Joe Bonham, a young U.S. soldier whose arms, legs and face have been blown off by a shell on the last day of World War I, is kept alive by the efforts of a zealous army doctor, who is convinced that there is no more human cerebration in this hulk, and therefore useful only as a source for experimentation.
In short, he is thought to be a human vegetable—a basket case.
But the doctors are wrong. Joe can still think. Bit by bit he manages to comprehend what has happened to him; to realise he is a medical curiosity, a freak of war.
Joe refuses to collapse in the face of the horror that has become his life. He devises a way to keep track of time, recall past memories and to distinguish between the people who care for him. Finally, he manages to communicate with them by tapping his head in Morse code.
At last he is in contact with the world. But can the world tolerate the Joe Bonhams it creates? The generals and doctors are more concerned with keeping Joe a secret. . .
Johnny Got His Gun is based on a pacifist book of the late 1930's, by Dalton Trumbo, who directed and scripted the film version.