When Lord Lovat leads his men to Pegasus Bridge, he can clearly be seen holding a Mannlicher Schoenauer Model 1903 carbine. One of the well-known eccentricities of Lord Lovat was that he always carried an old Winchester rifle in combat.
German Gen. Max Pemsel says, "Wir haben starke RADAR-störungen" ("We have strong radar interference"). The word "radar" was not used--perhaps even not known-- in Germany in 1944. They used a somewhat similar system, but called it "Funkmeßgeräte" (radio measuring equipment).
Gen. Gavin is wearing a Senior Parachutist badge in 1944.The Parachutist Badge was formally approved on 10 March 1941. The senior and master parachutists badges were authorized by Headquarters, Department of the Army, in 1949 and were announced by Change 4, Army Regulation 600-70, dated 24 January 1950.
When Major Werner Pluskat of the German army is in his bunker looking out to sea to try to spot the invasion forces, he is looking through an observation slit with his binoculars. The binoculars are clearly marked front and center as he is looking, "Made in Germany." In English.
When FO David Campbell is sitting, drinking a beer, we see someone standing and playing the piano in the background. The music heard is a slow rendition of the main theme of the movie, but the player is playing several notes with his right hand in the time only one note is heard in the soundtrack.
When we first see Gen. Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum), he is talking to a subordinate who is holding a Mae West-type life vest, which covers the chest and goes around the neck, and a life belt. Cota recommends the life belt, making a motion around his waist, while saying it's better because it leaves the arms and shoulders unencumbered. However, it was known at that time that the way he was demonstrating how to wear a life belt was incorrect. On April 28, 1944, during a D-Day rehearsal (Exercise Tiger), German E-boats attacked a troop convoy and sank several transports, killing nearly 1000 men. Many of them men because they were wearing life belts in exactly the manner shown in the movie--around the waist. Wearing a life belt as shown caused the wearer, burdened with heavy gear, to flip on his face and drown. The proper way to wear the life belt was up high, under the armpits. The real Gen. Cota was involved in learning what went wrong in Exercise Tiger and making sure it didn't happen again during the D-Day landings. He would never have recommended that life belts be worn the way they were portrayed in the movie.
When the two German sentries have stopped and questioned and checked the identity papers of the French Partisan girl on her bicycle, one escorts her back to the guard box. He tries to get more information from her and slaps her. When the train whistles leaving the station, the sentry realizes he must warn the train. He grabs a lantern and runs toward the approaching train shouting, "Stop!, Stop!, Stop!" in English (he obviously would have been shouting the German equivalent: "Halt!"), It is also played as a background sound when the scene shifts back to the Americans helping to place the explosives under the tracks with the other French Partisan and alerts the second German guard.
Early on, three German officers are talking with the coastline as a backdrop. One of them moves from right to left on the screen and when he is halfway across he disappears (though he is still talking and can be heard). The ocean in the background repeats itself in the first second.
In the scene where Brig. Gen. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. (Henry Fonda) lands at Utah Beach he can be clearly seen completely falling in the water as he steps of the landing craft (look for Fonda holding the walking stick), and with clothes completely soaked running up the beach. As the scene continues he crouches behind a beach obstacle with other officers. As the scene cuts to a closeup, his clothing is suddenly dry.
When the coded radio messages are read out in French, the awaited second line of the poem by Paul Verlaine, "Blesse mon coeur d'une langueur monotone" ("Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor") sets the French resistance group in motion. They leave the hiding Allied pilots and take up rifles. The next line heard on the radio before it is shut off is "J'aime les chats siamois" ("I like Siamese cats") However, when the Germans hear and are recording the identical broadcast and hear the line of poetry, the coded message after that is a message heard before the French resistance fighters heard the poetry line: "Daphné à Monique: Il y a le feu à l'agence de voyage. Inutile de s'y rendre." ("Daphne to Monique: There is a fire at the travel agency. It is no use to get there").
When Gen. Cota meets up with Gen. Thompson on the beach, he holds his cigar in his hand. After Cota says, "Think?" there is a quick cut to another angle, and the cigar is back in his mouth. Also, during this cut he uses both hands to take off his helmet; so where did the cigar go during this process?
When Maj. Pluskat arrives at the bunker just prior to the invasion, his dog jumps out of the back seat and moves away. He doesn't follow Pluskat into the bunker. But a second later, we switch to the inside and see the dog precede Pluskat into the bunker.
At the beginning of the movie when the German sergeant is taking coffee to the beach gunners, we see his horse walking on the supposedly muddy ground, yet its shoes are not muddy and remain shiny throughout the length of the shot.
When the French commando unit's CO Philippe Keiffer goes to get a tank he jumps out a window and is followed by another commando. This man is armed with a STEN Mk V (version with a wooden butt-stock and grips) when he jumps out the window, but when he runs across the street and takes cover with Keiffer before going to the bridge, he is armed with a STEN Mk II (version with steel skeleton butt-stock).
The "Rupert" paratrooper dummies dropped on D-Day were not the highly elaborate and lifelike rubber dummies shown in the film. The actual dummies were fabricated from sackcloth or burlap stuffed with straw or sand and were only crude representations of a human figure. They only appeared human from a distance during the descent and were equipped with an explosive charge that burned away the cloth after landing to prevent the immediate discovery of their true nature. A total of 500 dummies, accompanied by a handful SAS troopers, were dropped at four locations. The SAS played recordings of battle noise, set off smoke grenades and used their weapons to further enhance the deception. The whole operation was code-named Operation Titanic.
Colin Maud and his English bulldog "Winston" are shown spurring "British" soldiers into advancing up the beach. In actual fact the incident took place on the sole "Canadian" Beach, Juno--and Maud's dog was an "Alsatian", aka German Shepherd, not a bulldog.
The American paratroopers are incorrectly shown jumping with a jumpmaster standing in the plane and commanding them to "Go!" "Go!" one at a time. On D-Day, as on all combat jumps, the jumpmaster was always first out the door, with the rest of the paratroopers following immediately behind him, exiting the plane as fast as they could in order to land as close together as possible.
During the meeting with Lt. Col. Vandervoort, Brig. Gen. James M. Gavin is wearing branch insignia for Infantry. General officers at that time (and until recently) did not wear branch insignia, as they could command any type of unit.
The British pathfinders land on the HQ of Gen. Von Salmuth, commander of the 15th Army. However, the pathfinders had actually landed on Gen. Reichert's HQ (Reicher was commander of the 711 Division in Normandy); in addition, Von Salmuth and the 15th Army were actually at the Pas de Calais.
Although Vandervoort and Steele are shown wearing "jump" boots, as befitted their status as paratroopers, Pvt. Schultz, also a paratrooper, wears two-buckle infantry "combat" boots. This type of boot was not worn to any degree on D-Day, even by the regular infantry (they wore ankle-high "field" boots with canvas leggings), much less the paratroopers.
During the sequence where the dummies were being dropped and the Germans were firing upon the aircraft, they were firing an American quad-mount M2HB .50-cal. anti-aircraft gun (an M45 Maxon Mount). The Germans were not equipped with this weapon, and would not have had a decent ammo supply even if they'd captured one (the "tombstone" drums only carry 200 rounds each).
David Campbell (Richard Burton) is referred to in the explanatory text as "Flight Officer". He is actually wearing the shoulder rank insignia of Flying Officer, a low-ranking officer in the RAF, equivalent to Lieutenant in the British Army. The rank of Flight Officer existed only in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and was equivalent to the RAF rank of Flight Lieutenant. However, Campbell is correctly referred to as "Flying Officer" in the credits.
Robert Ryan and John Wayne--both in their mid-50s when the movie was made--were (and looked) some 20 and 30 years too old. respectively. to be portraying their real-life counterparts. Ryan's character, Brig. Gen. James Gavin, was only in his mid-30s at the time of D-Day, and Wayne's character, Lt. Col. Ben Vandervoort, was only 27.
When the second line of the Paul Verlaine poem is said ("Blessent mon coeur d'une langueur monotone"), the subtitle reads "Wounds [singular] my heart with a monotonous languor". It should say "Wound", plural, as the subject of the verse is the plural "sobs".
The real Ouistreham casino had been destroyed and replaced by a German bunker before the D-Day landings, rather than having a bunker built into its basement as shown. The casino seen in the film was a disused building, set for demolition on the harbor at Port-en Bessin, Normandy.
At the beginning of the film and again when the bombardment takes place prior to the invasion, the French farmer is seen watching the German sergeant on horseback, delivering coffee to the beach gunners. First of all it's hard to believe the Germans would have allowed the French farmer to continue living in such close proximity to the ocean, where it would be possible to signal passing ships. Srcondly, the shells detonating at such close proximity would have severely damaged if not demolished the house and the concussion would have killed the man and his wife.
Before Oberstleutnant Priller and Unteroffizer Wodarczyk attack the Allies there is some stock footage of weaponless BF-108 "Taifun" liason/observation aircraft. Priller and Wodarczyk flew FW-190s on that mission.
In the sequence where the French attack a town, the Germans were using a 2.0 cm Oerlikon gun, which was primarily a naval gun. It is possible the Germans really used such a gun but it is very unlikely.
When Pvt. Martini (Sal Mineo) is shot, the German soldier fires two shots in quick succession, far too quickly for the bolt=action rifle he uses. While the sound of the bolt action being worked to load the first shot was clearly heard (mimicking the cricket toy), no bolt action sound was heard between the two shots fired, because they were simulated from two sources (rifles, sound machine, etc.).
When Lt. Col. Vandervoort uses his flashlight to illuminate his map (while having his broken ankle taped), the flashlight illuminates the map but displays a flashlight-shaped shadow in the center of the map (indicating the stage light used to "really" illuminate the map).
When the two men are on the rocking boat in the beginning, the straps on their helmets remain at a 90-degree angle to the car they're sitting in despite the boat's drastic rocking back on forth, showing that it was the camera, not the boat, wobbling.
After the invasion begins, exterior closeup shots of an airplane dropping a canister shows it covered with water droplets. However, the water droplets are stationary. Had it been an actual aircraft in flight, the wind would be pushing the water backwards.
During the cliff-scaling sequence, when the US Rangers use grenades to kill German troops at a cliffside gun outpost, the "men" who are blown off the cliff following the explosion are obviously dummies.
The image is flopped for one of the ships shown at the start of the naval bombardment (third close-up). The letters "HONNEU" on a plaque are reversed. The visible letters "honneu" are part of the French naval motto: Honneur, patrie, valeur, discipline (honor, country, valor, discipline).
After Sgt John Fuller (Jeffrey Hunter) plants the two Bangalore torpedo tubes in the sand beneath coils of barbed wire, he picks up the detonator wire reel and retreats to safety to connect the wire to the detonator switch. As he retreats, tension on the wire pulls the torpedo tube on the left apart, rendering it ineffective. No one notices, and the detonation of both torpedoes proceeds successfully.