After landing at Pearl Harbor, the crew is shown painting over the large number 10 on the Mary Ann's tail. When the Mary Ann takes off again, the number is still there. In subsequent shots, the number is shown painted over once again.
When "Mary Jane" lands at Wake Field and taxis up to park, it has all four engines running; however, in the immediate next scene when a Clark officer drives and runs up to the plane, the number 2 engine is shut down.
Throughout the movie, stock film of several different versions of the B-17 is used, often depicting the same aircraft. For example, Mary Ann is a B-17B, the earliest version of the aircraft in production, but the beach crash scene at the end of the movie uses film of a later B-17, probably a B-17C or D.
At the beginning of the film...during the pilot's flight briefing at Hamilton Army Airfield, Co-Pilot Gig Young's character is wearing a flight jacket that has captain's bars on it (about 6 minutes into the film)... but for the entire film... he is suppose to be a lieutenant and is addressed that way by crew members.
During the initial battle between the Japanese and the B-17 Robbie goes from the cockpit to his position as top gunner and gets ready to fight. There is a cut and he is back in the cockpit there is another cut and he is back at his gun. There is not enough time between the cuts to allow him to change positions.
When the Mary Ann is crash landing at Clark Field after the dog fight NO ENGINE fire can be seen. An engine on fire is why Irish (John Ridgely) orders the crew to abandon ship. When the Aerial Gunner (John Garfield's character) is attempting the landing one of the control tower crew says "There she is sir, one engines burning!". Yet the footage does not reflect this.
As "Mary Ann" lands and taxies at Hickam Field, tall trees surround the airfield. Hickam was a relatively new airfield and the whole area was virtually devoid of vegetation at the time of the Japanese attack.
When the plane is approaching Hawaii the plane is shown flying into the sun. After flying westward all night from San Francisco, they were arriving at Hawaii at dawn, when the sun should be behind them, unless they were somehow flying in the wrong direction.
The scenes at "Hamilton Field" are not filmed at that location. Hamilton Field was a permanent Air Corps base in 1941 and did not have the temporary wartime tower, flight line buildings, and hangars seen in the movie.
Despite reports by Susan McMartin and other characters attributing the loss of planes at Hickham Field and attacks on civilians to Japanese-American saboteurs in bomb-ladened vegetable trucks, there were in fact no actual acts of sabotage. The reports made in the film were propaganda reflecting the hysteria of time.
The national insignias on the "Mary-Ann's" fuselage and wingtips (a white star in a solid blue disc) are incorrect for the period depicted in the film. At the beginning of World War II, U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft insignia was a white star in a blue disc, with a smaller red disc in the middle of the star. According to "The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces," published in May of 1944, "the red disc was removed to prevent confusion with Japanese marking(s)" effective August 18, 1942, eight months after the events in the film take place.
When the B-17 "Mary Ann" is in the Philippines, there is a scene where Bell P-39 "Aircobras" take off. While the P-39 was operational with the Army Air Force in December 1941, there were no P-39s deployed to the Philippines before, during, or after the Japanese invasion. The main pursuit aircraft in the Philippines at the time of the December attack were the Curtiss P-40 "Warhawk," and obsolescent Seversky P-35s and Boeing P-26 "Peashooters." All were quickly overwhelmed by Japanese forces.
The destruction of any Japanese fleet by horizontal bombing B-17s never occurred in 1941 or in any of the ensuing years. The Japanese skillfully maneuvered their ships to avoid the bombers. Destruction of Japanese ships to the extent depicted in the movie did not occur until the Battle of Midway in June 1942, and that was primarily done by dive bombers.
Most salutes in the movie are rendered incorrectly. Subordinate officers or enlisted men are supposed to salute first and hold salutes until the superior officer has returned his salute and dropped his hand.
There were 12 B-17s that flew into Hickam Field in the morning of December 7, 1941. The planes were in two flights of 6 planes each. The scenes in the movie show 9 planes in the formation. Only 3 of the 12 B-17s had the narrow vertical stabilizer that denoted the early models; however, in the movie all 9 planes in the formation have the narrow stabilizers.
The Japanese A6M fighter is depicted as having two machine guns mounted in each of its wings; in reality, the A6M was only ever equipped with one 2.0cm cannon in each wing (plus two 7.7mm machine guns firing through the propeller arc).
Mst. Sgt. White, who is worried about his son, asks the Colonel at the air field in Hawaii if the Philippines had been attacked yet. The Colonel said it hadn't. but given that it was nighttime, the Philippines would have been attacked early in the afternoon, Hawaiian time.
During the flight to Hickam Field, the Navigator's Log Position fixes show they are flying SW towards Hawaii, but by 0200 they change course and continue SE. The last navigational fix (converted into decimal) is N15.17 deg., W128.0 deg. at 7am, which is about 1720 nautical miles ESE from Hickam. However the compass headings (all around 232 deg.) is consistent with a flight towards Hickam.
The attacking Japanese planes are called "Zeros" by the Americans. The Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighter was a surprise to Americans in December 1941. The name "Zero" (officially "Zeke") wasn't applied until later in the war.
"Mary Ann" lands at Clark Field, within a day or two after it leaves Hickam on or about December 8. Almost immediately, "snipers" begin attacking Clark. The Japanese didn't land on Luzon Island (home of Clark Field) until December 22nd.
The American Pacific Fleet (and its commander) had been traumatized by Pearl Harbor and all available aircraft carriers had been pulled back to Hawaii. So, there were no American carriers in Australian waters that could attack an approaching Japanese fleet.
At the end of the movie B-17 pilots are shown preparing to attack Japan, which is 862 miles away, according to a sign. Except for Doolittle's Raid in 1942 with two-engined North American B-25 "Mitchels" off a Navy carrier, the only bombers that attacked Japan were Boeing B-29 "Superfortresses," in 1944 and 1945, and Consolidated B-24 "Liberators" and Consolidated B-32 "Dominators" that bombed in 1945. The B-29s and B-32s flew from Saipan and Tinian, which were over 1,000 miles from mainland Japan. The B-24s flew from Okinawa, which were much closer. Americans never had airfields close enough from which B-17s could reach Japan.
Sergeant Winocki is described as being a "tail gunner" but the B-17D, the model used in the film, didn't have a tail gunner position. That came with the redesigned B-17E. It is important to note, however, that in the earlier B-17 models, the waist positions functioned as the tail gunners as well. This was accomplished by fishtailing the aircraft from side to side to give the waist gunners a clear shot behind the aircraft, as seen in the film. Referring to Winocki as a "tail gunner" is not incorrect, since any number of descriptions apply in this case.
The scene in which the Mary Ann is attacked by Japanese fighters was obviously done with static models or rear projection imaging. The size of the attacking aircraft never changes and they remain on screen for several seconds. In reality, the fighters should appear to get larger as they approach and given a top speed of 300-350 mph, the fighters should be on screen for a couple seconds at most.
The Japanese task force the Mary Ann spots through the clouds is moving across the water in the direction of the camera's travel at an oblique angle to their wakes, revealing that they are photographically superimposed. The effect was so bad that the ships appeared to be floating above the water.