In 1941 on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt arrives at Schofield Barracks, to which he has voluntarily transferred after quitting the Bugle Corp upon being replaced as First Bugler. Prew reunites with his good friend, Pvt. Angelo Maggio, before meeting with G Company commander and Regimental boxing head, Capt. Dana Holmes. Holmes, aware of Prew's success as an Army boxer, pressures him to join the company boxing club, but Prew steadfastly refuses. Later, Holmes's adjutant, Sgt. Milton Warden, cautions Prew against opposing Holmes, but Prew stubbornly declines to box. Later, Warden sees Holmes's attractive wife Karen visiting the post and learns of her "reputation" from another non-commissioned officer. Upon discovering that Prew refuses to box, the other soldiers in the boxing club harass him relentlessly with Holmes's approval. Maggio protests, only to be disciplined as well. One afternoon, Warden visits Holmes's cottage on a pretext of Army business, knowing that Holmes is out. Karen initially rebuffs Warden's romantic overtures, but soon gives in to his directness. On pay day, Maggio and Prew visit the New Congress Club, where Prew meets a club hostess, Lorene. A drunken Maggio riles "Fatso" Judson, sergeant of the stockade, but Prew prevents a fight between them. Prew later confides in Lorene that he refuses to box because he once blinded a friend while sparring. Meanwhile Warden, who has met Karen for a romantic late afternoon swim in the ocean, angers her by callously condemning her immoral behaviour. Hurt, she reveals that she discovered Holmes's infideltiy soon after their marriage and because of his drunken negligence she miscarried their child and was left incapable of bearing more children. Shocked, Warden apologizes. As the weeks pass, Prew's continued refusal to fight infuriates Holmes, who would like to court-martial him, but Warden convinces him to apply "the treatment," grueling physical punishment in the guise of extra duty. Prew endures the treatment without protest, assuring Maggio he will never give in. One evening at Choy's bar, after Prew surprises the men by demonstrating his skill with the bugle, Warden breaks up another tense confrontation between Maggio and Fatso. Despite Lorene's bewilderment over Prew's tolerance of the treatment, they continue to see each other. She soon confesses that her real name is Alma and gives him the key to her cottage. Soon after, Maggio, angered at being assigned guard duty, goes AWOL and, after being arrested by MPs, is court-martialed and sentenced to six months in the stockade. Meanwhile, Karen encourages Warden to apply for promotion, explaining that as an officer, Warden could be shipped stateside where they could marry after she divorces Holmes. Uneasy, Warden tentatively agrees. Prew proposes to Alma, but she scoffs at him for being an Army "thirty-year-man" and declares her determination to marry well to achieve the social acceptability she craves back in the States. Prew then discovers that Maggio has been placed in solitary confinement as punishment for several escape attempts and has received severe beatings from Fatso. Later, acting on orders from Holmes, Sgt. Ike Galovitch, head of the boxing team, forces Prew into fighting one afternoon, quickly drawing a crowd who cheer Prew on. That night as Prew and Warden sit drunkenly on a camp road, Maggio, severely battered, stumbles out of the woods. Collapsing into Prew's arms, he describes Fatso's brutal abuse and dies, content to have escaped the stockade. On his next free day, Prew searches town for Fatso and knifes him to death in an alley behind Choy's. Seriously wounded, Prew staggers to Alma's for help and remains there for several days. Hearing of Fatso's murder, Warden carries Prew on the active list as long as possible. The camp commander, Gen. Slater, who has investigated the fight between Prew and Galovitch, accuses Holmes of applying illegal measures against a soldier and informs him he must either resign or be court-martialed. Holmes then resigns in disgrace. Karen later tells Warden that Holmes has asked her to return stateside with him and inquires about Warden's commission. When Warden admits he has not submitted the request because he cannot accept being an officer, Karen sadly breaks off their relationship and returns to her husband. The next morning, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Prew, still weak, hears of the attack over the radio, and is determined to return to Schofield despite Alma's hysterical protests. Under the cover of night, Prew attempts to slip back into camp, but is shot by a guard. A few days later, sailing on one of the first evacuation ships, Karen meets Alma, who tells her that her fiancé was a pilot, who died bravely during the attack.