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During World War II, a Marine battalion prepares to land on a large Japanese-held island in the South Pacific. Lt. Col. Gilfillan warns the men that it will be a tough mission, and that they have been ordered to take prisoners in order to gain information about the Japanese fortifications. Below deck, Lt. Carl A. Anderson, a chemistry teacher in civilian life, questions his former student, Corp. Stuart Conroy, who complains that he is ill and cannot fight. Knowing that Conroy is just frightened and battle weary, Anderson assures him that he has shown courage before and can do so again. Anderson and Conroy then join the rest of the men, and during the journey in the landing boat, medic C. E. "Doc" Jones recalls an incident a few months earlier when Anderson revealed that he was suffering from "psychological migraines." Although Doc urged Anderson to seek treatment in the United States, Anderson refused to leave his men and has been relying on Doc to supply him with painkillers.

The men hit the beach and successfully dig in, despite an initial burst of resistance. As four days pass, Anderson's squad, which includes boxer Pigeon Lane, Sgt. Zelenko, Pvt. Slattery, Coffman, Pvt. Whitney and the unstable Pretty Boy, grows weary of the constant moving and hidden Japanese snipers. One day, the men try to take a ridge of hills, but are beaten back by Japanese rockets, much to the surprise of the commanding officers, who were unaware that rockets were in the enemy's arsenal. Coffman is killed during the battle, and the furious Anderson is forced to take some of Doc's pills. At the Army's island headquarters, Anderson meets with other officers as Gilfillan recounts the troubles they are having capturing prisoners and getting information from them. Sgt. Randolph Johnson, an unconventional soldier who specializes in tricking Japanese prisoners into talking, questions one prisoner, who has been dubbed Willie. As Gilfillan receives orders to stop the rockets within nine hours, before the next assault on the hills, Willie informs Johnson that the Japanese soldiers holding a cave stronghold are willing to surrender. Accompanied by Johnson and war correspondent Sgt. Dickerman, Anderson leads a patrol to the cave, but upon their arrival, they are ambushed and Zelenko is blinded.

The men capture the remaining Japanese, including an officer named Capt. Ishio Makino, soldiers Romeo and Nomura and a shell-shocked, elderly civilian. Anderson finds a map on one of the dead officers, then leads the men across a river and through the jungle. After a sniper shoots at him, Pretty Boy kills the man during hand-to-hand combat, but the confrontation further unbalances him and he attempts to murder the prisoners. Lane then accidentally shoots and kills Pretty Boy while attempting to hold him off. Later, the wounded Doc tries to tell Dickerman how inherently good Anderson is despite his bitterness. Doc gives Dickerman his notebook, in which he has written a message for Anderson, then dies. Anderson and the remaining men return to headquarters, where Makino commits hara-kiri with a knife he had stolen from Johnson. While map expert Lt. Butterfield works on a Japanese map overlay found by Pretty Boy, Anderson and Johnson learn that Nomura is actually an important leader named Maj. Kenji Matsuoda. Johnson finally deduces where the rockets are located, and a barrage begins as Anderson rejoins his men outside. As they prepare, Anderson learns that Conroy has been killed by a sniper. With only Lane, Whitney and Slattery left of his squad, Anderson takes the news hard and is ready to give up. Dickerman reads aloud Doc's note, however, and Anderson, inspired by Doc's appeal for him to be strong for the sake of those whom he survives, throws away his painkillers and leads his men into battle.

Starring ... John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Dennis O'Keefe, William Frawley,
Leonid Kinskey

Director: Lewis Milestone
Producer: Robert Bassler

Year Released - Jan. 1951

Length - 113 minutes

Music Composer: Sol Kaplan

Movie Distributed by 20th Century Fox

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