In the final days of the Korean War, a neutral cargo ship containing American soldiers captures a wounded enemy pilot. When command headquarters orders that the prisoner be executed, gung-ho Sgt. P.J. Briscoe (Kirk Douglas), not wanting to tarnish his record as a good soldier, is ready to carry out the task. But Briscoe's underlings, Pvts. Dennison (Robert Walker) and Hackett (Nick Adams), clash with their superior on the morally correct course to take.