In the third year of World War I, the erudite but morally bankrupt French general Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) orders his troops to seize the heavily fortified "Ant Hill" from the Germans. General Mireau (George MacReady) knows that this action will be suicidal, but he will sacrifice his men to enhance his own reputation. Against his better judgment, Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) leads the charge, and the results are appalling. After the defeat, Mireau cannot admit to himself that the attack was a bad idea from the outset: he convinces himself that loss of Ant Hill was due to the cowardice of his men. Mireau demands that three soldiers be selected by lot to be executed as an example to rest of the troops. This powerful, fact-based absurdity-of-war film was banned outright in France for several years.