Lloyd Bacon's film is a fine tribute to the five Sullivan brothers who died simultaneously when the ship to which they were all assigned went down in the Pacific theater during WWII. The tragic event, which led to historic changes separating family members in the military, was the primary source for Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998). The film is structured as a series of vignettes about the Iowa-bred brothers first as young boys and then young men, designed to illustrate both how typical and how precious were the lives that were lost. What's most unusual about the film is the degree to which some of the period conventions about the depiction of family life were suspended in favor of a sense of naturalism, albeit slightly sentimental. Part of this can be attributed to the exceptional performance of Thomas Mitchell as the wise, low-key father of the brood, and part to the unforced spontaneity of the script. This moving film is far more telling about the effects of war than all but a few films of its time.