As soon as the Japanese planes fly in, we see shots of the US fleet. The ships with the overhanging ladder style device at their bows are Newport class LSTs- the first one was not launched until 1970 - some 30 years after the events takes place.
Japanese pilots are shown putting on white rising sun headbands and drinking a cup of sake before the takeoff. This ritual was created for the "special attack" (kamikaze) units and did not appear until almost three years later.
Most of the women in the film do not wear stockings of any type, let alone the seamed nylon stockings that were hugely popular at the time. Before the US entered the war and nylon was rationed, virtually every woman wore nylon stockings. During the nylon rationing, some women actually painted seams on their legs to simulate stockings. After the war ended and they went back on sale there are numerous reports of women rioting in department stores to get a pair of nylons.
When Rafe and the other pilots are attempting to reach their planes, he tells them that P-40s can't outrun Zeroes, but can out-turn them. Not only is this information untrue, in fact the truth is quite the opposite, but how would he know this information? The Zero was only introduced in 1940, and very few, if any, Americans had ever seen it in action before Pearl Harbor.
A sailor betting on Dorie Miller's boxing match has a $5 bill with the "Hawaii" overprint on it. Although series 1934 and 1934-A notes were printed with the "Hawaii" overprint, these notes were not issued until July 1942, seven months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The early boyhood scenes are dated 1923, but the father is a crop duster, an occupation that did not exist until after WWII. In addition, the Stearman biplane used in the opening scenes wasn't produced until 1934. It was a pilot trainer for the military, and was released to the public after WWII as surplus.
The rimless eyeglasses worn by Dan Aykroyd's character, with the lenses held in place by a nylon wire, are a relatively modern invention. Back in WWII, the only rimless eyeglasses that would have been available were what were called "drill-mounts"; holes were drilled into the lenses, and the nose bridge and temples were screwed into the lenses via these drill holes. Nylon wire rimless glasses didn't come into use until many years later.
Due to the obvious difficulties in obtaining antique machinery, some of the military equipment does not exactly match the period, and dates from later in the war. Some of the ships and aircraft were built long after World War II, or have equipment added by their present owners - antique planes and warships are even harder to come by.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Danny and Rafe are seen boarding a C-47 transport which is to take them to their destination where they will train for the top secret mission. The C-47 used, clearly has a radar dome mounted in the nose. C-47s of this type did not exist in that time frame.
A Japanese officer is shown examining Reconnaissance photos mounted on black illustration board. The Name "Oxford" is clearly visible, as is the modern "Recycling" symbol, indicating that is at least partly made from recycled materials.
During the Doolittle Raid, USS Hornet has the number "8" painted on her deck. At the time of the raid, US carriers didn't have their hull numbers on their flight decks. Most showed their names abbreviated, e.g. "EN" for Enterprise, or "YKTN" for Yorktown. Hornet's deck only had guide lines to aid the pilots.
In the England scene, a spitfire with a four-blade propeller
is seen. This was a late-war model. All Spitfires at the time of the Battle of Britain were models with three-blade constant pitch propellers.
When Danny is called on the carpet by Doolittle for buzzing the field, he refers to Doolittle's trophies on a cabinet to his left. One of the trophies is of an F-86 Sabre, a swept wing jet not even on anyone's drawing board in 1940.
In the scene when Admiral Kimmel complains about transferring twelve destroyers to the Atlantic, the distinctive "mack" of a decommissioned Knox class frigate is clearly visible in the background. Another is visible in the background of the fight scene. The first ship of this class was not commissioned until 1975, and it was the only class of ship in the US Navy with this type of mack (combined mast and stack).
Red's M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun has a 30-round magazine. 30-round magazines weren't available until the release of the M1/M1A1 Thompson in 1942 so he should be using a 20-round magazine or the 50-round drum magazines the other pilots are using.
Multiple New York-class battleships are shown being destroyed in the raid. Neither of these ships were in the Pacific at the time. At the time of Pearl Harbor, the USS New York was in Newfoundland, and the USS Texas was in Maine.
In the scene in the Cryptography office, as Dan Aykroyd mutters about the Japanese flooding the Pacific with radio traffic, the ticker-tape coded messages are printed out in Helvetica, a font not designed until the 1950s.
When the major brings Evelyn into the command post area, he tells her Doolittle's raid is scheduled to take off in a "couple of hours". If the task force was spotted by a Japanese ship and immediately launched which advanced the raids execution by 12 hours (as reported to President Roosevelt), how could the Major have brought Evelyn to the command post a couple of hours before they were scheduled to be launched. The raid would have been over.
As Danny and Rafe try to take off from the airfield, three enemy aircraft are closing in on them, guns blazing. In the first shot, the aircraft are D3A1 "Val" dive-bombers (distinguished by their fixed landing gear in bulky fairings); in the next shot, however, the aircraft are replaced by A6M2-21 "Zero" fighters, with retractable landing gear.
When Danny and Evelyn leave the Black Cat diner, Evelyn doesn't leave her handkerchief on the table. After she has walked out the door, Danny picks up the handkerchief, which was not there a second ago.
When the pilots return home after bombing Japan, we see a back view of Doolittle's wife with a purse in her left hand. As she walks forward to welcome her husband home, the camera reverses angle and we see a front view of her. But now, the purse had switched sides and appears in her right hand instead.
When Rafe's squadron is scrambled (in the sequence before he gets shot down) he gets on to the wing of a Spitfire with the markings RF-T. For the rest of the sequence he is in a Spitfire with the markings RF-M (apart from one fleeting shot where the last letter is R).
When Nurse Evelyn is holding her fingers in the soldier's neck artery, she uses her right hand. When she asks the doctor what he needs, and turns to get it, she turns her body completely (and her right arm elbow is crooked) obviously taking her fingers away from the man's wound. She then hands the item to the doctor (again with the right hand). There is a cut away to show her hand still on the wound.
When the planes take off to bomb Tokyo, the captain of the carrier says "forward" in order to help them taking off. When the planes are still taking off, the carrier has its anchor chains as if it was anchored.
Special effects shots of the Japanese flagship, IJN Akagi, are accurate. However, Essex-class USS Lexington stood in for Akagi for scenes aboard ship and is visibly different. In particular, her island structure is much larger than Akagi's.
We see an above shot of Evelyn putting ice on Rafe's nose (after the cork hits it), then it cuts to a side shot and we see Evelyn pulling the ice away. When the camera cuts back to the above shot, the ice is still on Rafe's nose and Evelyn pulls it away after a couple of seconds.
Towards the end of the movie, when Rafe is running over to Danny's plane after he crashed, you see him shoot a Japanese soldier, and the slide on his gun goes back signaling that the gun is empty. In the next few shots, you can see that it's forward again.
Rafe shoots and kills the Japanese soldiers taking Danny away, before a fourth soldier aims his rifle at Rafe. Rafe discovers his pistol is empty and the Japanese soldier who had been aiming his rifle at Rafe and only has to pull the trigger, then turns and aims again.
When Evelyn and Rafe are on the date at the Queen Mary, Rafe pulls a lever and the lift begins to ascend, however the ropes and pulleys do not move at all. The same goes for when the lifts comes crashing down. At the last second though when they hit the water the camera is zoomed in and you see the pulleys turning and the lever spinning rapidly.
When the Japanese planes are flying into Hawaii, it shows them fly past some kids playing baseball. They stop playing and move to the backstop fence to watch the planes and the catcher takes off his mask and has it down at his side. In the next scene he has the mask still on his head and is supporting it with his right hand.
Danny and Rafe are promoted to captain when selected by Doolittle for the Tokyo mission. They continue to wear lieutenant's bars on their jackets afterward. Danny wears captain's bars on his cap, but lieutenant's bars on his jacket. The captain's bars on his cap look like they are gold colored, and should be silver.
Near the start of the movie when President Roosevelt is selling his case to the table that the U.S. must do more to help stop Germany, a large speck of lint repeatedly appears/disappears on the President's left shoulder between shots.
(at around 1h 05 mins) Evelyn and Danny are talking about the night before. He tells her everything will be alright then they hug. Her head is on his right shoulder the next shot its on his left shoulder.
During the scene when Rafe and Evelyn are on the lift of the Queen Mary, when the lift crashes to the water, a crew member in a black hooded shirt can be seen on the smaller boat trying to get out of the shot and eventually hiding by ducking under the windscreen.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the people are jumping off the ships, a crew member can be seen (dressed as a sailor) holding a camera (covered in green plastic) floating next to him in the water.
The camera pans across a window, showing Evelyn seated inside and eventually stops at a reflection of Rafe. A red indicator light from the camera is clearly reflected and moves across the first pane during the shot.
Throughout the attack scene, the placement of the battleships in Battleship Row changes. When the Oklahoma is shown capsizing, in some scenes she is correctly moored next to the Maryland, in other scenes she is next to the destroyed Arizona. In some parts the capsized ship is even surrounded by some sort of fog with no ships around her. When Admiral Kimmel is on the small boat touring the harbor after the attack, the Oklahoma is next to the Arizona and other battleships that seem to have been placed in a random clutter next to each other, instead of the line that they were in that morning. Even in the scene showing Pearl Harbor at an aerial view right before the attack, the Geography of Ford Island and the placement of the battleships is wrong. Battleship Row isn't even visible.
After the Doolittle raid, the Raiders head west to China. In one shot, however, the Raiders are shown heading away from the sun as it sets behind them, which means they are heading east and therefore back to Japan. This would be very unlikely considering the dire fuel situation on board the aircraft.
At the end of the film we are told that the raid on Tokyo forced upon the Japanese the need to withdraw from their conquests. In reality the raid led the Japanese to try to expand their conquests to provide better protection to the home islands. This led directly to their defeat at the Battle of Midway, and the subsequent reconquest of the Pacific. The Japanese never willingly gave up their conquests, hence the hard fighting the allies had to endure.
In the scene where President Roosevelt is expressing his dismay with the Americans not doing more to aid the Aliies in Europe he mentions that the US needs to send more tanks to Britain and Russia, to provide aid. At this point in time, early 1941, Russia was still an ally of Nazi Germany. They didn't start fighting on the side of the Allies until after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and were not considered part of the Allies until January 1942.
When the Japanese patrol boats are contacted, it is said that they are 400 yards away. At a distance of 400 yards ships at sea are in danger of colliding, not just being spotted. The actual sighting was made at 10,000 yards. Further, such a sighting was no great surprise, since an air patrol had spotted Japanese ships earlier that morning.
Only one raider died during a plane crash following the Doolittle Raid. Two others died from their injuries sustained from crashes. Five more died while in Japanese captivity (4 executed; 1 of malnutrition). However, the movie killed off several raiders inaccurately, including one from Japanese anti-aircraft fire during the actual raid.
During the Japanese attack, one of their bombers that are attacking an airfield is carrying an aerial torpedo. This weapon is designed only to attack ships by being launched at low level into the water by a bomber flying toward the target, not to attack land-based targets.
President Roosevelt's declaration of war message contained no specific reference to the number of casualties (over 3000 is mentioned in the film). Such information was considered too sensitive and demoralizing to mention, and the numbers were still only estimates on December 8.
During the attack scene, a U.S. Navy sailor is crouched over a wounded comrade yelling for a corpsman (a naval medic), incorrectly pronouncing it as "corpse-man" instead of the proper "core-man" pronunciation.
In the scene after the attack where both main characters are donating blood, the blood is stored in open cola bottles. That process would dry and clot the blood, making it useless for medicinal purposes. (Not to mention blood poisoning due to microbes present in the air)
The Doolittle raid is loaded with errors. First, the 16 bombers are shown flying together at somewhat high altitude and in formation on the way to Japan, whereas each plane actually flew the mission as a single sortie at very low altitude to avoid radar detection. Next, the Japanese targets are shown to suffer very heavy bombing damage, whereas very little damage was actually done (the psychological damage to the Japanese, however, was considerable). Finally, Japanese land and air defense forces are shown to offer heavy resistance to the American bombers during the attack, whereas the bombers were not detected before the attack and were unopposed during the attack.
While attempting to free drowning sailors one engineer can be seen using a welding torch to cut the hull. The torch's sound is that of an arc welding torch which would have been too bulky and dangerous to use on a capsized vessel.
Rafe wears an Eagle Squadron badge, as do the Spitfires. The squadron code 'RF' is for No.303 Squadron, which was a Polish unit. The only Hurricane seen in the film has the correct codes for an Eagle Squadron, 'XR-T' for No.71 Squadron.
In preparation for the Doolittle raid on Japan, the film shows the Japanese medals being wired to the nose of the bombs, where they might interfere with detonation. Historic photos of the actual event show the medals being wired to the fins.
When the Doolittle raiders are practicing their takeoffs, the flags in the background indicate that they are on a downwind departure. Anyone with any knowledge of aviation knows you take off into the wind. Especially if you are trying to shorten the takeoff run.
After Pearl Harbor, Col Doolittle recruited Rafe and Danny to fly on the Raid on Tokyo. Rafe and Danny are single-engined fighter pilots and would not be qualified to fly multi-engined bombers. While the B-25 Mitchell bomber is an easy plane to fly, the participants would have come from qualified bombardment squadrons. As a matter of historical record, the pilots on the actual raid largely were recruited from the 34th Bombardment Squadron of the 17th Bombardment Group (aka, "The Thunderbirds").
Danny's B-25 strafes the Japanese forces that are advancing on Rafe's position after he ditches, firing the fuselage-mounted 50-caliber machine guns. The B-25B models used in the raid were not outfitted with these guns.
In the several scenes showing the large Japanese fleet formation prior to the attack, the ships are so close together as to constitute an extremely serious hazard underway. Actual ship-to-ship spacing in a large carrier task force is typically 800 to 1000 yards, in which case the entire task force could not be shown, even on the widest screen available, unless photographed from a much higher altitude than as portrayed.
During the presentation of medals to the Navy nurses, of which Evelyn is one, the sleeve stripes of their uniforms denote the rank of Ensign, whereas Evelyn was referred to as Lieutenant. In the U.S. Navy, Lieutenants are the equivalent of Army Captains, and Lieutenant J.G. is the equivalent of Army First Lieutenants. In either case, there should be two sleeve stripes on a Navy Lieutenant's uniform: two of the same width for a Lieutenant, and the top stripe thinner for a Lieutenant J.G.
At the end, during the retrospective voice-over, Dorie Miller is presented with a Navy Cross by what is portrayed as a Commander, with three stripes on the shoulder-board. Dorie Miller received his Navy Cross from Fleet Admiral (then Admiral) Chester W. Nimitz, whose shoulder board at that time would show four stars and an anchor.
The Nakajima B5N "Kate" bombers armed with torpedoes were the first in the actual attack and only flew perpendicular to the ships they were attacking. They would never have flown between ships as shown multiple times in the film.
When the first B-25 is taking off the carrier, halfway down the flight deck Alec Baldwin (Doolittle) shouts "max power." In reality, each B-25 was revved to full power before the brakes were released for take off. Anything less than full power, and the planes would have crashed into the ocean.
During the raid on Pearl Harbor, a US Navy destroyer escort with the hull number 1041 is seen in a couple of the attack sequences. However, this ship was not commissioned until the early 1960s, and there were no US warships with hull numbers in the 1000s back in 1941.
During the attack 'Sgt. Earl' uses a SCR-536 'handie-talkie' to communicate with Rafe and Danny's planes. This portable radio was primarily meant for short-range tactical use among ground troops and not as a ground-to-air radio and would not have likely been issued to Air Corps units. Under absolutely ideal conditions the radio had a maximum range of 3 miles, meaning that it would have been out of range of the P-40s in the film most of the time.
The RAF Squadron Leader calls Rafe "Pilot Officer", an RAF rank equivalent to a US Army Second Lieutentant. As his silver bars indicate he is a First Lieutenant, he would have held the rank of "Flying Officer" in the Eagle Squadron.
In the scene where Danny and Rafe arrive at the airfield where their planes are during the attack, Earl the mechanic fires 11 shots from his Model 1897 Trench Shotgun in rapid succession at the Japanese planes. The 1897 is only capable of holding 6 shells.
A Japanese gunner is seen firing a Browning machine gun during the attack. In reality, the Japanese rear gunners during the attack used the Type 92 LMG, a Japanese copy of the aircraft version of the Lewis Gun.
When the Japanese are shown planning the attack, there is a scene showing several models in the water, including one representing a repair ship, USS Vestal, that was moored alongside the Arizona on December 6 to assist in some repairs. There was no way for the Japanese to know ahead of time she would be there.
During the Doolittle raid, as the B-25's are taking off from the Hornet they are portrayed as barely making off the deck. In reality the planes were literally leaping off the deck. The takeoff speed for the B-25 is about 80 M.P.H., the carrier sped up to about 25 M.P.H. and there was about a 40 M.P.H. wind blowing for a total of 65 M.P.H. before the planes even started rolling. They only needed about 15 M.P.H. more to become airborne. In short they were lifting off way before the calculated lift-off point. The only plane to have a close call was the one flown by Ted Lawson, the author of "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" and that's because he forgot to put his flaps down.
When the bomb crashes into the Arizona's ammunition magazine, it is shown knocking a rack of shells for the main guns loose and landing among a stack of powder bags. In addition to the fact that shells and powder were always stored separately, the projectiles are shown bouncing off the floor with a resounding "clang", as if hollow and made of a light metal. The projectiles for the Arizona's 14" guns weighed over 1,500 lbs. each, and obviously would not bounce in this manner.
The American P-40 fighters depicted in the movie are "E" or "N" models, which did not enter service until after 1941. These can be identified by the shape of the chin radiator on the "E" and the canopy shape on the "N". The actual model available at the time was the "B" or "C".
As Rafe's unit of Spitfires moves to engage a group of German bombers below them, he says they should "drop on them". The next scene shows the Spitfires at most a couple thousand feet above the cliffs of Dover. As the bombers would actually have been at an altitude of 10,000 to 20,000 feet, it would be hard to "drop on them".
In a scene shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack is finished, FDR asks his assembled military staff if it is true that they can still hear trapped sailors tapping on the hull of the USS Arizona. A general replies that yes, they can, but they can't get to them because they're 40 feet underwater. The USS Arizona was completely destroyed by a bomb, with no survivors. The Navy knew this. The reply would have corrected FDR that the Arizona was a total loss, or correct him that he meant the USS Oklahoma, because the the USS Oklahoma, which the film accurately depicts as having capsized, and there being desperate attempts to cut through the bottom of the hull to free trapped (and drowning) sailors.
It would have been virtually impossible for Rafe to have served with the RAF. The movie makes it almost seem like some sort of secondment but, in actual fact, the US Army and government had a lot of rules and laws in place to prevent their serving airmen from flying with foreign air forces. The AVG Flying Tigers in China, for example, and the American Eagle squadrons in RAF service were manned by men who effectively broke military law and had to go by very circuitous routes to get there. Rafe would have had to resign his commission and work out how to get through a war zone as a civilian to end up flying Spitfires in Europe. Somehow he repeats the feat in reverse, turning up back at Pearl with his rank restored - very unlikely, especially when the USA was neutral and very hostile to the idea of its servicemen flying with other combatants. He more than likely would have been court martialled.
For reasons of expediency and the practical requirements of storytelling (and, presumably, due to some genuine errors), many of the actions and procedures depicted in the movie do not accurately reflect the actions and procedures followed by American and Japanese service personnel in 1941. Many of the events shown in the movie did not happen, or happened differently on the morning of 7 December 1941. This is not a documentary.
During the Attack on Pearl Harbor,Capt Mervyn S.Bennion is seen to die in the arms of Doris Miller after a bomb hits USS West Virginia.But in the reality,after West Virginia was hit by a torpedo,Capt.Bennion was hit by shrapnel from a bomb that blew up part of his command deck. Cook Third Class Doris Miller and several other sailors attempted to move Bennion to a first aid station, but Bennion refused to leave his post. Using one arm to hold his wounds closed, he bled to death while still commanding his crew.
The ending voiceover talks about the fact that the Doolittle raid is the turning point of the US-Japan war, with Japanese "realizing" they can't win and pulling back, and the US seeing hope for victory and "surging forward". While the Doolittle raid was an enormous morale boost to the US at the time, and, also a warning to the Japanese that things wouldn't always go smoothly, the narration is a gross over simplified falsehood. Midway, Guadacanal, and the Kokoda Trail campaigns are what actually accomplish what the narration attributes to the Doolittle raid. All three of them are in are mid-late 1942, not the early 1942 as the Doolittle raid.
When the camera follows a torpedo from it is being dropped by a plane through the surface of the water, the wooden fins remain in place. In reality these wooden fins were loosely attached and meant to fall off in order to level the torpedo off at a shallower depth than normal, so that they could be used in the harbor.
When Rafe and Danny are courageously holding the hand(s) of drowning sailor(s) in the overturned hull (assumed to be the Oklahoma) they are well above see level. How did the compartment they are standing on flood so high above sea level?
Several shots show the Oklahoma to have capsized at 180 degrees with her keel straight up. Due to how shallow the harbor was, the Oklahoma actually capsized with part of her starboard side exposed as her superstructure got stuck in the mud and halted the capsizing before she could roll completely over.
The movie depicted the Arizona getting bombed right at the onset of the attack, and the Oklahoma capsizing towards the end of the attack. The Oklahoma was actually hit early and capsized within about twelve minutes of the onset of the attack, and the catastrophic bomb hit on the Arizona took place shortly after the Oklahoma capsized.
Dorrie Miller is shown manning a machine gun and shooting down Japanase planes during the attack. While he did, in fact, man a machine gun during the attack and later received the Navy Cross, he could not have done this from the USS Arizona since it sank almost immediately after being hit.
All of the ships shown in the attack sequence have their Naval (bow) registry numbers painted over with an off color hue on the hull. Also they have radar and antennas that do not belong on ships supposedly constructed prior to 1941.
Evelyn would have become pregnant about Nov. 11th by her timing. It was Apr. 18th when she was "typing" as the raid progressed. She would have been 5 months along, but not in maternity clothes. Rafe probably returned about two months later, 7 months, and still no maternity clothes.
The Japanese are shown flipping a calendar from the 6th to the 7th of December on the morning of the attack. This is done for American audiences who are familiar with the date of the attack being 7 December 1941. Clocks aboard the Japanese ships were kept on Tokyo time, so for them the attack actually took place the morning of 8 December. The Japanese version of the film shows the calendar flipping from the 7th to the 8th.
Hardly anyone smokes. Although during the 1940s nearly every soldier smoked cigarettes, it was a conscious decision on the part of the film makers not to portray it because of the current feelings about the dangers of smoking.
Early in the film it is revealed that Rafe cannot read the letters off the chart for the vision test and then later on he writes letters to Evelyn while in England. He seems to be demonstrating symptoms of a Dyslexia.
A newsreel refers to the bombing of "downtown London". While there is in fact a "central" London, this area has never been referred to as "downtown". However, Edward R. Murrow, whose reporting is being simulated in the scene, did use that common American term.
During the practice runs for the Doolittle raid, the B25s are heard to squeal their tires and fishtail under the heavy throttle at takeoff. As all airplanes are prop or jet powered, not wheel powered, this would be impossible. However in order to achieve the short take off, the brakes were locked on and the engines run to full power before releasing the brakes, the squeal would have been caused by the engines power starting to drag the locked wheels along the tarmac.
During the Doolittle raid take off scene, two catapults can be seen on the flight deck. USS Hornet had no catapults. -- Actually the Hornet had three catapults; two on the forward flight deck (as shown) and one hanger deck catapult. The catapults were not used to launch the B-25s.
American pilots serving with the RAF were not released from service until after the U.S. entered the war as an ally. It would have been extremely unlikely for Rafe to be back in U.S. service before Pearl Harbor unless he deserted from the RAF (in which case the U.S. Army Air Corps would not have accepted him).
When the photographer that is recording the attack with a small handheld video camera (specifically the Bell & Howell Filmo) is shot by the attacking aircraft, you see him being filmed by his own camera after he has been killed. In reality, the Filmo only records when a button on the camera is being held down, if it has been released the filming will stop instantly. There is no way the camera would continue to film him while lying untouched near his body.
When the battleship Oklahoma is shown rolling over, the anchor chains on her forecastle never move. Each link in such an anchor chain would weigh over one hundred pounds, and so should have drooped toward the water as the ship rolled.
Immediately after the raiders take off, we see a view from in front of the carrier where you can clearly see the mooring lines securing the ship to something. As the ship is not in port, and is full speed into the wind, the mooring lines should not be visible.