Based on the history of the plane Mary Ann, a bomber crew flies to Pearl Harbor as the war begins and is called into action in the Pacific.
Planes are ordered to fly without ammunition. Pilot Irish Quincannon (John Ridgely) kisses his wife goodbye. Roberts leads nine planes. Co-pilot Bill Williams (Gig Young) is going to date Susan, sister of Tommy McMartin (Arthur Kennedy). Joe Winocki (John Garfield) resents that Quincannon washed him out of flight school and plans to leave the army in three weeks. On radio they hear that Hawaii is being attacked. They land at Maui and damage their landing gear. Shooting starts. When Joe shoots back, Robby White (Harry Carey) knocks him out. They take off and see Pearl Harbor burning. They land at Hickam. Tommy and Bill visit wounded Susan, and Tex R tells what happened to her. They are ordered to take pilot Tex to Manila. Tex says why he likes a fighter better than a bomber. They hear FDR on radio declare war on Japan. They see Wake Island and land to refuel. Marines say they will hold out as long as they can. Weinberg (George Tobias) is persuaded to take a dog, but on board Joe tells White that he did it.
They land at Clark Field. White tells Joe to transfer, but Quincannon says Joe can stay. Quincannon learns that White's son was killed and tells White. With three bombs loaded they take off in an emergency. Fighters attack them, and they shoot back, destroying several Japanese planes. They abandon ship, but Joe stays; after Quincannon passes out, Joe lands the plane. The commander orders the damaged plane burned. The men visit delirious Quincannon, who thinks they are taking off and dies. Bill and White ask permission to rebuild the plane, and Tex helps. Planes attack, and White shoots one down. Men help them load gas. Japanese soldiers attack, but after shooting they take off and fly south toward Australia. They see ships and are shot at. They radio the position. Planes scramble and arrive. Then they bomb the ships and destroy many. The old bomber lands on the shore. In the final scene they go to bomb Tokyo.
This war drama portrays the realism of the contemporary
air war in the Pacific theater from the American perspective at
the time. The erroneous idea that "fifth column" Japanese
in Hawaii helped the attack on Pearl Harbor led to the unnecessary
internment of Japanese on the west coast. The actual Mary Ann
B-17 bomber was shot down the next year.