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Before a combined Allied effort to recapture Burma can begin, a radar station hidden in the Burmese jungle must be destroyed. Captain Chuck Nelson heads this operation, aided by Lieutenant Sidney Jacobs and two Gurkha guides. A company of paratroopers is told that they will parachute into the jungle, destroy the station and then advance through the jungle to an abandoned airstrip, where they will be picked up. Middle-aged reporter Mark Williams will accompany the men, even though Nelson believes that his age will be a serious disadvantage.
Early the next morning, the men land in the jungle. They successfully locate the station and destroy it, but now the Japanese are aware of their presence and escape has become more difficult. The men make it to the airstrip, but a Japanese patrol prevents the rescue plane from landing. By radio, Nelson arranges for his men to be retrieved two days later at another airstrip. The men split into two groups, one led by Nelson, the other by Jacobs. When Nelson's group reaches the rendezvous point, a plane drops supplies, but informs them that all nearby landing fields have been captured by the Japanese. This means that Nelson's men will have to make their way through the jungle to the border.
Two severely wounded men from Jacobs' group arrive and inform the others that the rest of the company was captured by the Japanese. As soon as possible, Nelson's men set out on their journey, pursued by the Japanese. They arrive at a Burmese village, where they find the mutilated, tortured bodies of the other American soldiers. Jacobs, who is still alive and in great pain, begs Nelson to kill him, but dies before Nelson is forced to do so. After fighting off a Japanese attack, the few surviving soldiers head for their next supply drop. There, Nelson is ordered to march back into the Burmese interior. After the supplies are dropped, the troop's radio is destroyed in a Japanese ambush, and the men are forced to march without supplies. When they cannot be contacted, Nelson's group is presumed lost or dead, but they manage to reach their destination in the middle of the jungle.
Although they have no idea why they were ordered there, the soldiers dig in and wait. During the night, an exhausted Williams dies. Finally, an American plane is spotted overhead. Nelson signals the plane with a mirror and new supplies are dropped to the famished men. When it gets dark, the Japanese attack, but by the morning, the Japanese have pulled out. Having accomplished their mission of distracting the Japanese so that the Burmese invasion can begin, the remaining eleven of Nelson's men are taken back to their base.