The year is 1941, and in Luichow, China, a news cameraman named Johnny Williams (George Montgomery) is taken into custody by the Japanese military, because they want him to take pictures for them of the Burma Road construction. Johnny will get $20,000 for his work, but he isn't interested.
Johnny is put back into his cell, together with a Canadian, Major Bull Weed (Victor McLaglen), who served as a soldier on the Chinese side in the war. Bull manages to get a gun into the cell from a visiting woman, Captain Fifi (Lynn Bari), and using the gun, the two men can escape from their captors.
They rendez-vous with Fifi and get on a plane. Johnny, who is an amateur pilot, flies them all to safety in Mandalay. Upon their arrival, Johnny bumps into his old friend, Captain Shorty Maguire (Myron McCormick), who is also a pilot, serving with "The Flying Tigers", doing missions against the Japanese.
Johnny is asked to join the Tigers but declines. He discovers that the document he grabbed during his talk with the Japanese officers, which he thought was his press credentials, is in fact the Japanese tactical orders. Bull deciphers some of the text in the order as "pearl" and "seven", but Johnny quickly loses focus since he has discovered a beautiful woman nearby.
Johnny follows the woman, whose name is Haoli Young (Gene Tierney), and walks her home. She tells him that she is Chinese, and educated in the U.S. When they part from each other, they do so reluctantly, after Johnny has kissed her. He goes back to his hotel and hits on Fifi to get over Haoli.
When he brings Fifi back to his room, Haoli is there waiting for him, to tell him that she found out about Fifi and Bull being Japanese agents. By association, Johnny is also suspected of working for the Chinese. Johnny realizes that he has been played by Bull and Fifi. He takes his revenge by tricking them into funding his new camera, before he tells them to get out of Mandalay or he will disclose them both as Japanese agents.
Johnny stays in Mandalay, waiting to be taken back to the Burma Road by an American news company. He meets with Haoli again and falls in love with her. However, one day Haoli is gone and he is told that she and her father Dr. Young (Philip Ahn) has left for Kunming. This makes Johnny go on a drinking spree.
Bull reports back to his Japanese commander about Johnny, and is ordered back to Mandalay to take back the orders that were stolen. When Johnny wakes up in his hotel after his night out drinking, Fifi is there to warn him about Bull coming for him. She has fallen in love with him and wants him to run away with her. She tells him that Kunming will be bombed by the Japanese shortly, and Johnny decides to go after Haoli.
On the way to the airfield, Johnny has to fight Bull. He manages to knock the man out and fly with Shorty to Kunming, where he finds Haoli right after the bombing has been carried out. Dr. Young was killed in the raid, but Johnny helps save some children that were trapped in a toppled building. During the rescue, Haoli dies, and Johnny becomes mad with grief. He rushes up to the top of a building, aims a machine gun to the sky and manages to venge his China Girl by shooting down a Japanese bomber plane.Gene Tierney as Haoli Young
George Montgomery as Johnny Williams
Lynn Bari as Captain Fifi
Victor McLaglen as Major Bull Weed
Alan Baxter as Flyer Bill Jones
Sig Ruman as Jarubi
Myron McCormick as Shorty McGuire
Robert Blake as Chandu
Ann Pennington as Sugar Fingers, the Entertainer
Philip Ahn as Dr. Kai Young
Tom Neal as Captain Haynes
Paul Fung as Japanese Governor
Lal Chand Mehra as Desk Clerk
Kam Tong as Japanese Doctor