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When Willie Comes Marching Home

When Willie Comes Marching Home(1950)


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In 1941, when news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor reaches the small town of Punxatawney, West Virginia, Bill Kluggs, an upstanding young student, enlists in the army and earns the distinction of being the first resident of Punxatawney to join the wartime service. After bidding farewell to his sweetheart Marge Fettles, Bill leaves for basic training at Fort Wayne, Missouri. Following basic training, Bill and his regiment are dispached to Punxatawney, the site of the new Loring Field base, where Bill is told that he will be briefly stationed before being sent out to fight. Although Bill's visit at home starts well, when the town gives him a grand homecoming celebration, the good cheer soon begins to fade when Bill's assignment in Punxatawney is repeatedly extended. Bill makes many desperate requests to be sent out to fight but they prove futile, and his brief stop eventually turns into a two-year stay in Punxatawney. Bill's commander refuses to ship him out because he is too good as a gunnery instructor and is needed at home to train soldiers. With time, the townspeople begin to resent Bill's presence and soon ignore and ridicule him. Bill's big break finally comes when he is needed to fly a B-17 to England but, because there have been so many false starts, Bill's parents barely take notice of his departure. While crossing the Atlantic in bad weather, Bill falls asleep and misses orders from the cockpit to bail out. When he awakens, Bill realizes that he is in danger and parachutes to safety. Safety is not at all what Bill finds, however, when he discovers that he has landed in Nazi-occupied France. Soon after hitting the ground, Bill is taken captive by a French woman named Yvonne and her cohorts, who are a part of the French Resistence. Yvonne and the others are filming the launching of a rocket from a secret launch pad and decide to use Bill to help them smuggle their film out of the area. As part of their plan, Bill is disguised as a Frenchman and a fake wedding between he and Yvonne is staged. The plan is a success, and Bill and the film arrive safely in London. Bill is then sent back the United States, where, after he identifies a photograph of Yvonne for Pentagon officials, he is told that he has played a vital role in finding the location of top secret mission sites that are essential to American intelligence operations. Having left Punxatawney only four days earlier, Bill returns home disoriented and exhausted, and is mistaken for a prowler by his father, who knocks him unconscious. His father later dismisses his story of the four-day ordeal as nonsense until military police arrive at the Kluggs's to escort Bill to Washington, D.C., where he is to receive a personal decoration by the President of the United States.