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In the spring of 1944, American troops are stationed in England. One seasoned platoon, formerly headed by veteran soldier Capt. Tom Hale, now is training with Lt. Joe Mallory, fresh out of officer training school, in preparation for a big offensive. Among the soldiers in the platoon are Dominick, who plans to run for political office; a nineteen-year-old recruit, "4-F" Nelson; Pvt. Jimbo Hollis, who has befriended a little dog; and Sgt. Pete Bell, a seasoned soldier, who offers to help out Joe, a former high school teacher. As training intensifies, Joe shapes up with Bell's help, but Hale, who cares deeply about his former platoon, continues to criticize his decisions. Finally D-Day arrives and the Normandy invasion begins. While on board the ship carrying them toward Omaha Beach, Sgt. Roy Henderson writes to his wife and kids, while the other men pass the time playing cards or talking. In the morning, airborne paratroopers are dropped on the beach. The men in the platoon transfer to landing craft and immediately come under fire. Their transport is bombed by the Germans and their heavy artillery is destroyed, leaving them to advance without support. New artillery arrives and the Air Force strafes the beach, but despite the attack, the Germans maintain their positions. The Germans are entrenched in hedgerows, making it difficult to determine their positions until the soldiers are almost on top of them, but the infantry advances little by little. Joe demonstrates his battlefield savvy when he manages to take out a German anti-tank gun. During the fighting, the well-liked Henderson is killed. Joe is furious when Hale orders the men to continue fighting despite their sorrow. Later, when Joe tells Hale how he feels, he learns that Hale's apparent lack of feeling is only a defense against a complete breakdown. As the men advance, they are greeted by a white flag waved by an old French man and Collete, a young woman. They beg the soldiers to stop bombing their town and announce that the Germans have pulled out. Fearing a trap because the town is located at an important crossroad, Hale orders Joe to take a patrol and investigate. The townspeople warmly welcome the Americans, and Joe telephones that it appears safe. While the rest of the platoon celebrate, Hale sends Joe out on another patrol. Once he is gone, a sniper opens fire on the soldiers celebrating in the town square, killing Jimbo and two others. Hale kills the sniper, a woman, who is revealed to be a collaborator. The Germans, who have been waiting just outside the town, now attack with tanks and infantry. Joe calls in their location to Hale. After the American anti-tank gun is destroyed, Dominick crawls onto a German tank and throws a grenade inside. He destroys the tank, but is badly wounded in the process. Finally, after months of fighting, the platoon is sent away from the front for rest and recreation. When Patton's Third Army lands, their battalion is assigned to take an important town. Before the offensive begins, Hale is offered a job on staff and, realizing that he may be headed for a breakdown, asks that Joe take his place as commander. Later, Hale confesses to Joe that he has become afraid to make decisions in the field. Frederick Johnson, a new lieutenant, is sent to take Joe's place, and Joe advises him to follow Bell's advice. During the ensuing combat, the platoon achieves its objective, and the Germans are forced back.