Based on recent history, the U.S. Marines fight to the last man on a Pacific island against overwhelming Japanese attacks.
U.S. Marines occupied Wake Island in June 1941. The new commander Major Geoffrey Caton (Brian Donlevy) arrives in November. Civilian Shad McClosky (Albert Dekker) heads a construction project and won't take orders from the military. Privates Aloysius K. Randall (William Bendix) and Joe Doyle (Robert Preston) play practical jokes and fight; as punishment Caton assigns them digging work. McClosky complains to Caton about an air raid drill. Rather than help him, Joe fights McClosky. A Japanese envoy visits and says they want peace. Aloysius is ready to leave when they learn that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Caton tells McClosky he must leave. Japanese planes attack with bombs. U.S. planes fight back. Caton visits wounded Commander Roberts (Walter Abel) in the emergency hospital. Oil and gas were destroyed. Aloysius refuses to leave and "ships over" (re-enlists). McClosky also stays and asks for a gun; but Caton tells him to dig holes. Caton tells Bruce Cameron (Macdonald Carey) that his wife was killed. Caton speaks of memories and says they must destroy destruction.
They hide guns and a plane with camouflage and stay underground. Japanese ships shell the island, and Caton lets them get close before firing back. Caton tells Cameron that he can bomb the cruiser, and he does so. Cameron comes back but is found to be dead. Caton conducts the funeral. Japanese planes take off from the Marshall Islands and bomb them every day for two weeks. Caton orders Captain Pete Lewis (Rod Cameron) to leave on a Navy plane to carry intelligence. Captain Patrick (Damian O'Flynn) tells Caton that enemy ships are coming. Aloysius sees his dog had puppies. Planes attack them, and their last plane takes off but is shot down. Patrick parachutes and is killed. Tommy prays, and Gus Goebbels (Philip Van Zandt) says there are no atheists in foxholes. Caton refuses to surrender. Japanese land amid shooting. McClosky asks Caton for a gun. They take over a machine gun. More Japanese arrive and kill all the Americans left on the island.
This war drama was one of the first based on actual
combat in the Pacific. Its gripping realism warned Americans it
was going to be a tough war.