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In early August of 1945, United States Navy submarine Capt. Heywood and his first officer, Dory Gates, search the waters for survivors of a Navy fighter plane that crashed fifteen hours earlier. Just before enemy ships force them to submerge, Dory spots pilot Bob Bingham and his navigator Turk in the waves. Turk has kept Bob afloat for hours, but dies as soon as he is rescued. Bob, who panicked while flying and blames himself for the death of Turk and two other men, is tormented by guilt. Although neither Dory's kind words nor the news that he has been awarded the Navy Cross revives his spirits, Bob does show interest in the workings of the sub. The ship is then attacked, and after the men pull together to bomb the enemy ship, Bob admires the fact that submarines require teamwork instead of one man bearing all the responsibility. Upon docking in Pearl Harbor, he is brought to the Naval hospital, where his mood lightens when he spies beautiful nurse Susan Peabody. Just then, however, Dory enters, and Susan rushes into his arms. The couple invite Bob out to a bar that night, and the moment Dory leaves the table, Bob flirts with Susan, who is intrigued by his air of melancholy. An announcement that the war has ended prompts everyone in the bar to erupt in joyful commotion, except Bob, who sneaks out silently. Weeks later, he quits a job at a brokerage firm after his boss chastises him for not exploiting his status as a war hero. With nowhere else to go, Bob decides to join Dory and Susan at the submarine school in New London, Connecticut. There, Heywood welcomes him but stresses that submarines require each man to take personal responsibility for the ship. Bob goes straight to Susan's house, where she greets him warmly. After Susan's father, crotchety officer Oliver J. Peabody, finally goes to sleep, Bob asks her why she has not married Dory. Finding she has no good answer, Bob kisses her forcefully, but she pulls away. Bob then throws himself into officer's training with his new friend, Tom Graham. The instructors commend him for his excellent schoolwork but worry that he is too cocky. One day in the recreation hall, Dory once again asks Susan to marry him, but this time she demurs because her father, who is about to retire, needs her at home. Soon after, Bob appears and announces to Dory that he has competition for Susan's attention. Although Dory responds cheerfully, Susan is horrified by Bob's brashness, and after once again letting him kiss her, she runs away. Later, just as the Korean War begins, Bob learns that Susan is transferring to a hospital ship. That night at the Peabodys', Heywood informs Oliver that he is being reinstated to help with the war effort, and the older man is overjoyed. Bob visits and, unaware of Heywood's presence, demands that Susan marry him. When she refuses him, Heywood steps in and commands Bob to leave. Althought the captain later hears Susan admit that she may be in love with Bob, Heywood warns the young officer that his behavior is objectionable. The next day during Bob's practice sub dive, a fire erupts and fills the rooms with smoke. Only Bob, covering his mouth with a towel, remains conscious, and manages to surface the ship and open the latch so the smoke can clear. They return to the port, where Dory congratulates Bob on his rescue but later informs him that Susan has left. Bob grows listless and, as a result, during his final exam he fails to check a rudder, causing a faulty torpedo almost to hit his own ship. That night, a lonely, guilt-stricken Bob visits Oliver, who urges him to look at the lives he saved on the sub as repentance for the three men killed in the plane crash. At that moment, Dory enters and informs Bob that he has won a plum post-graduation assignment on Heywood's ship in Korea, and the rivals shake hands. Weeks later, in the waters off Korea, Heywood announces that two officers must raft to land and destroy a strategic tunnel. Dory and Bob volunteer and, along with two enlisted men, set off at night. They successfully blow up the tunnel but on the way back to the raft are spotted by enemy soldiers. The Koreans shoot Bob, who is trying to hold them off with gunfire, in the arm and then bomb the raft, killing the two enlisted men and wounding Dory. The officers row furiously toward the ship, but enemy fire forces Heywood to submerge. Minutes later, however, he is able to resurface and rescue Bob and Dory. They are quickly flown to a nearby hospital boat, on which Susan works. When they are wheeled in, Susan sees only Bob and races to embrace him. A nurse innocently asks Dory if he is in pain, and, suddenly noticing how beautiful she is, he responds that it does not hurt as much as he thought it would.