Based on a novel by Niven Busch, three marines have difficulty adjusting to civilian life after the war, but they are helped by a war widow.
Bill Tabeshaw (Robert Mitchum) and Cliff Harper (Guy Madison) are discharged from the US Marines after the war. Cliff finds no one home, but he meets his young neighbor Helen (Jean Porter). Cliff goes out to a bar and sees Navy pilot Pinky. Pat Ruscomb (Dorothy McGuire) comes in and dances with Cliff. She drives him to her house, and he kisses her. Her husband died in France. Cliff goes home and is welcomed by his father (Tom Tully) and mother (Ruth Nelson). They have a card party. Helen talks with Cliff before going out with her steady Tommy (Johnny Sands).
Cliff and Helen go ice skating with Pinky and Pat. Cliff and Pat see a soldier shaking and comfort him. Cliff's dad wakes him up and asks if he wants to start school, but Cliff is making no decisions. Bill visits Cliff and says he won money. Helen drives Cliff and Bill to see Perry (Bill Williams), who does not want to use his artificial legs.
Cliff, Bill, and Helen go to the bar. Cliff dances with Helen, who swings it. Cliff sees Pat and asks her out. She says no and goes out with a captain. Cliff's parents say they are disappointed in him. Cliff sees Pat kiss the captain goodnight; he calls her a tramp and leaves. Pat takes off her dress. Cliff comes back with coffee, and she tells him to go. Cliff stays, and she cries about her late husband. Cliff says he is lonesome. She suggests he work. Cliff gets a job where Pat works, but he quarrels with the foreman about the radio. Pat talks with Cliff, and he apologizes to the foreman.
A rehabilitation officer tells Cliff about Perry. Cliff visits Perry and urges him to use the legs. Cliff goes to the beach with Pat and asks her to marry him, but Pat says she wants security. She drives him home, and he reluctantly kisses her goodnight. Helen sees this and kisses Tommy. Bill asks Cliff for $20 and says he has headaches because of the silver plate in his head. Bill refuses to go to the VA hospital. Cliff buys Bill drinks and calls Perry to send the rehab officer. Perry's ma urges him to fight, and he uses the legs. Tipsy Cliff calls Pat about living on a ranch with Bill. Perry walks in. Pat arrives and drinks with Cliff, but she refuses to go to New Mexico and leaves. American War Patriots try to recruit the white marines; but their group is racist, and Bill starts a fight. Bill is taken to the hospital. Cliff tells his dad he is lucky, and they wait together. In the morning Cliff's mother brings Pat, who embraces Cliff.
This realistic drama depicts the challenges facing men
returning from three years of combat. Now they are free to make
their own decisions; but they miss the camaraderie and have trouble
fitting in. The grief Pat is experiencing enables her to reach
out to them.