After the D-Day landings in June 1944, a US squadron liberates a small village in Normandy from German occupation.
In 1944, during D-Day plus two, American sergeant Edward Baxter and a platoon of American infantrymen depart Omaha Beach in Normandy and proceed inland. At the nearby French village of Verville, the platoon encounters a farm house that is heavily fortified by a group of SS soldiers. The Germans also hold a number of local French villagers as hostages. After a short negotiation between the Germans and the Americans, a violent battle ensues. The American soldiers prevail, despite some losses. The French hostages are freed. Together with them is a humane Wehrmacht Major who used to be the Commandant of the area during the German Occupation. He is wounded and unarmed. The villagers protect him on the account that he once saved their lives during German reprisals for acts committed by the French Resistance. An American colonel and his staff officers arrive in a jeep and order sergeant Baxter to evacuate the French civilians and the German Major to the beach. The reason given is that a German bombardment of the village is expected and it would not be safe for these civilian locals to return to their homes. Despite their protests, the freed hostages are taken by sergeant Baxter and his platoon toward the beach area. The German POW seems resigned to his fate. On the way, they encounter several difficulties and they are strafed by German warplanes. After a difficult trek, they arrive at the beach but the Beach Master, a British Navy officer, orders them away from the beach, arguing that evacuation by sea to Britain is only for military personnel, not for French civilians. The British Navy officer orders sergeant Baxter to escort the civilians back to their village. More incidents occur on the way back to Verville. Once arrived at the village, the same American colonel reappears and orders everyone back to the beach area. They all are hungry, tired of marching, cold and afraid. After a few more back-and-forth trips between the beach and their village, the French civilians refuse to budge. The American colonel, passing through the village in his jeep, countermands his own orders and tells sergeant Baxter to allow the locals to return to their homes. Soon after, German artillery starts shelling the village. In desperation, sergeant Baxter accepts the German Major's suggestion to herd everyone inside the safe basement of the nearby church. Eventually, the shelling stops and sergeant Baxter leaves to rejoin his unit but not everyone survives.
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