In the autumn of 1944, a squad of war weary American infantrymen in reserve near Germany's formidable Siegfreid Line,
and expecting to be sent home on furlough are told by Sergeant Pike (Fess Parker) that instead they are to move up on a
hazardous mission as replacements.
Among those in the outfit are Corby (Bobby Darin), a happy-go-lucky collector and salesman of liberated loot, Kolinski
(Mike Kellin), mentor and translator for Homer (Nick Adams), likeable, pathetic young
polish refugee who has attached himself to the group in the hope that he can persuade the company commander, Captain Loomis
(Joseph Hoover), to get him shipped to the U.S., Larkin (Harry Guardino), who has replaced Reese (Steve
McQueen) as staff sergeant. The surly, unpleasant Reese has been returned to the outfit following a court martial after a
drunken escapade. He resents having to take orders from Larkin. In previous action Reese's courage had earned him a DSC
and consideration for a commission. Pike respects him as a fighting man but knows he must keep an eye on him.
When the bitterly disappointed men move up to the front line, Homer begs to be allowed to fight with them but Captain Loomis orders
him to remain behind. The squad marches to a postion below the crest of a hill. They are just inside the edge of the Siegfried Line
and right in line with "Pillbox Charlie," a German machine gun nest covering a thinly-wooded area which the squad will have to
defend alone until reinforcements arrive.
Pinned down by "Pillbox Charlie's" burst of fire whenever anyone
raises himself above a crouch, the squad manages to stave off attack
by a series of ruses designed to convince the enemy that there is a
large American force facing them. When a lost headquarters man, PFC
Driscoll (Bob Newhart) comes up the road in a jeep, Pike and
Larkin commandeer his vehicle and use it to make the enemy believe
that many vehicles, perhaps even tanks, are in the area. Via a telephone
hook-up they give the Germans the impression that they are well prepared
for attack. The squad is augmented when Homer, unable to stay away from his
beloved pals, joins the group and becomes a fighting soldier. The squad knows
it cannot continue to fool the enemy for long.
Reese suggests that they knock off the pillbox and keep the Germans
too busy to start an attack. Pike is away and Larkin, next in command,
the move. When he discovers that Reese intends to usurp authority they have a row
which comes to a terrible end when Larkin is blown to bits by a German shell. Now free
to put his plan into action, Reese leads two of the men to a tragic death. Captain
Loomis furiously denounces him for daring to give orders instead of taking
them, and only the necessity for attacking the enemy at dawn saves Reese
from immediate court martial.
Reese, lonely and bitter with guilt, knows what he must do when the
enemy continues to blast away from "Pillbox Charlie." He unleashes a frenized
one man assault against the pillbox, blowing himself up along with the
Germans, thus enabling the Americans to breach the hithero impregnable Seigfried