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Donald D. Blackburn, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, is in the Philippines at the outbreak of World War II. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when American forces headed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur are overwhelmed at Bataan, Blackburn refuses to retreat or surrender and escapes to the hills with the help of a Filipino woman named Delia Guerrero. During their treacherous journey, Blackburn contracts malaria but recovers with Delia's help. Later, locals lead Blackburn to the camp of Pilar, a Filipino woman who heads a group of guerrilla fighters. Although at first only thinking of his own freedom, Blackburn soon comes to respect and admire the Filipino fighters, who are capable and brave. Blackburn then resolves to organize the informal band into a fighting unit to help defeat the occupying Japanese. For the next four years, Blackburn trains and fights alongside the Filipino band, which includes many headhunting natives. Eventually, the band grows to over one thousand. Although the Japanese offer a 50,000-peso reward for Blackburn's capture, no one betrays him. Blackburn and his men eventually become known as the Eleventh Army, and when MacArthur is about to take back the Philippines, they coordinate efforts with him by capturing the northern shore of Luzon, a strategic location. Despite being outnumbered by the Japanese by more than ten-to-one, the guerrillas are successful. Before completing their task, though, a badly wounded Pilar, who has fallen mutually in love with Blackburn, dies in his arms.