The screams from the foxholes as the tanks roll over them seem strangely out of place, but actually happened. Samuel Fuller said, "When we were in those holes, and the tanks were rolling over us, it was our only chance to scream all the terror out and not be heard. We got it all out in those holes..."
The bulk of the picture was shot in Israel, and director Samuel Fuller remarked that it was unsettling after a scene was shot when the German soldiers and SS troops pull would take off their helmets and Fuller would see them wearing yarmulkes, and between takes they would be sitting around the set in full Nazi uniform speaking Hebrew or reading the Torah.
During the course of filming, Lee Marvin and Perry Lang got into an argument. While filming the scene where they come to Crucifix Hill (where the Nazis are planning an ambush), Lang kept waving and gesturing his arms while he spoke. After the scene was finished, Lee Marvin growled at Lang "What the fuck was all that crap about?" To which Perry Lang cursed out Marvin. According to the other actors in the Reconstruction Documentary, neither Marvin nor Lang spoke to one another for the next week. Finally, Marvin began talking to Lang and treated him with respect for standing up to him.
In the Reconstructed version, the Captain in the World War I prologue reappears in a short segment as the Commanding General of the Big Red One just prior to the Battle of Hurgten Forest in the Fall of 1944. The actual Commanding General during that time period, Major General Clarence R. Huebner, really was a Captain in the Big Red One at the end of World War I, so this is historically accurate rather than just poetic license.
According to film commentator Richard Schickel, the scene in which the Sergeant (Lee Marvin) is wounded is a re-creation of how Marvin was wounded in real life as a Marine in the Pacific. As in the film, Marvin was shot through the back and collapsed down on his knees.
In the film commentary, Richard Schickel points out two incidents which really happened to Samuel Fuller while serving in the Big Red One and are given to Private Zab (Robert Carradine) in the film: When Zab is playing basketball and spots Keiser (Perry Lang) reading his novel. In real life, Fuller didn't know his novel was published until he spotted a soldier reading it. The other major incident is when Zab acts as runner during the D-Day Invasion and tells the Colonel that they've broken through. Fuller was awarded a medal for his actions.
According to Robert Carradine in the Reconstruction Documentary, he was originally cast as PFC Griff. But when the producers learned they could get Mark Hamill, fresh off of the success of _Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)_, Carradine was given the role of PFC Zab, so Hamill could be cast as Griff.
According to a review in the 'Variety Movie Guide', this movie was "Based on [the] writer-director's [i.e. Samuel Fuller] own experiences as a GI, pic was announced as a John Wayne starrer in the late 1950s and came close to realization on many other occasions, but only came together when producer Gene Corman found means to make it almost entirely in Israel."
In 2005, Mark Hamill, who portrays PFC Griff, lent his voice talents to the video game "Call Of Duty 2: The Big Red One". Like the film, the game follows the exploits of a squad from "The Big Red One" from North Africa to East Europe.
In the "Reconstruction" Documentary, Robert Carradine says that when he, Mark Hamill, Bobby Di Cicco and Kelly Ward first met Lee Marvin, Marvin didn't say anything at first. After they got into a taxi to drive out to the shooting range where they would hone their skills, Marvin finally said "Which one of you is Carradine?" To which Robert Carradine answered dutifully "I am." Lee Marvin's response: "Fuck you, Carradine." A short time later, after they'd been working together, Carradine asked Marvin why he said that to him to which Marvin replied "Cause yours was the only name I recognized."
When Pvt. Zab is talking to a fellow soldier who is reading the book 'The Dark Deadline' they both drink from a triangular shaped Grants whisky bottle. Grants Whiskey didn't sell triangular shaped whisky bottles until 1957.