The tanks used in the major battle scene in North Africa are post-war tanks. On the German side the M48 tank (1953) was used and on the American side the M41 Walker Bulldog (1953), M46 Patton (1949) and (mostly) M47 Patton tanks (1952). Ironically, the M46, M47 and M48 were named "Patton."
Patton is shown having read a book, "The Tank in Battle", by
his adversary, Erwin Rommel. The book "Panzer greift an" was however never finished by Rommel. Most of what was to be in "The Tank in Attack" (which is the correct translation of the German title) can be found in the book The Rommel Papers, which is made from notes and diary entries by Field Marshal Rommel during the Africa campaign.
When Patton is talking with the press while riding his horse, one of the reporters asks about his policy of allowing Nazis positions in the government. At the time George S. Patton was still in command of the Third Army. This did not occur until he was military governor of Bavaria, a position he did not take until he was relieved from the Third Army.
This movie makes use of the real WWII Jeeps - the MB, GPW; manufactured by Willys & Ford from 1941 - 1945 as well as the first civilian Jeep vehicle, the CJ-2A produced in 1945. The CJ came with a tailgate, side-mounted spare tire, larger headlights, an external fuel cap and many more items that its military predecessors did not include. This "goof" is common in WWII movies.
At 2:08:46 in the movie, during the congestion at a crossroads there is a close up of the chaos. A soldier with rolled up sleeves can be seen standing on the hood and fender of a Command Car number 378(?)554 holding what appears to be an M14 Rifle. This weapon is a modified M1 Garand, and is visibly similar to the M1 Carbine used in WWII except that it is bulkier, the sling is attached to the bottom of the butt with a swivel, and the magazine is larger than that of the M1 Carbine due to the longer ammunition it uses. The M14 came into use in the 1957, and not during WWII.
Some of the U.S. vehicles in the North Africa and Sicily scenes are shown with the insignia of a white star within a circle. The circle was not added until just before the invasion of mainland Italy in September 1943.
The American insignia on the fuselage of the C-47 transport plane carrying Patton and his staff to France is incorrect. It is shown as a white star on a blue circle. In actuality, by 1944 when this event occurred, a large white bar had been added to each side of the circled star.
Numerous M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks are used throughout the film, standing in for both M4 Shermans and M24 Chaffee light tanks (entered service in 1944). The M41 Walker Bulldog, named after General Walton Walker - killed in a Jeep accident in Korea, 1950 - entered production in 1951, and first saw service in 1953, seeing limited service in Korea and fully replacing the M24 Chaffee shortly afterwords.
When General Smith meets with General Patton in London, Smith is wearing what is supposed to be the S.H.A.E.F. (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) shoulder patch. He is in fact wearing the US Army Europe patch which came out after WWII and is almost exactly the same in design, except the background of the S.H.A.E.F. patch is black and the U.S. Army Europe patch has a blue background.
When Patton is waxing eloquent among the dead bodies from the Battle of Kasserine Pass, he was pointing out the similarities it had to a Roman battle on the same site in one of the Punic Wars against Carthage. He said that the same Arab women were looting the corpses from that past battle as they were the current bodies from the current battle. It was an attempt to show us how erudite and philosophical Patton was ("History repeats itself, if you know history..."). He was mistaken. There were no Arab women in this part of North Africa until Mohammed and Islam, 7 to 8 centuries after the Punic Wars. Berbers, yes. Arabs, no.
During all battle scenes the sound of distant explosions syncs precisely with the sight of them. This is of course impossible due to the discrepancy between the speeds of light and sound. This goof is made in virtually all war films as well as documentaries where sound is added after the fact.
At Messina, where the pipe band leads the British parade, the pipers are clearly not playing. Most of them do not move their fingers at all, and those that do (on the left of the screen) do not do so in accordance to the tune (Scotland the Brave) on the sound-track.
When Patton arrives at II Corps Headquarters near the beginning of the movie, the peasant woman who follows him to the door (holding chickens in her hands) speaks Spanish ("Oiga, oiga...compre gallina.") not Arabic.
Visiting the Carthaginian ancient battle field in Tunisia, Patton says, "The Arab women stripped the dead soldiers of their clothing." There were no Arabs in Tunisia during the Punic wars. The line is complete fiction, obviously intended to draw parallelism between the ancient Carthaginians and Patton's troops in the first shot of the movie (who were not scavenged by Tunisian civilians in real life either).
When Patton arrives in Malta, he makes a speech about the Great Siege of Malta, involving the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. However, he puts the date of this defence as 1528. In fact, the siege took place in 1565 - indeed, the Knights were not granted Malta and Tripoli by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V until 1530. He also gives the figure for the number of defenders as 400 Knights with 800 mercenaries when in fact the accepted number is nearer 9000 in total (including Maltese militia). 40,000 attackers is the highest level of the accepted estimates and the more realistic figure is most likely around 25-30,000.
When the British troops parade into Messina, a sign can be seen on the wall saying "Benvenutti amici a Messina", with a spelling error (it should read "Benvenuti"). Arguably plausible, as Sicilians are said (by non-Sicilans) to be poorly educated in spelling.
The scene, where General Fredendall jumps into his jeep after being relieved of his command of II Corps by Gen. Patton, the camera shows two GI's replacing the two star I.D. plates in the front of Patton's vehicle with a 3-star I.D. plate after he self-promoted himself in advance of receiving Senate confirmation. In the next scene shows Patton and Bradley heading toward the battle front on Patton's vehicle until he orders his driver to turn right to head for Carthagenian ruins. It shows that vehicle still had the 2-star I.D. plate that was replaced in the earlier scene.
When Patton learns he has been relieved of command of the 7th Army, Willie "George" Meeks escorts Patton's aide while wearing Staff Sergeant's stripes. In a later scene when Meeks is waiting for Patton to prepare for bed, Meeks is wearing the stripes of a Sergeant.
In Smith's office, after the Knutsford speech controversy, Patton's left shoulder has no patch on it. When he goes into the hallway to meet his orderly, Meeks, the Seventh Army patch of his last command is there.
In various views of the US flag to Patton's right, during his apology for slapping the soldier, the flag is hanging straight down in the long shots but in several medium shots, it's spread out so that most of the flag is visible, even though there's no wind.
When Patton talks with noncommissioned officers about Montgomery's campaign in Sicily, he has a magnifying glass in his left hand and a cup in his right. He sets down the magnifying glass to hold the cup with his left hand to put it on the table. In the next shot the cup is already on the table and he is holding the magnifying glass with the left hand.
A map of Normandy is completely inaccurate. Rather than five beaches (Utah, Omaha, Juno, Sword and Gold), it only shows three, and only has two flags over those three beaches. There is an American flag over Omaha and Utah, a blank space over Juno, and a Union Jack over Gold and Sword.
In the opening war scene, set in North Africa, two vultures are shown in the abandoned camp. These are Griffon Vultures which are extremely rare in North Africa (but more common in Spain where the film was shot).
In the war strategy for the Sicilian invasion, Patton says that the ancient Greek general, Alcibiades, knew that in order to invade the Italian peninsula, you do it via Sicily. Patton said that it was a no-brainer for "old Alcibiades." The Athenian general, however, was not interested in attacking the Italian peninsula -- he never did -- but only was to invade Sicily itself -- and he failed failed miserably. This would not have been an inspiring argument for the Allies to invade Sicily in WWII.
Before the Battle of Normandy, Patton is reading a book, The Norman Invasions, which would be Normans invading England, not the Allies invading Normandy from England. The list of Patton's favorite books, provided by his widow in 1952, includes: The Greatest Norman Conquest, Osborne, and The History of the Norman Conquest of England, five volumes by Freeman. That's going the wrong way, for the Allies of WWII. If this scene in the film is to show us how Patton was always one step ahead of other generals, by drawing from history, it would be more than a "goof." It would be a friendly fire disaster. (Oops!)
Contrary to the way it's portrayed in the film, the controversy over George S. Patton's Knutsford speech was not over his having insulted the Russians (in fact, the Army quickly revised the initial transcript of his remarks to reflect that he had mentioned them). It had to do with his talk of "ruling the world" after the war - members of Congress said he had no business as a general commenting on post-war political affairs, while others objected to the notion of the US, Britain or anyone else "ruling the world."
When the HE-111s are attacking, Patton pulls out his 1903 Colt General Officer's Model Pistol, firing nine rounds at the planes. The 1903 General Officer's Model holds 7 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber.
The prayer for good weather was actually put on the back of a small Christmas card that was printed for the troops on December 11th, five days before the Battle of the Bulge began. The actual prayer contained the words "these immoderate rains" while the movie version said "this immoderate weather."
In 1944, there is not one single M4 Sherman tank. The M4 Sherman was the workhorse of the Allies, and was almost the only tank used in World War II from early 1944 on. The tanks used in the film are all post war M47 and M48 Patton tanks, despite showing newsreel footage of Shermans.
When first seen, Field Marshal Rommel is identified in the explanatory subtitles as the commander of the Afrika Korps. Erwin Rommel was, at that time, commander of Field Army Afrika, which was a higher level command that included the Afrika Korps as one of its units.
In the movie, George S. Patton refers to himself as a Lieutenant (3-star) General before the confirmation became official. In reality, according to his service record, he only referred to himself by that rank after he signed his official commission paperwork.
Near the end of the movie when Patton volunteers his men to aide at the Battle of the Bulge, the leaders discuss a decision made by "Ike" (General Eisenhower) and it shows him absent from the meeting. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was actually present at that meeting.
Many German soldiers are shown armed with MP40 submachine guns, as common with films based during the Second World War. Like other nations to use submachine guns, the MP40 was issued only to officers that needed more than a pistol, and those soldiers whose role prevented them from using the regular issue Karabiner 98k, such as artillerymen, tankers, drivers, and so on.
The HE-111 bombers used in the attack on Patton's Headquarters in North Africa didn't have the capacity to carry the number of bombs that were dropped during this sequence. They must have been designed by the same company that makes Western movie six shooters. Also, the HE-111 was not set up to make ground strafing runs.
During the discussion with the British Leadership prior to the invasion of Sicily (where Patton advocates his army land at Syracuse), Patton and his staff are wearing the arm patch of the 1st Armoured Division, which Patton commanded in Morocco. The actual timing of this meeting is unknown, but at this time Patton should have been in command of either the 2nd Corps, or the 7th Army, not the 1st Armoured division.
When the German generals watch the captured newsreel footage of Patton and Bradley landing on Sicily, their dialogue is translated falsely in the subtitles - at no time do they call Patton a 'gangster'. The expression might however be meant as an attempt to convey the impression that Patton's big cigar might leave with German officers.
The scene at the beginning of the Normandy breakout where Rommel, Steiger, and Jodl are arguing over whether Patton is leading the attack, or whether he is still in England preparing for the 'real' invasion could not have taken place. Erwin Rommel's staff car had been shot up by R.A.F. fighter bombers at the Normandy front on July 17, 1944 - over a week before Operation Cobra started. Rommel was badly wounded in the attack and in a French hospital at the time the scene is supposed to have taken place.
The lieutenant colonel who briefs Patton on the situation in North Africa has his tie tucked into his shirt incorrectly. It should be tucked in between the second and third center buttons, not the third and fourth.
During the funeral procession for his aide Captain Jenkins, Patton's overseas cap is tucked into his belt. Since he was outdoors, he should have been wearing it (the other soldiers in the procession are correctly wearing their helmets).
When Patton tells Bradley he has been reprimanded, there are three flags at the same level, the 7th Army flag on the observer's left (the flag's right), the U.S. flag in the center, and then Patton's 3-star flag. The U.S. and 7th Army flags should be switched, putting the U.S. flag in the position of honor.
When Patton meets Air Vice Marshal Coningham and gets told he will see no more German planes immediately before two German planes attack the town didn't happen. Or rather, a plane did attack, but during a meeting between George S. Patton and the American air force General Spaatz and the British Air Marshal Tedder. No one was hurt in this strafing run - far from the devastation depicted in the film. The meeting followed a report made by Patton that American ground forces had been "continuously bombed all morning" - which Spaatz and others had found to be inaccurate. Also, Coningham is depicted as a plummy upper-class Brit, but he was actually born in Australia and raised in New Zealand. Far from being ineffective, the doctrine of tactical air power that he pioneered during this campaign was actually taken up and followed by the American air forces. See Stephen Budiansky: 'Air Power' (Viking, 2003)
After Patton omits the Russians from his speech about the "evident destiny" of the Americans and British to rule the postwar world, a portion of a Movietone Newsreel is shown with a negative reaction from "Senator Clayborn Foss". There was no U.S. Senator named "Clayborn" or "Foss" in the 78th Congress (January 1943 - December 1944).
Gen. Lloyd Fredendall is shown leaving Le Kouif after George S. Patton's arrival at the headquarters. In fact, Fredendall left Le Kouif at 3:30 AM, hours before Patton's arrival. Likewise, Fredendall left in a Buick rather than a Jeep as shown.
The packaging for the 2001 DVD release states that the film won eight Oscars. It really only won seven. Other than Best Picture and Best Actor, there is no mention of the categories won on the packaging, so there is no way to know what 20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment considers the eighth Oscar to be.
Jet stream or plume above Patton and Bradley at the tank crossing in France - seen in several frames is a claimed anachronism. However, water vapor condensing from the exhaust of both piston and jet engines can cause condensation trails ("contrails"), which were a common sight over Europe.
During the first battle scene overseen by Patton, he uses a pair of binoculars clearly marked "JAPAN". The US Military bought binoculars from Japan up until 08 Dec 1941 and most were used by the US Navy.
In the latrine scene where British General Montgomery is briefing U.S. General Smith, Montgomery breathes on the mirror to make a mist, then draws two maps of Sicily on it to show Smith two attack options. Afterwards, Smith erases one map for security reasons, but leaves the other one intact.
In the first battle of the film, a high angle long-shot shows a German soldier following a tank who falls forward from the shock of an explosion that happens behind him. But he falls shortly before the blast.
After Patton's speech, a child is trying to steal a dead soldier's wedding ring. As he goes about this, the soldier's shoulder/arm muscles twitch visibly in reaction to the scorpions climbing on him. His head and eyelids can also be seen moving several times.
Near the beginning of the film, when Patton is meeting with Coningham in his headquarters, an air attack from German planes takes place. In all close ups of bullets hitting the walls, the explosive squibs can be seen where the crew patched them over and repainted the walls.