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In 1906, Alipang (Tetsu Komai) and his Muslim Moro guerrillas are terrorizing the people of the Philippine island of Mindanao, raiding villages, killing the men, and carrying off the women and children for slaves. Instead of maintaining garrisons indefinitely to protect the Filipinos, the U.S. army tests out a new tactic at Fort Mysang. The army detachment is replaced by a handful of officers – Colonel Hatch (Roy Gordon), Captains Manning (Russell Hicks) and Hartley (Reginald Owen), and Lieutenants McCool (David Niven) and Larsen (Broderick Crawford) - who are to train the native Philippine Constabulary to take over the burden. Army doctor Lieutenant Canavan (Gary Cooper) is sent along to keep them healthy. They are welcomed by a skeptical Padre Rafael (Charles Waldron).Alipang starts sending fanatical juramentados to assassinate the officers to goad them into attacking before they are ready and on his terms. Hatch is the first victim, leaving Manning to take command. Manning's wife (Kay Johnson) and Hartley's daughter Linda (Andrea Leeds) arrive for a visit at the worst possible time; a horrified Mrs. Manning witnesses her husband's murder. Hartley takes charge, but Canavan disagrees with his by-the-book, overly-cautious approach. Disobeying orders, Canavan sets out for Alipang's camp guided by Miguel (Benny Inocencio), a young Moro boy he has befriended. "Mike" (as Canavan calls him) infiltrates the camp and learns that Alipang has sent another assassin, this time for Hartley. Canavan and Mike intercept the man and take him back a prisoner.Linda and Canavan fall in love, much to the disappointment of McCool and Larsen. When Hartley insists she leave Mysang with Mrs. Manning, she refuses and helps out at the hospital.Alipang then dams the river on which the villagers depend. Hartley refuses to send a detachment into the jungle to blow it up (he is concealing the fact that he is slowly going blind from an old head wound). The people have to rely on an old well, but the contaminated water causes a cholera epidemic. Finally, Hartley has no choice but to send Larsen and some men to destroy the dam. They do not return.The Datu (Vladimir Sokoloff), a supposedly friendly Moro leader, offers to guide Hartley and his men to the dam, but he is actually leading them into an ambush. Canavan learns of the Datu's treachery from Mike, the sole survivor of Larsen's detachment, and races to warn Hartley. Canavan forces the Datu to take him to the dam. The Datu is killed in a booby trap, but Canavan manages to dynamite the dam anyway. Then, he and the men raft back to the village, which is under attack by Alipang's men.McCool is killed leading the defense, but Canavan and the rest return in time to turn the tide. Alipang is killed by Filipino Lieutenant Yabo (Rudy Robles). Their mission accomplished, the Hartleys and Canavan depart, leaving the village in Yabo's care.