Robert Sherwood adapted the novel by MacKinlay Kantor about three veterans adjusting to civilian life after the war.
Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) and Al Stephenson (Fredric March) see that Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) has hooks instead of hands, and the three take a plane to Boone City. Fred and Al are "nervous out of the service." Homer is welcomed home by his family and Wilma Cameron (Cathy O'Donnell). Al surprises his wife Milly (Myrna Loy) and their grown children Peggy (Teresa Wright) and Rob (Michael Hall). Fred goes to his parents' home, but they say his wife lives elsewhere. Rob asks Al about radioactivity at Hiroshima. Al takes Milly and Peggy out on the town. Homer's father suggests he sell insurance. Homer finds Fred in a bar. Drunk Al comes in with Milly and Peggy. Piano player Butch (Hoagy Carmichael) tells Homer that Wilma called. Al dances with Milly, and they take drunk Fred home with them. Peggy puts him to bed, and Milly takes care of Al. Fred talks during a nightmare, and Peggy consoles him. She fixes breakfast for him and takes him to his wife's apartment. Marie Derry (Virginia Mayo) is glad to see Fred.
Al gets a call from the bank where he used to work. Fred goes to the drugstore where he worked. He says he only dropped bombs and rejects a job for $32.50 a week. Mr. Milton (Ray Collins) offers Al a better job making loans for $12,000 a year. Marie quits her nightclub job, and Fred gives her presents from Paris. Fred says he has $1,000, and Marie has him wear his Air Force uniform. Homer practices shooting in the garage, and Wilma comes in. Homer breaks the window to show children his hooks. Wilma says she is still in love with Homer, but he says he has to work it out himself. Homer's father helps him get ready for bed.
Fred tells Marie they are broke because he hasn't found a job. He cooks, but she wants to go out. Fred works for his former assistant at the drugstore. Al interviews a Seabee about a loan to buy a farm. Homer tells Al he gets $200 a month. Fred sells perfume and sees Peggy. They have lunch together, and he kisses her. Al defends the loan without collateral. Marie tells Fred that Peggy invited them out. Peggy tells her parents that she is in love with Fred and wants to meet his wife. At a banquet Milton honors Al, who drinks and speaks about small loans. Woody tells Peggy that Fred and Marie don't like each other. Marie tells Peggy to marry Woody because he has money. Peggy tells her parents that she is going to break up Fred's marriage, but Al and Milly question her.
Fred meets Al and admits he is in love with Peggy. Fred says he won't see Peggy anymore because of Al's concern. Peggy tells Milly that Fred called and ended it. Homer asks Fred about Al. A man says the war was against the wrong enemy. Homer argues with him, and Fred slugs him and quits. Fred tells Homer to marry Wilma. She tells Homer that her family wants her to go away. Homer asks her to see how he goes to bed. Wilma kisses Homer and says she won't leave him.
Fred comes home and finds Marie with Cliff. Marie tells Fred that she gave up the best years of her life and wants a divorce. Fred packs at his parents' house and leaves. His father reads Fred's war citation. Fred waits for a flight and looks at old planes. He gets a job working there. At Homer's wedding Fred tells Peggy he is working. After the ceremony Fred kisses Peggy.
This powerful drama explores the major transition millions
of men were making that year when returning home after years of
war. They found that the business of killing was not much training
for constructive work, and others no longer wanted them taking