A doctor tries to help paraplegic patients in a veterans’ hospital, and a woman wants to marry her fiancé, who resists the idea at first.
Ken Wilcheck (Marlon Brando) is wounded in battle. He lays in a hospital bed, afraid that he will live. Dr. Brock (Everett Sloane) explains to women that paraplegia means life in a wheelchair. Afterward Ellen Wilosek (Teresa Wright) tells him that she wants to marry Ken, but he refuses to see her. Dr. Brock goes around and talks with the paraplegic patients. Ken has been there for a year, and Dr. Brock says he could leave in six months. Ken tells him to keep Ellen away from him.
Dr. Brock has Ken taken off pain-killers and transferred to a ward. Ken tells Norm (Jack Webb) to leave him alone. When Norm, Leo (Richard Erdman), and Angel (Arthur Jurado) refuse to turn down the radio, Ken throws a pitcher. Then Norm douses Ken with water.
Dr. Brock advises Ellen and arranges for her to see Ken when he is alone. Ken tells her to get out and shows himself to her. He says that she does not owe him anything. Ellen says that she needs him.
Norm, Leo, and Angel discuss a nurse who is marrying a patient. Norm says it won’t work. Ken begins exercising in bed with his arms. He gets in a wheelchair and meets Ellen outside. He says he thinks he can feel his legs.
Norm shaves off his beard for pretty Laverne (Patricia Joiner). Angel gets sick and dies. Dr. Brock tests if Ken can feel in his legs and says he can’t. Dr. Brock gets upset and tells the men to be responsible.
Ken goes out with Ellen. She drives, and they talk. She wants to marry him. In the ward drunk Norm says that Laverne took him for $900, and he quotes Hamlet’s speech on death.
Ellen’s father (Howard St. John) tells her that she is making a big mistake, and he blames Ken. Ellen criticizes her father, and her mother (Dorothy Tree) defends him. They tell Ellen that they want a grandchild.
Ellen asks Dr. Brock, who says it is possible in some cases. Ken exercises and drives a car. Ken stands at his wedding and nearly falls. He likes their new house, but he spills champagne on the carpet. His leg shakes, and Ellen gets upset. Ken says that she is sorry, and he goes back to the ward and breaks windows.
In a bar Ken slugs a drunk veteran (Ray Teal), and he causes a car accident. Dr. Brock argues with Dr. Kameran about the disciplining. Ellen visits Ken in the ward and apologizes. She asks Ken to come home, but he says he is home. Norm votes for Ken’s discharge. Ken appeals to Dr. Brock, who says he has a home. Dr. Brock says that his wife was paralyzed but died. He wishes she were alive. In the final scene Ken drives home and calls to Ellen, who helps him.
This realistic drama depicts the physical trauma that many veterans must learn to face and accept. When they do, they and those who care for them realize that life can still be worthwhile.