Adapted by producer David O. Selznick from Margaret Wilder's novel, a family keeps the home fires burning while the father is away at war.
In January 1943 Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) and her daughters Jane (Jennifer Jones) and Brig (Shirley Temple) are already missing Mr. Hilton, who went off to war. Their housekeeper Fidelia (Hattie McDaniel) has got another job. Brig and Jane suggest renting a room. Anne turns away a young officer but rents to the retired Col. William Smollett (Monte Woolley). Brig agrees to give Smollett breakfasts for $3 a week. Anne lets Fidelia stay in her old room. At a bar Anne sees Emily Hawkins (Agnes Moorehead) and her old flame, Lt. Tony Willett (Joseph Cotton). Anne lets Tony stay with them, and she moves in with the girls. Bill Smollett (Robert Walker) comes to see his grandfather, but the colonel does not like him. Bill meets Jane, and Tony invites him to come back.
Emily arranges a dance for soldiers and brings girls. Tony takes Anne. Jane asks Tony to dance with her. Anne learns that her grocer's son was killed flying. Jane gets the mumps, and Tony says tender goodbyes to her, Fidelia, Brig, and Anne. Jane and Bill go bowling and make friends with a sailor. Jane notices that Bill is shy and sensitive, and he explains how he disappointed his grandfather by getting kicked out of West Point. Jane tries to talk to Smollett about Bill, but he stalks out. Jane graduates from high school.
Anne, Jane, and Brig take a train to meet Mr. Hilton briefly; but their train is delayed, and they miss him. Jane becomes a nurse's aide and helps rehabilitate the wounded. Anne gets a telegram that her husband is missing and collapses. They attend church with Bill. Emily tells Anne that she has extra food, but Anne relies on her ration points. Anne makes lunch for Smollett and tells him that Bill is leaving for the war. Bill and Jane walk in the country and kiss. He proposes marriage, and she accepts. At the train station Jane suggests they could marry in New York, but Bill wants to wait until he returns. Jane conveys messages between Smollett and his grandson Bill, who leaves the watch his grandfather gave him with Jane.
Brig and Jane talk about marriage. Anne tells Jane that Bill was killed at Salerno. Anne tells Smollett that Bill loved him. Jane helps a wounded man who hates the water; a psychiatrist says he needs confidence. They have a birthday cake for Smollett, and Tony returns. Emily comes in and disapproves of Jane working at a hospital. Jane defends her service, and Anne says she is ashamed of Emily, who leaves. Jane tells Tony that she wants to do something. She learns welding and gets to know Zofia Koslowska.
Tony pays Christmas carolers, and Smollett acts during a charades game. A navy officer tells Anne that Tony won the Navy Cross. Fidelia puts presents from Mr. Hilton under the tree, and Anne opens a music box. Anne gets a cablegram that her husband is coming home.
Emotions run deep in this sentimental story of a family
that adjusts to a missing father by reaching out to help others
and make sacrifices for the war.