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Slip Mahoney and his gang, Sach, Whitey, Chuck and Butch, have just raised $1,683 for needy Bowery families at the Bowery Chowder Party, when thieves Red and Joe, posing as sailors, rob them of the money. During the robbery, Slip notices that one of the men has a heart with the name "Marie" tattooed on his chest and believes he can identify the robber with this clue. The neighborhood thinks that the hold-up was phoney, and even Louie Dumbrowsky, local soda parlor owner and friend to the boys, believes the gang concocted the story. When police officer Sgt. Mulloy refuses to help the gang because there is no tangible evidence to assist him in identifying the robbers, the boys decide to enlist in the Navy to find the robbers. While waiting at the local recruiting office, a paper mix-up causes the gang to be signed up under the wrong names. When they report for duty on the naval ship, Sach, whose enlistment paper read Algernon Hobbenocker, has a hard time pronouncing his name, much less remembering the fact that as Hobbenocker, he now has a wife and five children. As new recruits, Sach, Whitey, Butch and Chuck are assigned to swabbing the deck. They use the time to enact "routine 11," in which they trip Naval personnel, pull their shirts up over their heads and check their chests for the tattoo. After Sach decides the swabbing could be done more efficiently with an electric floor waxer, their immediate superior, officer Longnecker, reprimands him for making the floors too slippery, then slides overboard. When Slip, who has been assigned to act as headwaiter for Comdr. Tannen, stops to talk to the gang, Whitey, who has been using a block of soap for the floors, accidentally trades it for a block of cheese on Slip's lunch platter for Tannen. Slip delivers the lunch and just before Tannen takes a bite out of his cheese and crackers, Longnecker, soaking wet, bursts into the office. Tannen finally takes a bite from the "cheese," and when he sips his tea and an endless stream of bubbles floats out of his mouth. As a result, Slip is demoted to swabbing the deck. Sach, whose erroneous records show he is a qualified navigator, is assigned to the chart room. Suddenly a fire drill bell is sounded, and the gang is ordered to prepare a water hose. Sach, while searching for the chart room, sees his friends and attempts to help them by turning on the hose. The pressure is too strong for any of them to manage, however, and they soak all the sailors nearby, including Longnecker, who once again delivers Sach to Tannen's office for punishment. That night, the gang decides to check all the sailors for the tattoo while they sleep in their bunks. Longnecker, who is making the night rounds in the sleeping quarters, discovers Sach, who then feigns sleep walking into the shower room. When Longnecker asks Sach why he is taking a waterless shower, Sach turns on the water and soaks Longnecker again. Days later, the ship docks in Hawaii and the gang visit the famous tattoo artist, Chief Narumo, to see if he remembers creating the tattoo. Narumo, with the help of his daughter and translator Paphula, reports that he has no record of that particular tattoo, but gives Sach a parrot named Davie Jones. Back on board, Sach's continued antics force him to hide out in the cannon of one of the ship's guns to avoid punishment. When a firing drill commences, Sach is unaware of the impending danger, but Slip and the rest of the gang spot him and pull him out of the cannon just in time. Later Slip plays a few rounds of thimblerig with three small cups and a ball and is swindled out of all his remaining money. He leaves dejected, but Sach remains in the game, and with the help of the eagle-eyed Davie Jones, wins back all of Slip's money plus several thousand dollars. The gang then decides to return home with their winnings and discontinue looking for the robbers. Later, when they arrive back in the Bowery, Red and Joe attempt to rob the gang again, just as Longnecker suddenly appears and introduces the gang to his girl friend Kitten. Suspicious of the two strangers, Longnecker prompts the men to fight and punches one of them out. The rest of the gang pummel the other robber, while Sach practices his punches on the sidelines and accidentally hits Longnecker, who lands in the gutter where a street cleaning machine soaks him with its spray. Later, the gang receive commendations for their bravery and then return to the recruiting office to explain the false mix-up. At the office, the same five men with whom they were confused, are ready to sign up for service, but decide at the last minute not to join because Hobbenocker is having a seventh child. When their papers are messed up again, the gang, having enjoyed their world travels in the Navy, decide to sign up.