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Toward the end of World War I, a newly-trained German fighter pilot, Bruno Stachel, becomes unpopular with his fellow pilots because of his determination to win the Blue Max, an award given to German pilots who shoot down 20 enemy planes. When he captures a British observation plane and coldbloodedly shoots it down in order to score a "kill," his action wins the approval of high-ranking Count von Klugermann, who openly applauds the will to win at any cost. Competing with Bruno for top flying honors is the count's nephew, Willi, who is having an affair with his uncle's wife, Kaeti. The calculating Bruno not only takes Kaeti for himself but also maneuvers his rival into a fatal crash and then claims two of Willi's kills as his own. Now eligible for the Blue Max, Bruno refuses to leave the country with Kaeti though he is certain of Germany's eventual defeat. In revenge, Kaeti exposes his false claims at the same moment a court-martial is ordered to investigate Willi's death and other instances of Bruno's disregard for human life. The count, unwilling to permit the hero to be disgraced, deliberately permits Bruno to test a new plane he knows to be faulty. Consequently, Bruno takes flight before a huge crowd and does a spectacular series of air maneuvers before the plane breaks apart in mid-air.