It's 1951 in Korea, a time that the United States Army doesn't like to remember. The Communists, led by Chinese forces, are tearing up the battlefield and overrunning American and South Korean positions, and in the midst of it, Sgt. Paul William Ryker (Lee Marvin), decorated World War II hero, with medals that would be the envy of any man in uniform, has been convicted of treason for allegedly deserting, going over to the enemy, and spending weeks behind enemy lines. He's scheduled to be executed, but Capt. David Young (Bradford Dillman), the prosecutor in the case, begins to worry that Ryker wasn't properly represented at trial -- he believes Ryker was guilty, but wants him to be convicted fairly. It hardly endears Young to the men around him when he starts pressing his doubts, and then he meets Ryker's wife, Ann (Vera Miles), who doesn't have the best of marriages but believes her husband is innocent. They start working together and, in the process, become attracted to each other. Ryker claims that a now-deceased counter-intelligence officer, Colonel Chambers, recruited him for a secret mission that would take him behind enemy lines, allegedly as an American turncoat, all to help plug a leak in his own command -- but Chambers was killed just 24 hours after Ryker's mission started, and nothing in his effects verifies Ryker's story. Young is ordered to lay off the case by his commanding officer, the new head of counter-intelligence, and General Bailey (Lloyd Nolan), commanding the sector, but Young risks his career to get Ryker a new trial. Now he's got to defend the man himself, against his own commanding officer as prosecutor, and prepare for his own court martial for conduct unbecoming an officer, for his affair with Ann Ryker.
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