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Tex Barton, a sixteen-year-old orphan, works hard to make a success of the stud ranch that his father bequeathed him. Before he died, Tex's father left his son his best mare, Bess, who is now Tex's loyal companion. One day, while visiting his friend Smitty, an elderly man who runs a general store in a nearby town, Tex meets a U.S. Navy recruiter who is looking for young men to sign up for the Navy. Tex, who has never left his farm, is reluctant to join until the recruiter makes an appeal to Tex's sense of patriotic duty. After agreeing to join the Navy's Construction Battalion, known as the Seabees, Tex arranges to have Smitty care for Bess while he is away. Tex is then sent to the U.S. Naval Base at Port Hueneme, California, where he is placed in a training program. As the days pass, Tex grows to miss Bess, and when his unit is finally afforded its first military leave, he goes directly to his ranch to visit her. Following his brief reunion with Bess, Tex returns to his base confident that his mare is being well cared for by Smitty. Tex's confidence is soon shattered, however, when he receives word that Bess is suffering from pneumonia. Tex appeals to his superiors for a leave of absence to tend to his horse, but his request is denied, and he is ordered to wait his turn with the rest of his platoon. Desperate, Tex makes an attempt to escape from his base, only to be captured and jailed by the military police. He is soon released from jail, though, when his entire unit is given a twenty-four hour liberty leave before sailing to the South Pacific. Tex arrives at his ranch too late to save Bess, though and he sadly buries her next to the barn. The tragedy devastates Tex and causes him to resent his commander, Lieutenant Bridgeman, for not allowing him to go home in time to save her. Soon after Tex and his unit arrive at their South Pacific base, Tex happens upon a horse pinned under a fallen tree. With help from some of his Navy pals, Tex frees the horse and tends to its wounds. During the operation to save the horse, Japanese war planes bomb the Navy camp, destroying a tent that only minutes earlier had been occupied by Tex and his pals. Realizing that his men would have been killed were it not for the horse, Bridgeman allows Tex to keep the animal as the unit's mascot. After naming the horse Bess, Tex makes amends with Bridgeman and soon reverts to his old self. One day, when Tex is shot and wounded by a Japanese sniper in the jungle, Bess finds him and carries him back to camp. Tex is treated in sick bay for two weeks, after which he learns that his unit has been ordered back to the States. Tex tries to stay on the island to be with Bess, but his request is flatly denied. However, just as the transport ship pulls away from the island, Bess breaks free from her pen and runs towards the ocean. When Bridgeman catches sight of the horse in the water, he stops the ship and lowers the ramp to allow Bess to join Tex for the voyage home.