Keith Mallory, a mountain climber from New Zealand, must infiltrate the Aegean island of Navarone, and destroy the guns on the German fortress there, in order to save the lives of 1,200 British soldiers. He gets a team together, boards a small craft, and heads to Navarone. On the way there, his small ship is nearly destroyed in a storm, and he then must climb a 400 foot sheer cliff in the middle of the storm. In the process, they lose all their food, and one of their team members breaks his leg.
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The next section of the book describes their working their way over to the other side of the island of Navarone, while dodging German patrols, and nursing their wounded comrade. They meet up with the resistance movemment on Navarone, but the Germans keep on their trail. They soon find out that one of the resistance men was giving them away and have nearly half their team captured. They break them out and blow up the guns, and then are able to escape onto a waiting British submarine.
Captain Kieth Mallory (who was a mountain climber before the war), Andrea Stavros, Corporal Miller (explosives expert), and two others are given a suicide mission: to go into enemy territory and destroy the two massive guns on the Island of Navarone. These guns are facing the water, effectively stopping any ship that goes in to rescue the 1,200 Allied troops stranded on the nearby island of Kheros. If they aren't rescued quickly, they will all be killed.
In order to get into Nazi headquarers to destroy the guns, the men must scale a cliff in the freezing cold, fight past many German soldiers, and discover a way into a fortress which is heavily guarded. If they are captured, there lives are over, along with the lives of 1,200 soldiers.