The play centers on the experiences of a young army recruit during World War II, Eugene Morris Jerome. At basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, Eugene is determined to use his army experiences to help his writing career and keeps detailed memoirs about his experiences. Eugene and five other assorted enlisted men suffer under a hard nosed drill sergeant, confront the terrible army food served up in the mess hall, and join together in a visit to a local prostitute. Eugene is forced to learn about authority, danger, sex, assimilation, bigotry, homosexuality and love. In the process, he discovers that life can be both ugly and tender.