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Near the end of World War II, Major Robert Collins of the United States Air Force returns to the States with fellow airmen Captain W. Anders, a former teacher nicknamed "Shakespeare," and Lieutenant R. Janoschek, an ex-prizefighter called "Handsome." Bob, who saved the lives of his two friends while overseas in combat, is on leave because he has been diagnosed with terminal leukemia and has been given at most two years to live. The three decorated officers begin a War Bond tour and are met by I. V. Hotchkiss, their chaperone from the U.S. Treasury Department, who turns out to be a woman, Ivy. Although she is stern and in command, Ivy indulges the boys' frenzy for civilian women. While in Chicago, Bob and Ivy, whom he calls "Hotcha," fall in love. In San Francisco, while in a café with Shakespeare, Hotcha meets Dr. Stubbs, who treated Bob for leukemia. Although Shakespeare tries to protect her from the truth, Hotcha knows that Bob does not have long to live. In California, at the Fliers' Chapel at the historical Mission Inn in Riverside, Hotcha's sister Frances marries a pilot named Bill, although he has been called to duty. Inspired by the young couple's romantic optimism, Hotcha and Bob marry and vow to live life to the fullest, as long as they can. They buy a house in Long Island, near the airfield where Shakespeare, Handsome and Bob will be working. A few months pass, and Bob is ordered to report to the flight surgeon. Although he is being sent to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he will probably die, he tells his friends and Hotcha that he has been ordered overseas. She sees Dr. Stubbs prepare to board with Bob, however, and learns the truth. Bob and Hotcha say good-bye, promising not to grieve over their loss, and later she receives letters from him bearing an overseas return address. One afternoon, when Shakespeare and Handsome visit Hotcha to take her out, she receives a telegram reporting Bob's death at Walter Reed Hospital. After the funeral, the boys arrive and toast Bob, and Hotcha hears Bob's voice reminding her how lucky he was and toasting the four of them.