Rich landowner Wagner, who has been raised with the usual southern prejudices and has mistreated his sharecroppers, enters the service shortly after Pearl Harbor. Most of the story dwells upon Wagner's southern background in the life of landed gentry before going with his all-southern
National Guard unit to the war in the Pacific, where avuncular Keith is an understanding colonel. Wagner threatens another hometown bigoted officer and is transferred to a remote suicide hill commanded by psychopathic, loud-mouthed, illiterate Crawford. Crawford is protected from his own men, whom
he mistreats so cruelly that they all want to kill him, by two young punks, Gorshin and ...