Preston Sturges wrote and directed this comedy about a marine reject who returns home with marines who say he is a hero.
Sad Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Eddie Bracken) drinks beer and buys some for six marines after Sergeant Heppelfinger (William Demarest) fails to sell a war memento. Truesmith says he was only in the marines for a month because of hay fever; but he names their great battles and says his father was killed when he was born. Heppelfinger knew his father. One marine makes a call to Truesmith's mother and told her he is back from Guadalcanal. They put Truesmith in uniform, and Heppelfinger gives him his medals. They put him on a train for home. A crowd waits, and Libby (Ella Raines) is planning to marry Forrest Noble (Bill Edwards). The chairman (Franklin Pangborn) tries to coordinate four bands. Truesmith is cheered and honored, and Mayor Everett Noble (Raymond Walburn) welcomes him.
At home Truesmith changes into a suit before going to church. The minister praises his mother and burns her mortgage. Truesmith complains to Heppelfinger, and the marines eat at his house. Truesmith tells Judge Dennis (Jimmy Conlin) he is ready, but they ask him to run for mayor. Truesmith says he does not deserve it. Heppelfinger tells how Truesmith saved his life and killed Japs. Mayor Noble works on his speech with his son Forrest, who is filling in as secretary until Libby comes in. Forrest and Libby discuss the situation; she has not told Truesmith and cries.
Truesmith tells Heppelfinger it is all based on lies. When Libby tells Truesmith she is going to marry Forrest, he says he is glad because he is not a hero. Libby says she loves Truesmith, who admits he is a fake. Noble is upset, and his advisor (Al Bridge) eats his dinner; the aide wonders if Truesmith is a hero and decides to check.
Truesmith has a battle nightmare, but at dawn he gets an idea and is chipper, saying he will be mayor. He has a marine call him and says he has been called back into the marines right away. The other marines jump on the marine who made the call, and Truesmith hits one of them. Truesmith rides in the parade while Noble and his advisor get a telegram saying that Truesmith was discharged a year ago for hay fever. Judge Dennis introduces Truesmith, who says they should elect Dr. Bissell (Harry Hayden), not a phony like Noble or himself. He says he is a coward for not telling the truth sooner; he says he fooled the marines too. However, Heppelfinger commends his courage. Libby gives the ring back to Forrest because she loves Truesmith. She finds him packing and hugs him. Heppelfinger leads the town to the train station, and Dr. Bissell says that Truesmith should be mayor because he is honest. Truesmith stays, and the marines leave.
This satire of how small towns worship their war heroes
shows how these attitudes attempt to make such people into much
more than they really are.