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As a 1917 graduate of the Naval Academy, Naval Aviator Jonathan L. "Scotty" Scott (Gary Cooper) spends 27 years, from 1921 to 1948, promoting naval aviation and the power of the aircraft carrier. During that period, he antagonizes powerful people in the U.S. Navy and Congress, and marries Mary Morgan (Jane Wyatt), the widow of a fellow flier who died in a crash during a carrier takeoff aboard the USS Langley. Throughout, Scott has the help and friendship of his mentor and superior officer, Pete Richard (Walter Brennan).The Scotts spend two years in Hawaii and then move to Annapolis, where Scott, now a Lieutenant Commander, is to teach naval aviation but his outspoken stand in favor of aircraft carriers in combat causes him to lose a promotion. After Japan invades Manchuria, Scott is offered a civilian sales position selling aircraft in Europe, but remains in the navy.After Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese, Scott's ship, the USS Enterprise, is heavily involved in action at the Battle of Midway. Scott later travels to Washington to plead for more carriers and eventually a carrier fleet is produced. During the Battle of Okinawa, the fleet, with Scott as the Captain of the carrier USS Franklin, proves its worth. When his carrier flight deck is badly damaged by Japanese torpedo aircraft, the crew is forced to abandon ship. Four years after the end of the war, Scott as an admiral, retires and joins Mary, who is waiting for him on the dock.