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When Pete Stirling's pal Francis, a talking mule, tells him that the atomic defense plant at which Pete works is about to be blown up by terrorists, Pete immediately informs the police. That night, the police and plant guards dismiss Pete as insane when nothing goes wrong and Pete claims his source was a talking mule. As the police prepare to leave, however, Pete, working off another tip from Francis, begs them to stop a water truck entering the plant. When they do, they discover the water is actually an explosive liquid, and Pete is declared a hero. Although Pete is small and not very bright, the Army grants him an appointment to the West Point military academy. There, Pete is befriended by his roommates, football player William Norton and a tough general's son, Wilbur Van Allen, both of whom are nicknamed Bill. The upper-class cadets haze the new students, or "plebes," mercilessly. Pete, who quickly sinks to last in his class, is told that he has two weeks to improve or be thrown out of the school. In a rare act of charity, Francis signs on as a West Point mascot in order to tutor Pete, who helps the plebe rise to twenty-fourth in the class. However, when rival cadet Corporal Ransom pushes Pete to reveal his tutor, and Pete names Francis, he is punished with six weeks of walking duty. During a revue of troops a few days later, Cynthia, the daughter of the commandent of cadets, Colonel Daniels, visits Van Allen and realizes that, although their parents want them to date, Van Allen loves his long-time secret girl friend, Barbara Atwood. After Francis' barked orders to Pete confuse the whole school and ruin the revue, Cynthia flirts with Pete and increases his already severe punishment. That night at a dance, Cynthia and Pete dance until a group of plebes ride a costumed Francis around the dance floor. Pete, who insists that the colonel stop them, receives yet another punishment. The plebes soon graduate, and over the next year, Norton becomes the star of the school's football team, which wins because Francis whispers tips into Coach Chadwick's ear. When the coach confesses to the colonel that he thinks Francis can talk, they force Pete to bring them to the mule, who demonstrates his unique talent to save his friend. Soon after, Van Allen receives a letter from his sister stating that she is pregnant and so must tell her father about her secret marriage. Van Allen decides that it is also time to disclose his love for Barbara, and so leaves for home, over Norton's objections. When Pete finds the letter on Norton's bed, however, he assumes that Norton is secretly married and expecting a baby. Later, when Barbara visits, two officers overhear her talking to Norton about the secret marriage of one of his roommates. The colonel calls in Pete to explain, and the cadet, thinking he is saving Norton's academic and athletic career, pretends he is the married roommate. When Francis sees Pete leaving, he convinces the colonel to hold off on Pete's tendered resignation. That night, Cynthia informs her father that the letter was Van Allen's. At the big football game against Navy the following day, Francis finds Pete in the parking lot, listening sadly as Norton fumbles ball after ball. Francis tells Pete that the letter belonged to Van Allen and Norton is playing poorly because he is concerned for Pete. Pete rushes to the locker room, where Van Allen assures the boys that his father took the news well and Norton thanks Pete for trying to protect him. The coach then brings Francis into the locker room, and his advice leads them to triumph. Later, the colonel attempts to turn Francis over to the research department, but Francis dupes him with a lookalike mule and sneaks off after saying goodbye to Pete, who has reached the top of his class.