Morale in Fox Company is bad. The commanding officer, Captain Cooney (Eddie Albert), is widely considered to be incompetent. 14 men were killed in a recent engagement with the enemy, and Cooney is blamed, especially by Lieutenant Costa (Jack Palance). Morale is so poor that one of the officers, Lieutenant Woodruff (William Smithers), goes to see his superior Colonel Bartlett (Lee Marvin), asking him to pack Cooney off with a staff job to get him away from the front line. Bartlett understands the situation, but his hopes for a post-war political career rest on Cooney's, and especially his father's, patronage. Besides, he doesn't have any staff jobs, and he has it on good authority that they will see no more action anyway, for them the war is virtually over.