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The Best Seller Epic Tales “Once an Eagle”
Once an Eagle is one of the best seller epic tales of two army men, who had conflict with each other over the span of fifty years during the middle decades of 20th century. The book was written by Anton Myrer and first published in 1968. Myrer has beautifully portrayed the mindset and lexicon of the American Army in the book by describing the complicated situations of soldiers during the war.
Sam Damon is one of the main characters of the tale. He is an idealistic teenager from Walt Whitman, Nebraska, who has plenty of dreams of a bright future. He works as a night clerk and applies for admission in the U.S. Military Academy. After a certain time period, the authority has selected him in the Army. He serves with General John J. Pershing in 1916 “punitive expedition” to the neighboring country Mexico and ends up in the trenches of France a year later during the 1st World War. Sam performs his best in the war and earns “Medal of Honor” and the U.S. army selects him as a Second Lieutenant (Myrer, 1968).
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Sam performs his works deliberately during his tour of duty in France. Also, he takes care of his men during complicated situations in battlefield. He has passionate dedication to the welfare of his Army. He consistently shows ideal behavior to his men regardless of whether they are his superiors or subordinates.
During Sam’s working life, he meets and marries Tommy Caldwell, the daughter of his former commanding officer. In the meanwhile, he meets Courtney Massengale. The personality of Massengale is totally opposite to Sam. However, he is quite ambitious and intellectual like Sam Damon, but he seeks career advancement and reorganization by performing his acts in the right place at the right time. Massengale shows superiority to his subordinates during his first encounter with Sam, shortly after Sam’s unit reaches “out of line” in France.
Sam and Massengale have the parallel careers in military in between the two World Wars. Occasionally, both of them find themselves stationed together in the same camps; most of the time, they argue with each other about some minor issues. Their stormy relationship comes to notice several times during World War II, Japanese battle, and in Southeast Asia (Myrer, 1968).
The author provides his readers with an excellent study of personal ethics and human nature by describing totally opposite personalities of Damon and Massengale in his novel. Myrer has beautifully crafted the story as an “Anti-War” novel. In the novel, he describes combat on the human terms. He has managed to portray the complicated battle scenes, which are consistently tough and gritty. Mayrer takes his readers’ minds to the inside world of battle with numerous complications and pain including descriptive accounts of men fighting, dying, killing, etc. Mayrer shows not only the dark lives of soldiers during wars, but also the dark side of less visible victims of war such as wives, children, and relatives of the war victims.
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Although some of the incidents of the novel sound depressing and over dramatic, still in reality, Anton Myrer paints a very realistic and practical life picture of military life in the 20th century. Critics believe that the portrait of past decades military life is extremely accurate to the novel Once an Eagle. In that period of time, military families were very poorly paid and lived in poverty. Also, frequent reassignments and changing military rank structures used to make difficulties to the families to settle in a home or town for a long time. All of these facts are quite understandable and visible in the novel. Thus, the author Anton Myrer has managed to paint the picture of military life in his book Once an Eagle.