The story of three young marines, Wagner, Dillman, and Hunter, and their experiences with the title subjects. Wagner is a cowardly lad who finds courage in battle, then falls in love with Lange. Hunter is a heroic sergeant who thrives on facing danger. After marrying his pregnant girl friend, he goes off to fight in the South Pacific, where he dies in battle. Dillman, perhaps the most interesting of the trio, is an intellectual whose socialite wife commits suicide, making him turn his affections to Hawaiian nurse Nuyen. He goes through a period of reassessment, questioning both love and war. Actor Edward "Tap" Canutt is the son of Yakima Canutt, a stuntman who pioneered many difficult stunts during his career and was second-unit director on many epic films such as BEN HUR (1959), SPARTACUS (1960), and EL CID (1961).