Once an Eagle TV Series Overview (1976)


A story of the professional and private lives of two Army officers, Court Massengale an incompetent schemer who does not care about his men, and Sam Damon, a heroic and caring leader from World War I to the end of World War II.



Once an Eagle is a 1968 war novel by American author Anton Myrer. The novel takes place between the 1910s and 1960s, and covers many of the United States’ military involvements during that period. Once an Eagle tells the story of Sam Damon, career Army officer, from his initial enlistment as a private to his rise to general officer rank. Damon is an honourable soldier who rises in rank by success in field command, and cares for the welfare of his troops. His career is contrasted with that of another soldier, Courtney Massengale, who has no honour, no concern for his troops, and rises in rank through staff positions by cunning and political connections. As the two rise in the ranks together, they frequently clash in their views.

Refer to The Big War (1957), Myrer’s second novel, and In Love and War, a 1958 film based on The Big War.


  • Sam Damon (Protagonist. Honorable, forthright officer dedicated to the Army and his soldiers).
  • Courtney Massengale (Antagonist. Conniver and malefactor, using family political connections to move up the ranks).
  • Tommy Caldwell Damon (Sam Damon’s Wife, Daughter of General George Caldwell).
  • General George Caldwell (Sam Damon’s Commanding Officer during World War I, Father of Tommy Caldwell Damon).
  • Jack Devlin (Sam’s best friend during World War I).
  • Ben Krisler (Sam’s best friend during the interwar years and World War II).
  • Donny Damon (Sam and Tommy’s son).
  • Emily Massengale (Courtney’s wife).

Though seldom noted, Sam Damon’s character is partly based on the real life Major General William C. Chase (1895 to 1986). General Chase’s career is described in Front Line General, The Commands of William C. Chase (1975).


In 1976, NBC created a nine-hour American television miniseries, likewise titled Once An Eagle, based on the book and directed by Richard Michaels and E.W. Swackhamer. It aired as part of NBC’s Best Sellers anthology series. The miniseries was written by Peter S. Fischer and starred Sam Elliott as Damon, with Cliff Potts portraying Courtney Massengale. The first and last instalments of the seven-part series broadcast two hours each, while the interim episodes each broadcast for 60 minutes. The mini-series concerns the thirty year careers of two military men, from the outbreak of World War I to the aftermath of World War II.


  • Sam Elliott … Sam Damon, 7 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Cliff Potts … Courtenay Massengale, 7 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Darleen Carr … Tommy Caldwell, 7 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Amy Irving … Emily Pawlfrey Massengale, 7 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Glenn Ford … George Caldwell, 7 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Robert Hogan … Ben Krisler, 5 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Lynda Day George … Marge Krisler, 4 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Clu Gulager … Alvin Merrick, 4 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Kario Salem… Joe Brand, 4 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Andrew Stevens … Donny Damon, 3 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Kip Niven … Ryetower, 3 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Melanie Griffith … Jinny Massengale, 3 episodes, 1976-1977.
  • Andrew Duggan … Gen. McKelvey ,2 episodes, 1976-197.


  • A No.1 New York Times Bestseller, Once an Eagle has been a favourite of American military men and women since its writing.
  • The book appears on the Commandant’s required reading list for all Staff Sergeants and Gunnery Sergeants in the United States Marine Corps, and frequently serves as a text for cadets in leadership classes at West Point.
  • Charlton Heston had wanted to make a movie of this back in the 1960s.

Once an Eagle Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • E.W. Swackhamer … (4 episodes, 1976-1977).
    • Richard Michaels … (3 episodes, 1976-1977).
  • Producer(s):
    • Joe L. Cramer … supervising producer (7 episodes, 1976-1977).
    • Peter S. Fischer … producer (7 episodes, 1976-1977).
    • William Sackheim … executive producer (7 episodes, 1976-1977).
  • Writer(s):
    • Peter S. Fischer … (7 episodes, 1976-1977).
    • Peter S. Fischer … (written for television by) (3 episodes, 1976-1977).
    • Anton Myrer … (novel) (4 episodes, 1976).
    • Anton Myrer … (based on the novel: “Once An Eagle”) (3 episodes, 1976-1977).
  • Music:
    • Dana Kaproff … (7 episodes, 1976-1977).
  • Cinematography:
    • J.J. Jones … (7 episodes, 1976-1977).
  • Editor(s):
    • Howard Deane … (3 episodes, 1976-1977).
    • Chuck McClelland … (2 episodes, 1976-1977).
    • John Elias … (2 episodes, 1976).
  • Production:
    • Universal Television.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Antenne 2 (A2) (1977) (France) (TV) (dubbed version).
    • Antenne 2 (A2) (1981) (France) (TV) (dubbed version).
    • National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (1976) (USA) (TV) (original airing).
    • Studios USA Television (all media).
    • Timeless Media (2010) (USA) (DVD) (complete mini-series).
  • Release Date: 02 December 1976 to 13 January 1977 (US).
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Running Time: 9 hours (total running time).
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link(s)

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