Sam Peckinpah's only war film follows the story of a doomed German platoon facing annihilation at the hands of the Russians in 1943. Non-Nazi German soldier Steiner (James Coburn) resents the arrival of arrogant Prussian Stransky (Maximillian Schell) as his new commanding officer. Stransky is desperate to win an Iron Cross - a medal Steiner has already earned, but considers worthless - and so promotes the highly-recommended Steiner to sergeant. During a siege, Stransky hides in his bunker, terrified of battle, only to later file a report claiming that he himself led a victorious counter-attack. However, when Steiner disputes this Stransky takes measures to remove him.