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Joe Smith, a "buck an hour" crew chief on the assembly line at a Los Angeles defense plant, is an ordinary guy, who loves his wife Mary and fourth-grade son Johnny, and manages to pay his $28.80 monthly mortgage on time. After he and others on the line are questioned about their personal lives by their boss, Blake McKettrick, and two men from Washington, Freddie Dunhill and Gus, Joe is summoned by plant president Mr. Edgerton. Joe is asked to quickly draw details of a blue print, after seeing it very briefly. When he successfully does so, Edgerton, Freddie and Gus reveal that they want him to work on a top secret bomb sight with a raise in pay, but no one can know what he is doing, not even Mary. At home, Mary tells Joe that Johnny has spent his 25 cent allowance in one day and refuses to say why. Joe cannot find out the reason either. Even when Joe threatens to send Johnny to bed with no supper, Johnny firmly states that he has to keep his secret. That night, Mary relents and gives Johnny something to eat. When Joe does the same, he finds what the tender-hearted Mary has done and realizes how lucky he is. On the drive to school the next day, Johnny tells Joe he likes history and admires patriot Nathan Hale for saying "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country." As Joe drives away from the plant that evening, he realizes that he is being followed, but cannot shake the car, which forces him off the road. Four men then take Joe, who is soon tied up and blindfolded in a darkened room. The men demand information on the bomb sight, but Joe refuses. As they beat him, Joe tries to think of other, happier things, including his courtship of Mary and Johnny's birth. Meanwhile, at a bowling alley, Joe's friends, Eddie, Sammy and Roy, are concerned that Joe has not shown up and decide to go to his house. Mary is worried, as is Johnny, who thinks that his "secret" has made Joe stay away. When Roy, Eddie and Sammy arrive, they tell Mary about Joe's very secret promotion. In the darkened room, the torture is finally too much for Joe, who screams out that he will tell them everything. When they give him a pad of paper, though, it is decorated with a flag and the slogan "E pluribus unum," just like Johnny's at school, and Joe begins to think. When he asks for a pencil, he notices a snakeshead ring on one of the men's fingers, then refuses to draw the plans. They then give him sixty seconds to recant or be killed. While the seconds tick away, Joe thinks of Nathan Hale's sacrifice. When Joe again refuses, the men knock him onto the floor, and Joe determines to use all of his senses to help capture them, if he escapes. Joe is then taken from the room and driven away. As he goes, Joe memorizes everything, from the number of steps to the twists and turns of the road. Finally, when the car slows for a stop sign, Joe leaps out and the men cannot go back for him because the street is crowded. Fearing that he will forget everything, Joe writes the directions down in code on the sidewalk, then passes out. He is soon found by the police, and awakens in the hospital. Mary, Freddie and Gus are there and want him to rest, but Joe insists on retracing his car ride before he forgets. Following Joe's directions, they soon find the house in which Joe was held captive. After bursting in, they are able to arrest the men because of things Joe remembers about their voices, shoes and cigarettes, but the man with the snakeshead ring is not there. At home, Gus, Freddie, Edgerton and McKettrick congratulate Joe, and when McKettrick shakes his hand, Joe recognizes his distinctive ring. McKettrick is then quickly apprehended as he tries to escape. One month later, on Father's Day, Mary and Joe have a party with their friends and Johnny gives Joe his gift, a tie, revealing what his secret was. When his friends call Joe a hero, he scoffs, saying that there are no heroes in America, just people "who don't like being pushed around."