Despite what was suggested in the third episode, Pvt. Albert Blithe did not die in 1948. Fellow Easy Company Currahee veterans had thought that Blithe did not recover from his neck wound and had died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1948. He in fact recovered and served several tours in Korea and Taiwan. He died in 1967; due to kidney failure.
The actors endured a grueling ten day boot camp where they learned the basics, from how to wear a uniform and stand at attention, to sophisticated field tactics and parachute jump training. The average day was 16 hours long, beginning at 5:00 a.m., rain or shine, with strenuous calisthenics and a three-to-five-mile run, followed by hours of tactical training, including weapons handling and jump preparation.
In "Day Of Days" when the company first attacks the German gun position at Brecourt, there appears to be some kind of cinematic error when it looks as though an American soldier throws a grenade and it explodes upon hitting a fleeing German soldier. Grenades don't explode on contact; they have timed fuses. However, this actually happened: 'Buck Compton' had been an All-American catcher for UCLA and threw that grenade at the enemy with no arc and it exploded as soon as it struck.
"Currahee" is the American aboriginal Cherokee Indian equivalent for "Stands Alone". The original members of the 506th were trained at Currahee Mountain Georgia. "Currahee" was the cry of the 506th paratroopers as they cleared the door on their first jump, and it continued to be their cry when in combat.
The hard shock that many of the paratroopers spoke of when they jumped at Normandy - causing them to lose their leg bags, helmets, and other equipment - was caused by the parachute the troopers were using (not the type shown in the film). That parachute was called a T-1, and as it deployed out of its pack the canopy came out first, then the suspension lines and finally the risers connected to the harness. With this design, by the time all of the lines are fully deployed the canopy has completely filled with air, acting as a brake for the lines, causing the paratrooper to come to an abrupt stop at the end of the deployment. The heavier the paratrooper and the more equipment he was carrying, the more sudden the stop or shock. Current design parachutes deploy in the completely opposite way (lines first, then canopy), greatly reducing the opening shock. On D-Day, not only were the leg bags a new "innovation" that the paratroopers hadn't practiced with, but frequently the aircraft were flying much faster than expected (to avoid flak) and the shock of opening was, therefore, increased.
During the actors' ten day "Basic Training" they were required to stay in character at all times. The only exception was the "Officers" were treated just as poorly as the "Enlisted" by the training cadre.
The title of the series (and of Stephen Ambrose's book) is from William Shakespeare's "Henry V": "This story[of the battle] shall the good man teach his son, And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by From this day to the ending of the world But we in it shall be remembered We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition."
Several innovations involved the use and firing of squibs, the small charges that cause the bullet holes in costumes and sets. The special effects team came up with a firing mechanism using compressed air, instead of the traditional pyrotechnics, so that actors could be much closer together when a squib went off without the dangers inherent in conventional squibs. They also invented a new firing system, whereby an actor was pre-wired with up to eight hits, controlled by a button he activated that was hidden in the sleeve of his costume.
The black and white "Invasion stripes" on the wings of the C-47 in the scene where the soldiers are entering the plane, are wavy and sloppily painted. This is accurate. The word went down to all allied air units on June 4th to paint broad stripes on the planes, for recognition. Maintenance personnel used paint brushes, many of them purchased from English retailers, to paint the stripes on thousands of planes, literally overnight.
One-third of a million pounds of recycled paper were used to create the snow for the forest set - the largest ever used in a production - and it took four weeks to dress the entire set. The total budget for the miniseries was $120,000,000. Of that, construction costs were $17,000,000.
The site of the actual Camp Toccoa is now partly occupied by an industrial plant near the highway above Toccoa, Georgia, with the remaining areas now overgrown by a pine forest. A flagpole and monument are located by the highway at what was once the camp's main gate. Locations of former camp streets are denoted by street signs named for personnel and terminology of the paratroops (Currahee Street, for instance) but have a tendency to disappear to souvenir hunters. The winding trail up Mount Currahee is named for Colonel Sink. It is accessible but the last few hundred feet are extremely rough and part of it passes over a bare rock outcropping. Not recommended driving for low-slung vehicles. Communications antennas surmount the crest of Currahee.
David Schwimmer portrays Capt. Herbert M. Sobel, and filmed his scenes while on hiatus from Friends (1994). In that TV series, his on-screen father is portrayed by Elliott Gould, who in A Bridge Too Far (1977) portrayed Col. Stout, a character based on Col. Robert F. Sink, and Sobel's direct superior officer.
The Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire, previously host to part of the Saving Private Ryan (1998) shoot, became the principal location, and sets of the English, Dutch and French sites, including a river and massive dikes, were created there.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair personally met Steven Spielberg to request that the series be filmed in the UK. In return Spielberg gave Blair's son, 'Euan Blair (I)', a job as a runner in the production.
The BBC - despite being a co-funder of the series - still had to pay $22.7 million for the broadcast rights. Surprisingly, the channel chose not to show it on its mainstream channel, BBC1, but on its more culturally-oriented BBC2.
The series was screened at Fort Cambell, KY in Aug 2001 to members of the 101st Airborne Division just a few weeks before the attacks of 9/11. Several characters from the film, and the actors who portrayed them met with the currently serving Screaming Eagles, including Bill Guarnere, Carwood Lipton, and Don Malarkey. Bill Guarnere even danced the Jitterbug despite only having one leg. 18 months later, the 101st deployed and participated in the invasion of Iraq.
The dummies were modeled after auto crash test dummies, so they had the proper weight and dimensions, and their joints behaved like human joints. When the dummy took a hit, the electromagnet was released and the dummy crumpled as a human would.
The white "PT gear" (physical training) tee-shirts worn in the first episode and seen again in the closing scenes of the last episode with the parachutist and the legend "U.S. Paratroops - Camp Toccoa, GA". are exact reproductions of the ones worn during training. The Stephens County museum in Toccoa has an original on display as well as uniforms, Normandy maps, and other Airborne exhibits. The originals were printed with black ink, while reproductions sold at the museum as a fund-raiser are in a very dark blue and have a small copyright legend at the bottom right of the design.
In the series, Joe Liebgott (Ross McCall) states that he wants to go home after the war and run a taxi service. In real life, Liebgott was a barber by trade. This is reflected in the first episode's opening montage of the paratroopers getting ready for the D-Day jump, where Liebgott can be briefly seen shaving another soldier's head.
Joe Liebgott (portrayed by Ross McCall) is portrayed as a Jew in the miniseries, and based on his name, appearance, and utter hatred of the Germans his fellow members of E Company all believed that he was Jewish, but in reality, Liebgott was a Roman Catholic, the son of Austrian immigrants. He was apparently aware that his fellow troopers assumed he was Jewish but never bothered to correct them as he found it amusing.