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Operation Petticoat

Operation Petticoat(1959)

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Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman fondly surveys the Sea Tiger , a submarine he commanded during World War II that now must be junked because of its extreme age. Below decks, he reads through his captain's journal, begun on December 10, 1941: The new Sea Tiger is ready for battle in the Philippines when a surprise enemy attack nearly destroys it. Although Matt's boss, Capt. J. P. Henderson, orders the ship grounded, Matt requests permission to make enough crude repairs to transport her to the nearest port. Despite his trepidation that the ship will not survive the two thousand miles of Japanese-patrolled waters, Henderson assigns Matt a skeleton crew. The next day, the crewmen are amused to witness the arrival of Lt. Nick Holden, a socialite Naval officer in a spotless uniform who has clearly never sailed. When questioned about his experience, Nick admits that he is more of an "idea man" than a sailor. Matt is dismissive of him, but moments later, when seaman Ernest Hunkle informs him that they have no supplies, including toilet paper, Nick explains that his childhood in a rough neighborhood has equipped him with excellent scavaging instincts. At Matt's further questioning, Nick admits that, just as much as Matt wants the ship to be in fighting trim, he also wants the ship to sail, so that he can finish his duty and return to an undemanding job on land. Named the new supply officer, Nick chooses Hunkle and a morose sailor called "The Prophet" to help him ransack the local supply warehouse. When the MP's nearly catch them, Nick cleverly diverts them, then steals an Army truck to transport the spoils back to the ship. There, Matt is so pleased to see the engine parts, tools and toilet paper that he overlooks Nick's shady techniques and new partner in crime, Ramon, a thief and chef whom Nick has rescued. Over the next few days, Nick continues to pilfer from the entire base, including Henderson's office. One day, Japanese planes attack and discover the position of the Sea Tiger . Afterward, Matt decides to set sail, even though Henderson considers the endeavor treacherous. With the help of a native medicine man Nick has hired, the ship finally sets off and executes a shuddering dive. Once at sea, Matt censures Nick's handcrafted uniforms and breakfasts in bed, especially after Nick explains that he wanted a uniform only to attract his wealthy fiancée. Soon after, a leak in the hull forces Matt to dock at a nearby island. Nick is sent to scout the island and returns with Maj. Edna Hayward, Lt. Barbara Duran, Lt. Claire Reid, Lt. Ruth Colfax and Lt. Dolores Crandall, nurses who have been stranded en route to Manila. Although Matt fears that the submarine's close quarters are "not designed to be co-educational," he has little choice but to offer the women transport. He instructs his thrilled crew to ignore the women, a task that quickly proves impossible, especially in the case of busty, accident-prone Dolores. Nick, a womanizer, gathers clothing for the women and offers Barbara champagne in his room. Matt catches them, however, and pours out the prohibited alcohol. In the morning, the presence of the women causes myriad problems throughout the ship: Dolores' generous proportions cause Matt to insist that she be given "clear passage" in the narrow corridors; engineer Sam Tostin complains when Edna hangs wet negligee in the engine room; and the men develop mysterious "illnesses" designed to afford them access to the nurses. Matt attempts to redirect the men's attentions to work, but is sidetracked by Dolores, whose clumsiness unnerves the otherwise imperturbable captain. He is further nonplussed by the news that Edna has repaired the machinery with her girdle, and that Claire has slapped Hunkle after catching sight of the naked girl tattooed on his chest. Meanwhile, Nick wins a kiss from Barbara that is interrupted by the arrival of Matt, who chastises both officers and confines Nick to his quarters. Just then, an enemy tanker is spotted docked nearby. Knowing they have only one working torpedo, Matt bravely issues an order to attack, but Dolores blunders into the firing lever and releases it prematurely. As a result, the torpedo veers into the shore, hitting only a truck and revealing the Sea Tiger 's position. After barely escaping the Japanese, they dock at a nearby island in order to make final repairs. Matt soon discovers, however, that because the area is in the midst of an evacuation, no one will take the nurses or give him any supplies. With no other choice, Matt turns to Nick, who contrives a casino at which he soon wins all the available supplies. To top off his winnings, Nick coerces Hunkle into helping him steal a pig from a local farmer, who complains to the MPs. They visit the ship, where Matt, upon learning of the pig's presence, corroborates Nick's story that the animal is actually a sick seaman, but offers the farmer many of Nick's illicit treasures as recompense. Next, the men prepare the sub to be painted gray by first applying primer, even though the only available primer consists of a half ration of red mixed with a half ration of white. While the resulting pink paint dries, the men and women relax with a luau cookout. As Edna impresses Tostin with her clever engineering insights, Matt invites Dolores, who is below decks trying to stay out of his way, to join the party. She eagerly accepts and sets her hot curling iron on the bed, where Matt sits on it. Meanwhile, Nick is romancing Barbara on the shore, but after he reveals that he is engaged, she deflates their lifeboat and swims back to the ship. When an air raid then sounds, the ship fills with the native women and children to whom Nick has promised shelter without Matt's authorization, and Matt, unwilling to risk their lives, is forced to allow them entrance. The ship escapes to the open sea, where several of the native women go into labor and give birth below decks. The submarine's pink hue soon attracts the notice of the Japanese and the Allies, who, unable to identify it as American, order it to be sunk on sight. Soon after, an American ship opens fire on the Sea Tiger , and although Matt dives down, the underwater missiles shake the fragile ship precariously. Matt sends all of the boat's dry goods to the water's surface, hoping to convince the Americans that they have sunk, but the Allied captain does not accept the ruse. The situation seems hopeless until Nick, inspired by Hunkle's plan to refine his pinup tattoo by adding a bra and panties, determines that they should send up the women's undergarments. The Allied crewmen soon retrieve Dolores' bra, prompting the captain to declare that, since "the Japanese have nothing like this," they must cease fire. Battered but intact, the Sea Tiger is escorted to land. In the present, Nick leaves Barbara, now his wife, on the dock to join Matt aboard the Sea Tiger . After instructing Nick to junk the ship, Matt awards him command of a new atomic submarine, to be christened the Sea Tiger , and gives him the old captain's log for safekeeping. Outside, Matt watches as Dolores, who is now his wife, hits his car, smashing it onto the bumper of a moving bus. By now accustomed to her clumsiness, Matt turns his attention to the Sea Tiger as it makes its last voyage out to sea.