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On a transport ship carrying 200,000 American soldiers who are returning home from their tour of duty in Europe after World War II, Mr. Williams, a journalist, asks Colonel Ulysses Delby Johnson of the 299th medical outfit about his personal experiences during the war. Ulysses then tells a story that begins in 1941, when he was Chief Surgeon at an American hospital: Although few dispute his skills as a medical practitioner, Ulysses' ethics are called into question one day by a colleague and friend of his, Dr. Robert Sunday. Sunday calls Ulysses a hypocrite for lamenting the London Blitz, when in America, in nearby Chester Village, poverty-stricken men, women and children have been under attack for years by the ravages of malaria, malnutrition, hookworms and the like. Sunday also accuses Ulysses of running off to join the army simply because it is in fashion. After parting with his wife Penny and completing basic training, Ulysses sails to Europe and meets the nurse assigned to him, the hard-boiled Lieutenant Jane "Snapshot" McCall. Ulysses' strictness and Jane's flippancy soon put the two at odds, but they eventually overcome their differences and become friends. Their friendship blossoms over time, and following an aerial attack on their medical camp, Jane and Ulysses, whom she playfully calls "useless," take a trip together. Their high spirits are soon dampened, however, when, after returning to camp, Ulysses watches his friend, Sergeant Monkevickz, die of a ruptured malaria-infected spleen. His friend's death is made even more painful by the knowledge that it was caused by a disease that he contracted in Chester Village, a disease that Sunday mentioned as having been utterly neglected by local physicians. The next morning, as Ulysses and Jane take cover from another aerial attack, Ulysses confesses that he treated Monkevickz as "just another case" and never cared enough about him as a human being to do any good for him. In an attempt to expiate his guilt, Ulysses writes to Penny and asks her to visit Monkevickz's father in Chester Village. While carrying out her husband's request, Penny runs into Sunday, and confides in him that she suspects Ulysses is having an affair with Jane, the woman about whom he often writes. Following the D-Day invasion of Europe, Jane is reassigned and kisses Ulysses goodbye. The two are soon reunited, however, during a chance meeting in Paris, and together they set out to rescue the 299th division, which is trapped in enemy fire in the Battle of Anzio. Some time later, Ulysses returns home depressed. He apologizes to Sunday for not paying heed to his criticisms, and then tells Penny that he has lost his self-assurance after watching Jane die of a gunshot wound in a hospital. Ulysses asks Penny to be patient with him until his emotional wounds have healed, and she gladly accepts the responsibility, sealing her love for her husband with a hug.