|Steve McQueen||Jake Holman|
|Richard Attenborough||Frenchy Burgoyne|
|Candice Bergen||Shirley Eckert|
|Richard Crenna||Captain Collins|
In 1926, the USS San Pablo patrols the Yangtze River during the clashes between Chiang Kai-shek's communists and Chinese warlords. Eight-year veteran machinist Jake Holman, new to the self-named ''sand pebbles'' crew, immediately draws deep suspicion due to his independent streak. Ordered to protect Americans, including schoolteacher Shirley Eckhart, Jake and the gunboat crew are unwittingly drawn into a bitter nationalistic feud that holds grim consequences.