Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Richard Barthelmess star in director Howard Hawks' classic war drama of a the man who knows he is ordering his pilots to their deaths. World War I. British Royal Flying Corp squadron commander Major Brand (Neil Hamilton) knows that obeying his orders to send his men out on their rickety aircraft will mean their doom. Still, Brand is labeled a butcher by his ace pilot, Dick Courtney (Barthelmess), so when Brand is transferred, he happily leaves his command to Courtney. Now, Courtney must order his men to their deaths. And when he knowingly sends his best friend, Douglas Scott's (Fairbanks, Jr.), brother on a suicide flight, Courtney is devastated by the guilt. On the next mission, rather than send Scott, Courtney pilots a one-way flight himself. Now, Scott takes command the squadron--and the burden of ordering his friends to their doom.

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