At the start of WWII, unhappy twenty three year-old Joe Atkins lives with his immigrant New Jersey family. Urged by an uncle to avoid the draft, he joins the National Guard. Called up anyhow, his unit lands in Italy, where he bungles the job of shooting himself in the foot and is first a patient, then an aide in a Neapolitan clinic. Joe quickly learns the language, loves the city, makes friends and starts sketching-a talent he was ridiculed out of as a teenager. He and Ketti, the beautiful Italian head nurse, fall in love. Joe is happy living with her . . . until his cousin Tom looks him up while being rotated back to the States, and reawakens all of Joe's old insecurities and prejudices.