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In the late spring of 1942, the Japanese heavily bomb the island, virtually destroying the base. Only 18 out of the 150 Naval Aviators and Marines assigned to the base survive. With the Japanese patrols in the region too heavy for the Navy to mount a rescue mission, McHale and his men are forced to survive by hiding on the island. Assisted by the native tribes whom they befriend, the sailors live a relatively paradisaical island existence.