[opening lines] No one would have believed, in the middle of the 20th century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's. Yet, across the gulf of space on the planet Mars, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our Earth with envious eyes, slowly and surely drawing their plans against us. Mars is more than 140 million miles from the sun, and for centuries it has been in the last stages of exhaustion. At night, temperatures drop far below zero even at its equator. The inhabitants of this dying planet looked across space with instruments and intelligences of which we have scarcely dreamed, searching for another world to which they could migrate. They could not go to Pluto, outermost of all the planets, so cold that its atmosphere lies frozen on its surface. They couldn't go to Neptune or Uranus, twin worlds in eternal night and perpetual cold, both surrounded by an unbreathable atmosphere of methane gas and ammonia vapor. The Martians considered Saturn, an attractive world with its many moons and beautiful rings of cosmic dust, but its temperature is close to 270 degrees below zero, and ice lies 15,000 miles deep on its surface. Their nearest world was giant Jupiter, where there are titanic cliffs of lava and ice with hydrogen flaming at the tops, where the atmospheric pressure is terrible - thousands of pounds to the square inch. They couldn't go there. Nor could they go to Mercury, nearest planet to the sun; it has no air, and the temperature at its equator is that of molten lead. Of all the worlds that the intelligences on Mars could see and study, only our own warm Earth was green with vegetation, bright with water, and possessed a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility. It did not occur to mankind that swift fate might be hanging over us, or that from the blackness of outer space we were being scrutinized and studied - until the time of our nearest approach to the orbit of Mars during a pleasant summer season.
The Martians had calculated their descent upon our Earth with amazing perfection and subtlety. As more of their cylinders came from the mysterious depths of space, their war machines, awesome in their power and complexity, created a wave of fear which swept into all corners of the world. In every country, government officials met in desperate conclave, seeking ways to coordinate their defenses with those of other nations. The government of India, driven from New Delhi, met in a railroad coach, while massive Hindu populations streamed for the imagined safety of the faraway Himalayas. The redoubtable Finnish and Turkish armies, Chinese battalions and Bolivians worked and fought furiously. Every effort against the tremendous power of their other-world antagonists ended in the same frantic rout. As the Martians burned fields and forests, and great cities fell before them, huge populations were driven from their homes. The stream of flight rose swiftly to a torrent. It became a giant stampede without order and without goal. It was the beginning of the rout of civilization, of the massacre of humanity. A great silence fell over half of Europe, as all communication was disrupted. When the last wire photo out of Paris reached the French Cabinet, exiled in Strausberg, they hit upon the idea of using super-speed jets as couriers. Stripped of armament and loaded with extra fuel, these planes maintained connections with the Scandinavian countries, North Africa, the United States and especially with England. It was plain the Martians appreciated the strategic significance of the British Isles. The people of Britain met the invaders magnificently, but it was unavailing. As the Martians swept northward toward London, the British Cabinet stayed in session, coordinating every item of information that could be gathered, passing it on to the United Nations in New York. From there, the news was forwarded to Washington. Because here was the only remaining unassailed strategic point.
[last lines] The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Once they had breathed our air, germs which no longer affect us began to kill them. The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth.
According to intelligence from other nations, they're working toward some kind of plan. Now, what it may be isn't clear yet, simply because once they begin to move, no more news comes out of that area.
Guns, tanks, bombs - they're like toys against them!
Forrester: I think that "gizmo" is a machine from another planet.
Bogany: Better get word to the authorities. Look!
[They see the second cylinder fall.]
Forrester: Sheriff, you'd better get word to the military. You're gonna need them out here.
[Martian ships disintegrate the human military.]
General Mann: That skeleton beam must be what they used to wipe out the French cities!
Forrester: It neutralizes mesons somehow! They're the atomic glue holding matter together! Cut across their lines of magnetic force, and any object will simply cease to exist! Take my word for it, General, this type of defense is useless against that kind of power! You'd better let Washington know...fast!
[Col. Heffner's last words before being disintegrated.]
Col. Heffner: Everybody out of here! Everybody out! The Air Force will take care of these babies now! Dr. Forrester, get out of here! Everybody out of here! Everybody out—!
Sylvia: They seem to murder anything that moves.
Forrester: If they're mortal, they must have mortal weaknesses. They will be stopped, somehow.