Eddie Slocom (Bobby Diamond) is a young country boy from a farm in Indiana who decides to volunteer to become a paratrooper because of his dreams to be like his uncle Charlie, a paratrooper in World War II. Upon arriving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he meets a motley crew of volunteers and draftees from varying socio-economic backgrounds with a montage of their basic training shown during the credits. Most notable are Rocky, the bully of the group from Chicago, and Mouse, jive-talking, self-styled "lover" of the group from the Bronx, who both play important supporting roles in the film. There are also the two sergeants of the platoon, the tough veteran Platoon Sergeant Sergeant First Class Benner and his assistant the more affable and pleasant but still tough Sgt. White (played by the famous Hollywood stunt man Whitney Hughes).
As a wet behind the ears, immature and naive farm-boy and country bumpkin, Eddie is initially mocked by his peers for his wholesome ways and trusting manner, eventually however he earns their respect by his courage, honor, friendliness and his ability to be a good teammate and comrade despite not being the most skilled paratrooper.
Drama develops when Eddie meets a doe-eyed country girl by the name of Jenny May and this provides the then necessary "love-interest" for the male lead and a diverting sub-plot to the main theme of the film. Various ups and downs in the life and training of the main protagonist follow.
As time goes by all except Rocky cease their teasing of Eddie. Rocky takes Jenny May away from Eddie at a dance on post, later ridicules Eddie's love letters to her and physically threatens not only Eddie but the other members of the group. When Rocky is overheard ridiculing people from farms and members of the 4-H Club, SFC Benner stands in Rocky's face and loudly reminds him that he too is a farmer and asks him if he would like to repeat his comments to his face but Rocky backs down. He instructs Slocum to recite the values of the 4-H that he advises the men to follow. To further demonstrate that being a paratrooper is more than jumping out of an aircraft, he orders the group to a guided tour of the Division's museum where all but Rocky are impressed by the courage of the Division in two world wars, including an account of another country bumpkin Sgt. Alvin York.
The climax of the training is the platoon's first jump. Rocky collides into Eddie and Rocky's chute collapses. The small Eddie is able to grab Rocky's collapsed parachute and holds it allowing Rocky to land safely. Rocky is not only shocked by Eddie's courage and strength but the group of friends he has bullied eagerly run to him to see if he is safe. People sincerely caring about him is something that has never happened to Rocky before. All of the group become buddies and proud members of the US 82nd Airborne Division.
Airborne was made with the co-operation of the US Army and was filmed on location in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the training ground of the US 82nd Airborne Division. Filming also took place at Aberdeen, North Carolina and Fayetteville, North Carolina. Capt. Ernest L. Basciano was the technical advisor for the film. Paratroopers used a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar in the training and filming.
Although in general release by January 1962, Upon its release, Airborne was moderately well received in the US due to its content and the limited fame of its star who had been a well known child actor on TV for most of the 1950s, co-starring in the Western horse television series Fury. As a vehicle to launch the film career of its star (Bobby Diamond), the film failed to achieve its aim and purpose. This was Diamond's only leading role on film/ His only other film appearances were in supporting roles in the Patty Duke vehicle Billie (1965) and the 1981 slasher film Scream (1981).
Diamond had much more success on television, playing the recurring role of "Buddy" in the NBC sitcom, The Nanette Fabray Show, cast in 1962–1963 as Dobie Gillis's cousin, Duncan "Dunky" Gillis, for seven episodes of the final season of CBS's The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Diamond also appeared in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. Later, he had roles in The Andy Griffith Show and The Rebel.
Airborne was released on DVD on December 9, 2008.