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Once An Eagle Paperback – May 7, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 345 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

America's fighting men have turned to Once an Eagle as a sourcebook for the military's core values since its publication at the height of the Vietnam War. The novel, following the careers of virtuous Sam Damon and opportunistic Courtney Massengale, is required reading for all members of the United States Marine Corps and frequently taught in leadership courses at West Point. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Beautifully written. ...A masterpiece. .... Myrer’s descriptions of firefights are by far the best I have read.” (George S. Patton - MG, U.S. Army)

“Remarkable . . . utterly engrossing. Myrer is a superb storyteller.” (New York Times)

“An ambitious, magnificently vivid novel...compelling. The battle scenes are among the finest I have ever read.” (The Atlantic)

“Myrer was an excellent storyteller...Once An Eagle is that very rare thing, a genuine ideological novel. When one of these becomes standard issue to the Corps of Cadets we would be remiss if we ignored it.” (New York Review of Books)

“A powerful, provocative and strongly-written novel...and an implied warning to the nation...One hopes that the Chiefs of Staff in Washington will read it with care.” (Cincinnati Enquirer)

“Accurate and appealing. The most brilliant and moving description of men in battle I have read... Truly a great book.” (Hugh B. Hester - BG, U.S. Army)

“At long last we have what critics have been saying was lost to modern novels--an honest-to-God hero...a natural.” (Harpers)

“I fully understand why Once An Eagle has become a classic novel of war and warriors. Sam Damon doesn’t preach, he lives his values and they are universal not only military.” (General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, US Army Retired - Commander in Chief Desert Storm)

“I would pick up Once An Eagle rather than Norman Mailer any day for a clue as to what is going on in Vietnam.” (Baltimore Sun)

“In ironic contrast, the story moves from jungle warfare to drawing rooms on the Potomac, and back again...Goes to the heart of our century.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

“Inspects down to thier most elusive motives those who have to make the agonizing command decisions.” (Providence Journal)

“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.” (David L. Grange - BG, U.S. Army)

“Magnificent...word pictures of combat superb...a remarkable book.” (R. Ernest Dupuy - COL, U.S. Army)

“Never read anything that depicts army life and the battlefield with such deep appreciation...superb account...artistry and sensitivity.” (Eugene A. Salet - MG, U.S. Army)

“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.” (Robert H. Scales - MG, U.S. Army Commandant U.S. Army War College)

“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.” (Henry H. Shelton - General, U.S. Army)

“Once An Eagle may be America’s War and Peace and Anton Myrer a contemporary Tolstoy.” (Louisville Courier Journal)

“Reflects skillful research in military areas as well as technical mastery of the writing craft...Through the gentle but courageous character of Damon, Myrer graphically describes the criminal, dirty, wasteful, savage immorality of war...The Army career man will look on it as a monument.” (Denver Post)

“Required reading...at the Army War College...a classic of military literature and a guide to honorable conduct in the profession of arms.” (Douglas V. Johnson I - LTC, U.S. Army)

“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.” (David M. Shoup - General, USMC)

“The most outstanding novel I have seen in long years. And it is far and away the best work of fiction with a military background I have ever read.” (Journal of the Armed Forces)

“Too overwhelming, too awe-inspiring to keep to youself...magnificent,” (Philadelphia Bulletin)

“A classic novel...Sam Damon doesn’t preach, he lives his values and they are universal, not only military.” (General H. Norman Schwarzkopf)

“A classic.” (Washington Post)

“A great generational story of our US military, warts and all.” (SENATOR JOHN McCAIN)

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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1312 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060084359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060084356
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (345 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #618,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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
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Format: Hardcover
I first read this book as a high school student in the late 1960s. Vietnam was reaching it's peak and the Armed Forces was never out of the headlines. Since that time, I've taken it dwon from the shelf and re-read it. I have found it of value in my military career as a reference on leadership and personalities. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest or need to know about positive and negative leadership traits. The lead charecter starts his military career in the desert and scrub of Mexico searching for Pancho Villa. Sam Damon is not in the branches that might have a little dash or adventure such as the cavalry or air service. He is a ground pounder in the infantry as a private who's biggest concern is learning water discipline. He moves on through ranks and gains a commission during World War I and manages to retain it following the war. The inter-war years and Damon's adjustment to both married life and military life on officers row is insightful. World War II is Damon's moment to shine; he does but not without personal costs both within his immediate family and his service family. His end is both moving and I felt, almost inevitable. This book is not a quick read, nor is it one that is good for only one time. It's value is from rereading it and learning something new each time. I highly recommend this book. My only criticism is that it is rather high priced; I wish the publisher could get it down to where more people would be able to purchase the hard bound edition and not the paperback.
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Format: Hardcover
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.<b> 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.
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Format: Hardcover
When you sit down to read this book by Anton Myrer, you may realize that you are reading one of the most memorable books of your lifetime, even though I found the beginning almost a different, less polished writing style from the rest of the book.

Myrer introduces us to a night clerk who has a gift for leadership and a photographic memory. He joins the infantry in time to search for a Mexican raider, with little realization that he is about to be caught up in the most turbulent decades of the century where he will succeed and also fail.

Through combat, a battlefield commission and being awarded the Medal of Honor, "Sad Sam" Damon, "the night clerk," experiences the excruciating trials of war and the loss of a best friend just before war's end in 1918. Determined to learn from the lessons and losses of war, Damon prepares himself for the next one while marrying and raising a family in the peacetime army of the 20's and 30's.

Courtney Massengale is his nemesis, an ambitious and heartless West Point graduate who is a veteran of many staff assignments. His personal success is more important than the lives of men, duty, honor, or country. He is always one rank ahead of Damon who is his counterweight. Massengale's ambition depends on Damon, and Damon and his troops will depend on Massengale.

Thirty years of checking and blocking are put to the test as Major General Sam Damon finds himself subordinate to Corps Commander Lieutenant General Massengale who masks the real purpose of his operations order to his generals, except Damon sees what his true purpose is. Massengale is after one of the most singular achievements of the Pacific in World War II. Damon exacts a promise from him.
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