success and the depths of despair. It is also a great study in leadership along the lines of "12 O'clock High." It accurately portrays how leaders, both informal and formal, both good and bad, react and adjust to crisis situations. In this same vein it shows how leaders care for their subordinates and the toll command can take both physically and emotionally. It also is a story of relationships; a love story of a man and his wife, parents and their son, the bond between men in war and in peace, the relationships of a man and his father in law and a father and his daughter. It also shows prejudices and progress. From a parochial Army view, it is probably the finest novel ever written about the 20th Century Army, its Soldier, families quality of life and operations.
I saw the made for TV series when it was originally shown and it had a profound affect on my outlook on the military and my entire career. Damon, although not perfect, became a role model for myself and large number of junior officers in the years immediately following U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
As a side note, I believe that the actor, Sam Elliot, was perfectly matched for the role of the book's central character, Sam Damon. He brought to the role a quiet reserve and midwest values as well as the honestly and sincerity that made Damon the type of leader that could cause his subordinates to attempt any mission, regardless of the situation or fears they at times were consumed by. After reading the book and watching the series, one would honestly hope that if their children were in the military they would be able to serve under a leader such as Sam Damon.
Hopefully, anyone reading this note understands that I more than simply ask that my name be added to a roster of people that think it would be "nice " to see "Once an Eagle" again, 20+ years after seeing it the first time. I think it is important that not just those of us on the down side of our careers have the chance to see this film again, but I think it is most important that our new officers and young enlisted Soldiers see this great film. But I will not be that parochial -- I believe that appropriately advertised the series can and should have a much wider audience for all the reasons I identified above. I know if and when it is shown, I will tape it and then instead of requiring my junior officers to read the book, I will offer them the opportunity to watch the show and gain insight into what they can become with the proper attitude, mentoring and dedication.
Date: 10/16/99 10:19:21 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: XXXXXXXXX@XXXXXXXXXX (Halferty, Mark R)
Hey! Tell him that it would be GREAT to have that show on over here, especially in Area IV.... and if we could get the videos, it would be good if they were a permanent part of the NCO Academy training syllabus.
Subj: RE: Your help needed on Once an Eagle rebroadcast
Date: 10/16/99 11:54:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: XXXXX@usfk.korea.army.mil (XXXXXX, XXXXXXXX XXX)
OK--we'll start the grass-roots campaigning.
Subj: Re: Once an Eagle Mini-Series Letter writing campaign
Date: 10/19/99 3:30:36 PM Eastern Daylight Time
I am writing to you to convey my strong desire to see the NBC miniseries, Once An Eagle, rebroadcast as soon as possible. This miniseries, as you know, was based on the novel of the same name written by Anton Myrer in 1968.
Simply, this book is one of the most important works of military literature published in the 20th Century. This novel has embedded in the military's lexicon forever the names of Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale, arguably the two most famous soldiers who never existed. It is a timeless tale of doing the harder right over the more politically expedient and easier wrong. This book embodies the ethic of what a professional soldier, as the guardian of his nation and its espoused values, should strive to be, yet the book does so without being preachy. One of the strengths of the book is that the main characters are only superficially black and white. In reality, both Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale are complex characters with flaws and redeeming qualities. This book helps the aspiring officer and the seasoned officer alike examine the true nature of leadership and what it means. It helps identify why Sam Damon, despite his flaws, is the man to be emulated, whilst Courtney Massengale, despite his strengths is the man to be reviled and watched for with eternal vigilance. What makes the book even more interesting is that the characters are based on composites of real officers.
This book has influenced at least three generations of officers. Sadly, it fell out of print, and many young officers could only read the NBC mini-series paperback edition released in 1976, often found only in used book stores. It is from these worn copies that many who were too young to see the miniseries firsthand learned of the television adaptation ( I was six when it was broadcast). Recently, the venerable New York Times featured a front-page article on the books resurgence within the ranks. General Henry Hugh Shelton, a veteran warrior of Vietnam, Iraq, and the invasion of Haiti and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked it is the only book he ever read twice. The Army War College has seen fit to reprint it in trade paperback so that another generation of American Soldiers can enjoy this important book without having to search for it in used book stores. I looked for over 2 years before I found a copy in 1989. In addition, articles about Sam Damon, the miniseries and the book itself have been written for Military Review, the Army's premier professional journal, and Assembly, the alumni magazine of the United States Military Academy, all within the last two years.
This television miniseries is an important work, and has only been broadcast once to my knowledge. I have not seen it, but based on the a number of conversations with those who have, it is one of the few works of letters that television does justice to. At least one reviewer on Amazon.com went so far as to say the mini-series was even better than the book. With the resurging popularity of the book, the time to rebroadcast this miniseries, make it available to A&E, The History Channel, or another documentary station or to offer it for sale has never been greater.
Christopher M. Coglianese
Captain, U.S. Army
I think showing the Once an Eagle miniseries to all Soldiers is a great idea. The show is not only great entertainment but inspires both officers and enlisted to do their duty no matter what.
1606 Breezy Bend Dr.
Katy Tx 77494
10/20/99 7:52:31 AM Eastern Daylight Time
I would love to get a hold of that movie. As a Navy Corpsman assigned to marine Infantry units, I have come to depend on the Damons to make my job easier. How can I get a copy? I am in Tennessee on Inspector-Instructor duty.
GET ONCE AN EAGLE ON VHS!
NEW! GET OAE ON DVD!!!
1976 - mini series - Sam Elliott, Cliff Potts, Darleen Carr, Amy Irving, Glenn Ford
The story of two Army officers, one a ruthless, career-obsessed schemer, the other his exact opposite, and their personal and professional lives from the end of World War I to the beginning of Vietnam.
Peter S. Fischer
Anton Myrer (novel)
Cast (in credits order)
Sam Elliott ... Sam Damon
Cliff Potts ... Courtenay Massengale
Darleen Carr ... Tommy Caldwell
Amy Irving ... Emily Pawlfrey Massengale
Glenn Ford ... George Caldwell
Ralph Bellamy ... Ed Caldwell
Dane Clark ... Harry Sheppard
Andrew Duggan ... Gen. McKelvey
Lynda Day George ... Marge Krisler
Gary Grimes ... Jack Devlin
Clu Gulager ... Alvin Merrick
Robert Hogan ... Ben Krisler
Kim Hunter ... Kitty Damon
David Huddleston ... Earl Preis
Juliet Mills ... Joyce
Harriet Hilliard ... Harriet Nelson
Albert Salmi ... Sen. Bert McConnadin
John Saxon ... Capt. Townshend
James Shigeta ... Lin Tso-Han
Barry Sullivan ... Gen. Bannerman
Phyllis Thaxter ... Alma Caldwell
Forrest Tucker ... Col. Avery
David Wayne ... Col. Terwilliger
William Windom ... Gen. Duke kPulleyne
Anthony Zerbe ... Dave Shifkin
John Anderson ... George Varney
Andrew Robinson ... Reb Rayburne
Jeff Cotler ... Sam, as a boy
Tracie Savage ... Peggy Damon
Lynne Marta ... Celia Harrodson
Dennis Burkley ... Krazewski
Will Seltzer ... Brewster
Jane Elliot ... Cheryl Logan
Patricia Stich ... Nurse Pomeroy
Patti D'Arbanville ... Michele
Hayden Rorke ... Paul Sinclair
Ron Masak ... Maynard Lambert
James Cromwell ... J.L. Cleghorne
George Wyner ... Dr. McCabe
Cathey Paine ... Mae Lee Cleghorne
Kip Niven ... Ryetower
Kario Salem ... Joe Brand
Carmen Argenziano ... Adam Brand
Tom Reese ... Sgt. Stoner
Lee de Broux ... Bill Nickerson
Andrew Stevens ... Donny Damon
Jim Antonio ... Capt. Lasovitch
Melanie Griffith ... Jinny Massengale
Ben Piazza ... Capt. Jerome
Kent Smith ... Gen. Jacklyn
Jordan Rhodes ... Sgt. Ives
George Murdock ... Sgt. Chepenek
Frank Michael Liu ... Capt. Nagasay
Randall Carver ... Lee McConnadin
Anne Bellamy ... Helene McConnadin
Smith Wordes (as Smith Evans)
Sean McClory ... Militia Colonel
Stacy Keach Sr.
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Steve Eoff ... German Sergeant
Steven Hood ... Messenger
Jane Merrow ... Hallie
Allen G. Norman ... Gamekeeper
Bryan A. Seneviratne ... Japanese Soldier
James Rosin ... Soldier No.2 (uncredited)
Runtime:540 min - on 4 discs
Nominated for Golden Globe.