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Every spring, the residents of a small Alaskan outpost called Nenana participate in a contest in which the person who most accurately predicts when the first crack in the ice will occur is declared the winner of $85,000. Inside the Klondike saloon, Capt. Tom Clark promises everyone a bottle of "Jack" if he wins and promises his companion, Rose Flambeau, a mink-lined parka. The ice breaks at 3:46, and Tom is pronounced the winner. When a photographer suddenly takes his picture, however, Tom punches him and departs abruptly. Later, Doc Read explains what he knows about Tom to reporter Jack Wells, but is unable to say why Tom would assault his photographer. At the office of Brig. Gen. Craig Butler of Military Intelligence, Maj. Geoffrey Barnett reads a newspaper item announcing Tom's win. Barnett tells the general that during the war, Tom, a sergeant, an interpreter and two soldiers were assigned to take Japanese headquarters on Attu Island. After all except one of soldiers were reported dead, they assumed Tom had perished. Barnett orders Tom's casket to be exhumed, and the remains are determined to be that of one of the soldiers. Later, Barnett goes to the Klondike, where he asks Rose about Tom. Noticing Barnett's West Point class ring, Rose lies, saying Tom is away, but will return in a few days. Early the next morning, Rose leaves Nenana to return to her cabin in an Eskimo village. After dog trainer Frenchy Frenay agrees to sell Barnett a dog sled and team, Barnett goes to the village. When Barnett tells Rose that Tom is wanted for desertion and is suspected of killing the other members of his mission with a grenade, Rose explains that no one knows the location of Tom's gold mine, where she suspects Tom is hiding. Later, two baby bears, "Pete" and "Mike," break into Tom's cabin, and Barnett who is searching in the area, enters to chase them out. Inside, he discovers a Japanese Assay Report and some maps, which prove that Tom has betrayed his country. In the middle of the night, Tom returns and admits to Rose that he is guilty. He explains that upon reaching Japanese headquarters, he had discovered maps revealing the discovery of rich deposits of pitchblende, an ore containing both gold and uranium, in northern Alaska. Tom realized that the United States did not know of these deposits and quickly purchased the land with plans to sell the ore to a "foreign" government. Tom returns to his mine, and the next morning, Rose, who lost two brothers during the war, informs Barnett about his past. Barnett rushes to the mine and tries to arrest Tom, but after shooting Rose in the shoulder, Tom escapes on a dog sled. Barnett captures Tom, locks him inside a cabin and boards up the windows. After Barnett leaves, Frenchy lets Tom out of his temporary prison. Frenchy gives a gun to Tom, who thanks him and then stabs him to death. Barnett, however, shoots Tom, killing him, and after he receives a promotion, the major proposes to Rose.