Soldier finds dog. Soldier loses dog. Soldier finds dog.
After his wife and daughter die in a plane crash, writer Fletcher Carson finds little to live for. After trying, but failing, to take his own life, he becomes inspired to enlist as a soldier and in the waning days of the war goes to Vietnam. There he’s with a platoon called the Fat Lady (because the opera/war won’t be over till she sings). On a dangerous reconnaissance mission deep in the jungle, the platoon unexpectedly (and somewhat unaccountably) comes across a badly wounded Labrador Retriever. Lt. Rogan, the platoon leader, orders Carson to shoot it, for he knows that sometimes dogs are cunningly wired to detonate and kill American troops, but Carson feels an immediate connection to the dog and refuses to obey Rogan’s direct order, endangering the men and enraging the lieutenant. Carson rescues the dog and takes it back to the base, enlisting the help of a veterinary-school dropout to bring the dog back to some semblance of health. Although Carson suspects the dog, whom he names Jack, has been trained by Americans to sniff out trip wires and booby traps, he’s unable to find the canine unit to which it had been attached, so he keeps it to protect his own platoon. Naturally, Jack responds by saving Rogan’s life. When a truce is declared and the troops are scheduled to return to the United States, Carson finds to his horror that Army dogs are regarded as “surplus military equipment” too expensive to ship home. He finds the order to abandon the dog unacceptable, so he remains behind with Jack, promising to get him out by tromping 350 miles through Vietnam, Laos and eventually into Thailand. Along the way, Carson gets captured, Jack disappears, Carson escapes, Jack reappears and Carson (with Rogan’s help) eventually makes it back.
A predictable plot with a sentimental streak a mile wide.