The singing son of an admiral reluctantly goes to the Naval Academy and tries to avoid making friends, because he intends to refuse his commission.
Dick Melville (Dick Powell) meets June Blackburn (Ruby Keeler), whose father and brother were killed in the Navy. Dick tells his father Admiral Melville (Lewis Stone) he won't join the Navy. For radio Dick sings "Don't Give Up the Ship." Dick kisses June, who won't marry a Navy man. Admiral Melville gives up his command to head the Naval Academy and says that Dick could not pass the entrance exam. Dick passes and decides to go.
The plebes are trained. Dick tells his father he was a fool to come there. June tells Dick that she wants to see him. Gifford (Dick Foran) hazes plebes and makes Dick sing 100 verses. Dick tells June that he will resign; but she says she won't see him if he does. Dick asks his father's advice. Gifford orders Dick to sing at a party, and he sings "I'd Love to Take Orders from You." Women request him to sing another. Dick moves to a room alone. Sparks Brown (Ross Alexander) hides a radio in his mattress. Admiral Melville reprimands Dick for not having friends, and Dick says that he will decline his commission. June teaches Navy children tap dancing. She tells Dick that her uncle was passed over and has to leave the Navy; she is going to New York to dance. Coxswain Lawrence (John Arledge) needs help studying but doesn't ask Dick, who is top of the class. Lawrence flunks out, though Admiral Melville says he has the heart. Dick says he is sorry, but Lawrence says Dick doesn't care about the Navy. Dick on leave sees June tap dance. He is asked to sing "I'd Rather Listen to Your Eyes."
Dick is given room-mates Sparks, Cowboy (Eddie Acuff), and Ted (Robert Light). At the ring dance Dick asks June to skip the ceremony. Dick says good-bye to June before the cruise. Lawrence tells Dick and others he is going to the academy again. In battle practice a steam leak starts a fire. Lawrence shuts off the oil and is burned. Dick shuts it off and drags out Lawrence, who dies. Admiral Melville says the one wearing the Academy ring is his son. Sparks, Ted, and Cowboy visit Dick, who is welcomed back and elected company commander. At graduation Sparks tells his girl that Congress won't let them marry for two years. In the final scene Dick and June visit Lawrence's grave.
Dick gives in to his family's naval tradition even though he dislikes military life. Patriotic notions of honor and service of one's country lead people like Admiral Melville to value the Navy; but no one mentions that a navy can be used by an imperial power to kill people in other countries.