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In April 1945, on board the destroyer U.S.S. Blake , an exhausted crew cynically acknowledges the arrival of their new commander, Lt. Commander Hale. The men are dismayed when the executive officer, Lt. Phillips, reveals that Hale expects new orders, which will postpone the crew's long delayed leave. Ensign Grip McLeary bets his shipmates that the crew will never have the opportunity to taste the cargo of beer they are carrying. The Blake receives orders to join several other ships from the 5th Fleet that will form a protective ring around the Japanese island of Okinawa and shield Marine landings. At the same time a steam line on the ship bursts and the men hope that the necessary repair will send them back to home port. However, Hale insists that the repair be made overnight, so that the Blake will be ready to take its place at Okinawa. The Blake is assigned slot number eight in the large ring around the island and warned of the danger of Japanese "kamikaze" or suicide pilots. During the long boring stretches waiting for action, each member of the Blake's of number two gun crew, from twenty-year man "Robby" Roberg to Mexican-American Delgado reflect upon their families and homes, while Grip takes bets that they will not be attacked by kamikazes. Brainy ensign Emerson then points out his belief that the Navy's strategy for the attack on Okinawa is ill-conceived and that kamikaze pilots are mostly myth. The tension onboard the Blake rises as the crew experiences several false alarms. A few days later, however, the Blake is moved up two positions, and Grip and the others spot the smoking remains of the ship they are replacing. Emerson nevertheless continues to insist the damage could not have been done by kamikazes. Later the same day, Grip is stunned to witness another damaged ship drift by with several injured men on deck. The next day, the battle stations alarm is sounded and the Blake is attacked by Japanese planes, one of which is destroyed just as it is about to crash into the deck. After the battle, Grip is dismayed to discover that in the damage sustained, the entire supply of beer was lost. The following day, a lone Japanese pilot attacks the Blake and slams into the deck. Hale pushes the plane's live bomb overboard, gaining the crew's respect. During the following attack, Emerson accidentally loses his heavy protective gloves, but continues his job of removing hot empty shells as they come out of the number two gun. His hands severely burned, Emerson collapses after the attack and is taken to sickbay by Grip and Robby. Emerson's place is taken by steward Felix. When Hale receives a report from the ship's doctor that several of the medical supplies were burned in the most recent attack, the Blake prepares to transfer its wounded to a medical ship. Realizing that the crew's morale is low, Hale orders Phillips to show a movie from his private collection. Certain they will be seeing a training film, the glum crew is delighted when the film is a clip of a beautiful starlet singing and dancing. The next day, Hale, Phillips and the wounded watch with relief the approach of the medical ship Garvey , but their pleasure turns to horror when the Garvey is strafed and sunk by a sudden attack by numerous kamikaze planes. The Blake continues moving up in the protective ring until it is in the lead position. After fighting off several air attacks, the Blake detects an enemy submarine, and Hale orders depth charges dropped to force the sub to surface. When it does, Hale orders it rammed despite continuing kamikaze attacks. In the final grim assault, Robby is killed. With the successful taking of Okinawa, the Blake is relieved and ordered stateside to the proud relief of its crew and officers.