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Father Jim Donnelly travels from Chicago to Washington, D.C. to testify before Senator Bill Henry's Post-War Planning Committee. To illustrate his point that World War II veterans must have jobs waiting for them upon their return from fighting, Father Donnelly tells the story of Eddie Ballinger, a former parishioner and World War I veteran: On 11 Nov 1918, Eddie and his pal Spats are trapped on the battlefield by a German sniper, who is keeping them pinned down in their trench. Spats sings "My Buddy" to assuage their nerves, but when he stands up, the sniper shoots and kills him. Before Eddie can return fire, he receives word that the war is over. Back home in Chicago, Eddie's mother Mary is thrilled to see him, although Eddie is shocked to learn that she has been taking in laundry to make ends meet. Eddie also goes to see his girl friend, Lucy Manners, who has patiently waited for him. Eddie asks Lucy to wait a little longer for their marriage, until he finds a job and readjusts to civilian life. Despite Eddie's persistence and good intentions, he cannot find a job, as very few employers held positions for workers who went off to war. Desperate to provide for Mary and Lucy, Eddie finally accepts a job working for Tim Oberta, a racketeer and bootlegger. Lucy asks Eddie to quit, but Eddie continues with his illegal activities and is able to install Mary in a comfortable new apartment. Later, Eddie is helping to deliver a truckload of gin when an investigating policeman is accidentally killed. Oberta double-crosses Eddie during his trial, and Eddie is convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The bitter Eddie then begins to lay plans for his own criminal empire during his imprisonment. Lucy visits Eddie, but he cruelly tells her to go on with her life and marry a respectable, boring man. Upon his release in 1924, Eddie moves in on Oberta's territory and soon has control of the westside protection racket. Eddie begins keeping company with Lola, a duplicitous nightclub performer who left Oberta for him. Mary pleads with Eddie to quit terrorizing the shopkeepers for protection money, but Eddie refuses, for he is still angry over their refusals to employ him when he returned from overseas. Eddie's empire grows, but a spy for Oberta helps him to set up and murder several of Eddie's men, and in revenge, Eddie shoots Oberta. After the shooting, Eddie leaves a valise at Donnelly's church, then goes to the hotel, where Lola is waiting for him. Lola has called the police, however, and Eddie is killed in the ensuing shootout. At the conclusion of his story, Donnelly tells the senators that Eddie's valise contained money to be returned to the store owners, and a note begging Donnelly to help provide for the men and women who will be serving their country in the future. Moved by the saga of Eddie's downfall, the senators promise Donnelly that they will do all they can to insure job security for returning veterans.