AS SEEN IN:
'Once An Eagle'
From Wikipedia & CombatReform.org:
["Once An Eagle"] tells the story of Sam Damon, career Army officer, from his initial enlistment to his rise to general officer rank. Along the way, he encounters Courtney Massengale time and again, an opportunistic, smooth talking Army officer devoid of the honor and integrity that guide Sam Damon during his career.
Sam Damon (Sam Elliott) is a good family man and praiseworthy warrior.
"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.
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.