powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
At the St. Louis Cardinals' winter baseball camp in Florida, third baseman Robert "Dutch" Holland reunites with his old Air Force buddy, Gen. Rusty Castle, and invites him to his wife Sally's housewarming party that night. During the evening, Rusty informs Dutch, a reservist, that his colleague, Gen. Ennis C. Hawkes, has called Dutch back to duty for the Strategic Air Command, or SAC. Dutch, who was a bomber pilot during World War II, reacts to the announcement with anger, as he enjoys playing baseball and is newly married. Although sympathetic, Rusty explains to Dutch that the Air Force needs seasoned pilots to fly the SAC planes, which carry atomic bombs. After Dutch tells Tom Doyle, his coach, about his situation, he prepares to break the news to Sally. To his surprise, Sally already knows about his twenty-one month assignment and assures him that she can cope with military life. Later, when Dutch reports for duty at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, he witnesses a staged enemy invasion, a test overseen by Gen. Hawkes. Dutch then goes for his physical and Sally calls him repeatedly, anxious to get settled in their new quarters. Dutch, an operations officer, continues his general training on a huge B-36 aircraft, reuniting with his World War II flight engineer, Sgt. Bible. While flying round trip to Alaska in one day, Dutch is introduced to the plane's crew, including co-pilot Lt. Col. Rocky Samford and navigator Ike Knowland, who complains bitterly about being called up during peacetime. Later, Dutch convinces Hawkes to allow him to leave his desk job to learn more about the Air Force's new technology. After Dutch discovers that Sally is pregnant, he is assigned his own plane and asks Ike to join his crew. Two weeks before Sally is due, Dutch is sent on a four-day mission to Greenland to test his plane's performance in extremely cold weather. Sally is unhappy and worried about the mission, but Dutch insists on going. As the plane nears its destination, a fuel leak develops and a fire erupts on the wing. On Dutch's orders, everyone bails out except for Dutch and Ike, who chooses to remain on board to alert air control of their position. Dutch crash-lands the plane in the snow, injuring his shoulder in the process. Ike also is injured, but after a few days in sub-zero temperatures, the men are found by a rescue team. Upon arriving at the nearest base, Dutch receives word that Sally has given birth to a girl and, although he admits to having wanted a boy, celebrates with his comrades. Hawkes then questions Dutch about the crash and, impressed by his clear-headed handling of the situation, shows him the Air Force's newest plane, the B-47. Dutch is thrilled by the powerful plane and agrees to fly it, but Sally continues to worry about his safety. After Dutch and Sally are transferred to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Dutch and Ike attend a briefing by Hawkes, who reminds his men that planes like the B-47 are necessary to maintain world peace. Dutch flies some test missions in the B-47, and when he admits to Sally that his shoulder is still bothering him, she beseeches him to see a doctor, as Hawkes had ordered, but he refuses. The B-47's biggest test comes when Hawkes arranges for a squadron to fly non-stop to Japan, using mid-air fueling planes. At the same time, Sally learns that the Cardinals' third baseman has been injured and that Tom wants Dutch, whose twenty-one months is up, to return to the team. To Sally's dismay, Dutch turns down the offer and declares that he has already agreed to stay in the Air Force. Sally denounces Dutch for making the decision without consulting with her and tells him he has become a stranger to her. After a depressed Dutch takes off for Japan, Sally rushes to the base and yells at Hawkes for manipulating Dutch with promotions and warns him that Dutch is headed for a "crack-up." Though the mid-air fueling is successful, the long flight is grueling for the pilots, and Dutch's shoulder grows stiff. Near Japan, Dutch has to increase his plane's altitude to compensate for a strong jet stream, using up precious fuel. A dense fog then rolls in, and Dutch, groggy and in pain, is forced to make a difficult landing in Okinawa. As he does, he finds he cannot move his shoulder and asks his co-pilot to work his throttle for him. Dutch lands safely, but is reprimanded by Hawkes for hiding his shoulder problem. Hawkes then sadly informs Dutch that because of his ailment, he can no longer fly planes and offers him a desk job. After turning Hawkes down, Dutch reunites with an apologetic Sally.