Near the end of the film, there is a plaque on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. The plaque says, "O, God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small." The plaque was a gift to Kennedy from Admiral Rickover. However, the events of the film take place in 1962 and Rickover did not give the plaque to Kennedy until 1963.
During one point in the movie, the O'Donnell's (a good Catholic family) are finishing up a big breakfast on Sunday. The mother then says "Everyone ready for church?" In 1962, you were required to fast from midnight before receiving communion. No Catholic family would be having breakfast before mass.
During a scene after American Navy planes have flown over Cuba and landed, an Oshkosh R-11 Fuel truck is seen briefly refueling the aircraft. The Oshkosh R-11 wasn't introduced until 1989 and even then it was developed for use in the U.S. Air Force.
Two of the close-up shots of TV images clearly show the vertical phosphor stripes of a Trinitron tube. Trinitron was not introduced by Sony until 1968. Prior to that, all color tubes used phosphor dots in a triad configuration.
During JFK's TV speech, one of the TV sets being watched is a portable "Quasar." The Quasar brand didn't appear until the late '60's as the first solid state "works in a drawer" console color TV. The portable didn't appear until several years after that.
At the meeting right after JFK arrived to Connecticut, Robert McNamara and several others are shown wearing glasses with modern plastic aspheric lenses with anti-glare coating - it gives the lenses the unmistakable purple or green glare seen in many shots.
The flying suits worn by Commander Ecker's Navy photo-recon aircrews are completely devoid of name tags, rank, aviator wings, and unit patches. In 1962, the suits would have had all of these items attached. "Sanitized" flying suits did not appear until later in the 1960s.
JFK is shown arriving in Connecticut on October 17, 1962, in the blue-and-white 707 Air Force One jet. Kennedy did not fly on this plane until November, 1962 - in October, he was still using another Air Force 707 with a different color scheme.
Neither General Maxwell Taylor (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) nor most of the other Army staff officers are wearing shoulder sleeve insignia on their uniforms. All should have had their current unit patch on the left shoulder, with the option of also wearing the patch of their former combat unit on the right shoulder.
After his aerial photo mission, Commander Ecker is called back to the White House, where he is still wearing his pistol and shoulder holster. In a real situation of this type, he would have left his weapon behind.
In one scene when a declaration from the OAS is being discussed, President Kennedy says to State Secretary Dean Rusk "Unanimous, Dean". In real life, President Kennedy did not call Dean Rusk by his first name, and there is no single recollection of just one occasion in which the President did otherwise.
When Ken and Bobbie leave the White House to go to the Soviet Embassy, they leave in a 1963 Cadillac limousine. The car shown driving down the street is a 1961 Cadillac. When they pull up in front of the embassy they are again in the '63, only to arrive at the rear security entrance in the '61.
After Kennedy leaks the Lippman column to the press, and the representative from Russia is on the television expressing his concern, Kennedy struggles with his tie, he leaves it untied and both tips of his tie are at his waist level, a moment after one tip is at his chest level, and after that both tips are at his waist level again.
On the first day, O'Donnell walks in to meet Greenwood to discuss the day's schedule. When they meet, Costner's suit is blue. Later that morning he is wearing a gray suit. The tie is different as well.
The report card says "Kevin O'Donnell" on the top, but it is supposed to be Kenny Jr's card, who is trying to trick his dad into signing it in spite of mediocre grades by saying it is a 'permission slip'.
When RFK leaves the White House to go to his meeting with the Soviet diplomat at his Justice Department office, he and O'Donnell are shown driving down Pennsylvania Ave NW and turning by the Treasury Department. While this affords a nice shot of the US Capitol in the background, it is exactly backwards - one goes past Treasury and then up Pennsylvania to Justice.
The secret deal with the Soviets for the removal of the Turkish missiles was shared with all the members of the Executive Committee. In reality this deal was only known to very few people (the brothers Kennedy, Rusk and Sorensen, perhaps also McNamara). Robert Kennedy vaguely hinted at this deal in his 1968 book Thirteen Days: A memoir of the Cuban Missile crisis. It was not until 1989 that the existence of the secret deal was officially confirmed by Ted Sorensen.
Numerous Kennedy administration officials, including Ted Sorenson and Robert McNamara, have said since the movie's release that Ken O'Donnell - far from being the central staff figure during the Cuban Missile Crisis - played almost no role at all. Moreover, numerous scenes - including O'Donnell's phone calls to Cmdr. Ecker and to Adlai Stevenson - never occurred.
One sequence of a United States Air Force Strategic Air Command B-52 Stratofortress shows it to be armed with four Douglas AGM-48A Skybolt air-launched ballistic missiles. This weapons system was in development in 1962, and would be recommended for cancellation by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on 21 November 1962. President Kennedy concurred, and the project was canceled in December 1962, having never entered operational service.
In the movie, Kruschev's acceptance of peace contains the line "you and I should not now pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the harder you and I pull, the tighter the knot will become..." The quote goes on at some length and can be seen in the message coming in over the teletype. The trouble with this is that the quote appeared in Kruschev's first letter, dated October 26, 1962, in which he proposed the terms of peace. It did not appear in his October 27, 1962 acceptance of the American conciliation terms.
When New York Times publisher Orvil Dryfoos is on the phone with JFK, who has asked him not to publish a story about the missiles until he can address the nation, Dryfoos replies that the paper had done that with its Bay of Pigs story and later regretted it. This is a widely believed myth. In fact, the Times did publish a front-page story about preparations to invade Cuba two weeks before it occurred. But it withheld any mention of CIA involvement and the fact that the invasion was imminent.
When Major Anderson's U-2 was hit by the old Soviet SAM-2, an S-75 missile, it is shown hitting the U-2 when he used gaining altitude only to try to avoid its hit. An earlier three missile firings showed evasion after extensive course, pitch and other attitude actions as shown when the U-2 avoided the first missile firings. A single radar guided missile is all that is known to have been fired, and his evasive actions, unknown or still classified did not succeed and he was lost. That depiction shown in the film, might have been accurate.
Correct as some of Major Anderson's evasive actions as shown in the film may have been, the operational ceiling of the U-2 is recognized as about 72,000 feet. At that altitude and speed, it is operating only 5-10 mph above its stall speed at that density altitude. This is referred to as the "coffin corner" (of the flight envelope) by its pilots. The balancing of this aircraft was so critical that film in one downward looking camera fed one way, while another fed the opposite direction. The pilots evasive actions with rapid altitude gain to an excess of 90,000+ feet as shown in the film are not possible.
When JFK left Chicago, supposedly with a cold, he wore a hat to make the story more believable to the press. JFK almost never wore a hat, so it would be noticed by the White House press corps if he actually wore one. In the movie, JFK does not wear a hat when he leaves the hotel in Chicago.
The model of the RF-8 Crusader that is piloted by Commander Ecker contains an infrared search & track "blister" (in the film seen as a bump protruding from the top of the aircraft's nose). This is incorrect.
Only model fighter variants of the F-8 Crusader had a "blister" that protruded from the top of the nose cone. It was a device used to track and lock onto enemy aircraft during aerial-combat.
No reconnaissance versions of the Crusader (known as the RF-8) ever had a infra-red search and track blister. The job of the RF-8 was to strictly take aerial photographs, and never to engage in aerial dog fighting.
May or may not be a mistake, but the jeep driver wears a VFP-62 ball cap, and the F-8's on the line are marked VF-24, with their variable wings in the down position. The two Crusaders taking the pictures are marked VFP-62, with their wings in the up position.
President Kennedy wanted an eyewitness account so badly that Commander Ecker was ordered to the Pentagon to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately after landing his RF-8A Crusader, sweaty flight suit and all. This is often thought to be a glaring error in the movie, but his attire is absolutely accurate. Cdr. Ecker was not even allowed to exit his Crusader when he landed at NAS Cecil Field, Jacksonville FL. His film canisters were unloaded from his aircraft, he was refueled and sent immediately to Washington D.C., landing at Andrews AFB and whisked by limousine directly to the Pentagon where he met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologizing right away for appearing at the briefing in his sweat-soaked flight suit. Cdr. Ecker, parched from the Cuba overflight and then the flight north to Washington, asked in a hoarse voice for a drink of water when he arrived. He refuses it in the movie.
In several shots of the Soviet cargo ships approaching the American naval quarantine, the freighters are clearly flying the flag of Lebanon, not that of the Soviet Union. However, the first vessel stopped by the blockade, the 'Marucla', was in fact a Lebanese vessel, and not all ships sailing to Cuba were of Soviet registry.
In the early scene where O'Donnell is signing his kid's report card, on the right page of the report card it lists ratings of the performance of the student. It lists available ratings for the teachers to choose from : A, B, C, U (instead of "D"). Despite this, under the "Effort" category, the teacher gave a "D".