Cadet Gary McKeever wants to join his father, an U.S. Air Force major, who is stationed in Paris. Currently enrolled in a stateside military school, he schemes to be kicked out by amassing demerit and demerit. The school's headmaster, Colonel Blackwell, knows that Gary's leadership score is off the charts and refuses to dismiss him.
McKeever misinterprets a letter from Tubby's parents and thinks they will withdraw him from the academy because of financial difficulties. The boys decide to raise money but their use of school supplies to do so makes the Colonel suspicious.
McKeever is assigned to write the school play honoring Blackwell, an ancestor of the Colonel. When Blackwell 's army record reveals he was not a hero, McKeever doesn't know how to avoid upsetting the Colonel with the news.