A World War II tale which focuses on a squad of American troops battling against the Japanese during the hellish battle of Guadalcanal Island. Witt has gone AWOL and considers the contrast between the peace of the islanders and the chaos brought by war. Meanwhile, the troops are led by two men: Tall, who is eager for the danger of battle, and Staros, who is more concerned with protecting his men. As they fight over strategy, the men have different reactions to the war: Bell thinks only of his wife, Gaff is intelligent but no more able to deal with war than the bullish Doll. As they attack a Japanese stronghold, the randomness of life and death in wartime is made clear.