An American tank picks up stranded British soldiers in Libya, finds water, and captures Germans in a desperate battle.
During a battle in June 1942 Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart), Waco (Bruce Bennett), and Jimmy (Dan Duryea) get their tank going. They find five British soldiers and a Frenchman on foot under Captain Jason Halliday (Richard Nugent). Gunn says they are ordered to retreat and gives them a ride. A man drinks too much water, and Gunn asserts command; he is supported by Halliday. They find the Sudanese Tambul (Rex Ingram) and his Italian prisoner Giuseppe (J. Carrol Naish). Gunn leaves the Italian in the desert but changes his mind. A plane strafes the tank, and then they shoot it down. The German pilot parachutes and is captured. He says the Germans took Tobruk. Clarkson (Lloyd Bridges) is badly wounded. Tambul guides them to a well, but it is dry. They are out of water, and Clarkson dies. Radio orders the retreat to stop at El Alamein.
The tank makes it to an old building, and Tambul finds the well has water dripping. Tambul is asked how many wives he has, and Giuseppe talks about Mussolini. Frenchie (Louis Mercier) tells of occupied France. As a truck approaches, they hide. They shoot two Germans and capture the other two. Gunn withholds water until one prisoner talks. A German battalion needs water and is coming. Gunn proposes staying to fight them, and the others agree. The two Germans are sent back walking to tell of the water. Waco leaves in the German truck to get help. They set up a machine gun and battle German forces at night. Two Germans walk forward with a white flag, and Gunn goes out to negotiate. He refuses their offer to let them leave and offers water for guns. They do not agree. Gunn talks with Williams (Carl Harbord) and sees him get shot dead. Jimmy is wounded, and Doc treats him; but both are killed. A British jeep finds an American in the desert. The well is blown up. The Germans walk forward, and some are shot. They are surrendering and are allowed to walk to the well, where they find water. Gunn has the guns collected and takes the prisoners to the British lines. He meets Waco and tells him who was lost.
Adapted from an incident in the Soviet film Thirteen,
this drama depicts early USA efforts in North Africa to inspire
the American war effort to fight for human freedom.