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The Final Countdown (1980) Poster

Goofs

Jump to: Anachronisms (2)  | Continuity (23)  | Crew or equipment visible (2)  | Errors in geography (3)  | Factual errors (26)  | Miscellaneous (5)  | Incorrectly regarded as goofs (3)  | Plot holes (6)  | Revealing mistakes (10)  | Spoilers (4)

Anachronisms 

The pictures of Pearl Harbor supposedly taken by the Nimitz's reconnaissance aircraft are identical to historical photos of the actual attack, including torpedo splashes in the water, even though the photos are supposed to have been taken the day before the attack.
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When the movie was made, the Nimitz was based in Norfolk, Virginia - it did not make it into the Pacific until 7 years after the movie was made.
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Continuity 

When the helicopter that brings Mr. Lasky aboard circles the ship, there are aircraft parked at the rear of the ship obscuring the landing area, yet once the helicopter lifts off after dropping Mr. Lasky off on the ship, the captain orders the air boss to "continue fixed-wing recovery". This would not have been possible with those parked planes in the way, and there's too short a time between when the chopper gets clear and when Commander Owens' plane lands to move the planes on the deck. Furthermore, if they had been in the process of landing planes when Lasky arrived, those planes would have already been out of the way to begin with.
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The missile loadout on the F-14s change during the dogfight with the Zeros, with missiles disappearing and reappearing between shots, most notably with the Sidewinder that fired at the second Zero being visible on the Tomcat after it had been fired.
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When Captain Yelland is in his tropical white uniform at the very end of the movie on the bridge, as they pass the Arizona Memorial, his highest medal (ribbon) on his uniform is the Distinguished Flying Cross. Several minutes later when he is saluting the Admirals coming aboard, he has the Navy Cross and Silver Star above his Distinguished Flying Cross.
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When Mr. Lasky's helicopter lands, Corsair 412 (the one that later lands in the barricade) can be seen parked on the deck behind the helicopter, even though it's supposedly still in the air waiting to land.
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The Sea King helicopter taking Laskey from Pearl Harbor to the Nimitz changes side-numbers as it passes the USS Arizona memorial.
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When the CAG's F-14 lands on the Nimitz at the beginning of the movie, there's a couple of shots where the plane changes colors and markings as the plane hits the deck and catches the arresting wire. This goof is later repeated when the Alert Tomcats return to the ship after shooting down the Zeros.
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One of the jets takes off to fight for Pearl Harbor, taking off from the right hand side, whilst a jet waits for its turn on the left. A few seconds later the camera angle switches, showing the first jet taking off "again".
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As the E2 is preparing for takeoff the plane director gives the pilot the hand signal to extend flaps (previously submitted). The next shot shows the wings extending. The next shot shows the plane director giving the hand signal to extend the wings.
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During the end of the movie, Kirk Douglas is seen wearing 4 rows of ribbons (12 total) on his uniform just before the Admiral arrives. Soon after, when he greets the Admiral, he is wearing another two ribbons on the top row (which include the Navy Cross and Silver Star) which total 14.
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After the storm, a Hawkeye is launched, followed by a Crusader. The camera cuts to the stern of the Nimitz and suddenly another Jet airplane is seen flying by in the distance. It can be neither the Hawkeye which is a twin-engine propeller plane nor the Crusader which just took off the flight deck.
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Cmdr. Owen jumps from the chopper and rescues Charley the dog. Seconds later, as he and Charley are winched back up to the chopper, both are almost totally dry, even though they've only been out of the water for less than a minute.
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When the A-6 tanker is launched to refuel the alert Tomcats, the color of the nose changes between tan and white between shots.
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As the second "Timestorm" approaches, the ship's meteorologist (nicknamed "Black Cloud") is called over to examine the storm on the scope. Before he looks into it, there is one seaman standing beside him. When he looks up a second later there are four of them.
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During the assault on sick bay, the first Marine bumps into a medicine cabinet and falls out of shot to the left. No blood ever touches the cabinet. In the very next shot (and all subsequent shots) there is a very large bloodstain. Similarly, when the second Marine is shot, he impacts the open door of the sickbay and falls left - a bloodstain later appears on the wrong (closed) door.
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The two F-14s dispatched to take an ID pass on the Zeros have side numbers 202 and 203. After being instructed to splash the Zeros, the F-14 with side number 202 downs a Zero with its rotary cannon. The second Zero is obliterated by a Sidewinder missile from the other F-14, but now with side number 200.
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When the Japanese Zeros are first approaching the yacht (and during the low strafing runs), they don't have any drop tanks on them, but when they are in the dogfight, the single drop tanks can be clearly seen.
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Martin Sheen's hair changes appearance in a rapid sequence of different shots. Since it's obviously heavily hair-sprayed in one of the close-ups in that sequence, it isn't as if he could have hand-combed his hair into a different position during that "real-time" period.
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When the helicopter lands on the island, a crewman hops out and immediately places wheel chocks around the copter's front wheels. When it suddenly takes off a few minutes later, with none of the normal takeoff preparations performed, the wheel chocks are missing.
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The man wearing the hat on the Gatsby boat has a pen protruding from his shirt pocket when the Jap planes are heading for them. In the next shot, when they look out from the other side of the boat to watch them fly overhead, the pen is no longer visible.
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When the survivors are picked up out of the water, it is clear that helicopter 736 rescues Senator Samuel Chapman, Laurel Scott, and Charlie while helicopter 733 rescues Simura. These helicopters return to the Nimitz flight deck. The closeup of the side door of the helicopter shows the 6 of 736 in both shots where Chapman, Scott, and Charlie exit the helicopter and then later when Simura exits the helicopter.
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(at around 1h 28 mins) Corsair #411 takes off. It can be seen on deck 4 seconds later, and then twice more after that.
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Mr Lasky's helicopter taking off from Pearl Harbor has the number 9010 under the 733 on the side of the helicopter. When it lands on the ship, the number 9717 is under the 733.
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When the Zeros strafe the yacht, the captain who is standing on the bow of the boat, gets hit with machine gun fire. As he falls down, his white uniform shirt is clean, but in the very next shot, as he is landing on the deck, he suddenly has two bloody bullet holes in his chest.
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Crew or equipment visible 

As the Japanese pilot takes rounds from the Marines M16s, a brown wire or thin cable bundle (for the squibs?) can be seen running from the bottom of his right trousers leg and along the floor.
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In the shot just before the yacht is blown up you can see the boat is anchored/tethered at both ends (and possibly also in the middle) with very large cables presumably to keep it in place when it blows up. You can also see the cables in the following aerial shot.
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Errors in geography 

When Captain Yelland tells Commander Owen to drop Senator Chapman and Laurel off on "this deserted island", he points to the island of Niihau, the small, private island off the coast of Kauai. Later, when the commander and Laurel are sitting on the beach of this island they see the Japanese task force fly overhead. The attack force didn't fly over Niihau, as they were coming the north and Niihau is west/northwest of Oahu.
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In the background of the shot just before the yacht explodes - you can see a marker pole/triangle indicating rocks/land - when they are meant to be in the middle of the open sea with nothing else around.
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The Nimitz was between the Japanese fleet and Pearl Harbor, and had launched an Alpha strike to attack the fleet. The strike planes are said to be 9 minutes away from the Japanese planes. Yet immediately after the strike was called off, the Japanese planes are shown attacking Pear Harbor, and at the same time, the second storm hits the Nimitz, whose faster jets were not back yet. The Japanese planes were too far away for this to have happened simultaneously.
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Factual errors 

The Nimitz crew intercepted some radio transmissions from the Japanese Imperial Navy ships. But this would have never happened because the Japanese Imperial Navy kept a very strict radio silence in order to avoid detection before the Pearl Harbor attack.
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When the department heads are reporting the status of the ship after the storm, the Reactor Officer reports that the "reactor is stable". A Nimitz class carrier has two reactors, not one.
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When the E-2 Hawkeye is preparing to take off after the first Storm, a plane captain is shown giving the hand signal for flaps, which the pilot acknowledges. Instead of the flaps being lowered, the next shot shows the E-2 spreading its wings. (The wings would already have to be spread in order to lower the flaps.)
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There would never have been two Zeros in the air the day before the attack. Any such "scouting" could really give the attack force away. No Japanese aircraft were in the air till sunrise on Dec. 7th.
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At one point while the Nimitz is at sea, a 1MC announcement is heard to say "Sweepers, Sweepers, man your brooms. Take all trash to the after-brow." The after-brow is only in place while a ship is in port, it is basically the "gang plank" access to the ship.
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While flying out to the ship, the Russian trawler- isn't. Real trawlers were larger ships designed to shadow our fleet units for long period of time, monitoring our radio spectrum as well as our procedures, and frequently reporting data via radio circuits; this requires an extensive antenna system for SIGINT and ELINT, and RFDF, of which the little fishing boat has none. The average 'trawler' was 300 feet in length, over 3000 tons, and carried a crew of about 150.
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Before the storm, the carrier captain orders the destroyer escorts back to Pearl because "there's no need for them to go through THIS". In fact, no carrier battle group can send its destroyers back for any storm at all, because these escorts form the main defense against submarines, which are the most dangerous threat against the carrier (and which are not affected by any weather conditions).
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When the Captain says, "I need to get a clearer picture on this. Let's go to CIC". The Nerve Center on Naval Combatant Ships is the C.I.C. or Combat Information Center. However on Carriers it is called the C.D.C. or Combat Direction Center.
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When the XO is talking with the Chief about 'breaking the code', the unit the Chief is sitting in front of is a computer terminal, an early version of automated communications equipment, clearly noticeable by the red teletype tape above the monitor- it's an Baudot 8-level tape, not used for communications traffic (which used Baudot 5-level) for torn tape relay. The location is in a communications space, as evidenced by a fragment of a safe's red 'OPEN' label and, in the background, power panels trimmed in red paint (indicating power sources for equipment used in cryptographic operations).
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As the Japanese prisoner takes control of sick bay, Charlie the dog goes running out of the medical ward, which is located on the second deck (one deck below the hangar deck) of an aircraft carrier. A few moments later, he is shown hurdling "knee-knockers" as he runs down a passageway. The only area of a carrier that has passageways that look like this is the O-3 level, one deck below the flight deck. There is no way Charlie could have made it from the sick bay to the O-3 level in such a short amount of time, even with crew members holding open all the doors he'd need to go through.
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When the Aerographer's Mate (weather guesser) is talking with Black Cloud, the crow (rate badge) is centered on the sleeve's crease instead of the after edge being aligned with the crease.
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After the C.O. looks through the captured pilot's items, the scene shifts to the ship's bridge. It's night, and the red lights are on, but so are the white lights- ruining everyone's night sight.
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When Mr. Lasky first arrives on board the Nimitz, he is met at the hatch into the island by the XO, CDR Thurman. CDR Thurman has his cover on, on the flight deck, during flight operations. As the XO, he should know that covers are never worn on the flight deck during flight ops. The hat could get blown off his head and become FOD, or Foreign Object Debris, and possibly get sucked into a jet intake and cause major damage to the engine and maybe cost some sailors their lives.
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When the Communications Officer is explaining that all circuits are down, just to the left of him is a teletype unit (FGC-79), that has a keyboard at the lowest position, with three vertically mounted printers (one for transmit monitor, two for receiving traffic). These units are used for coordinating communication circuits between the ship's Facilities Control and the shore station's FACCON. So, while the Commo is stating that all circuits are down, the top printer is operating at typing speed, clearly indicating communications from the shore.
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The Colt .45 sidearm seized by the Japanese airman was clearly not the military spec sidearm. It had light-colored wooden grips with the ornate Colt medallion midway in the center of the grip. The military version would have the dark composition grips, which have no decorative medallion.
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F-14 Tomcats make quite a bit of noise when in flight. In fact, the people on board the yacht could hear them coming from quite a ways off when they made their initial I.D. pass. Later on, the people on the yacht can hear the Japanese Zeros approaching as well, even though these airplanes are much quieter than a jet fighter would be. The zeros strafe the yacht, come around again and strafe the people in the water, killing one of them. The F-14s were circling low and slow enough to witness all of this and report back to the Nimitz that they could see "3 Mae Wests" in the water, yet neither of the Japanese pilots noticed two other aircraft up there with them, and no one on the yacht was able to see or hear the F-14s until they do another fly over in pursuit of the Zeros.
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Commander Owens, at Lasky's insistence, tells the Japanese pilot what is going to happen. He references the six Japanese aircraft carriers as, "The Kongne, Kongna, Shokaku, Zuikaku, Hiryu, Soryu."

In reality they were the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku.
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"The Jack Benny Program", to which the crew listens on Saturday, 6 December 1941, did not air on Saturdays but rather on Sundays. The content of the show is correct for the Sunday Dec 7, 1941 broadcast, but would have been broadcast in Hawaii the following week. Due to the recording of the show being shipped to Hawaii by boat.
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When the OOD tells the escorts to turn back, he says, "this is Kilo Bravo." All ships have a call sign, a one or two word code name.that is used during voice radio transmissions. There is also a four letter flag hoist/radio call sign. Nimitz's is NMTZ or November Mike Tango Zulu.
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Just after the Captain orders the Destroyers to turn around, there is a shot of the USS Biddle CG34 shown. The Biddle was not stationed on the West Coast, or Hawaii, but was stationed in Norfolk Va.
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Everyone has to jump into the water because the Zeros strafe the yacht until it blows up, yet when Laurel is helping Charley up onto the floating piece of debris, only half of him is wet.
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After the time storm, the ship's radios are tuned to receive commercial radio broadcasts. One of the programs being aired is a professional boxing match with a fighter named Louis. Presumably Joe Louis, however no fighter named Louis had matches in December 1941.
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At the end of the movie, as the Navy Admirals are coming aboard, Commander, Carrier Air Group 8 is announced. Even numbered groups are on the East coast. Once NIMITZ transferred to the Pacific, an odd-numbered Carrier Group would have been assigned.
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The strike force Tomcats are shown being loaded with the AIM-54A Phoenix air to air missile. The phoenix was developed to shoot down heavy Russian bombers at long range. Such a missile would be useless for an Alpha strike against a fleet that had no such bombers.
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Senator Chapman knocks out the helicopter crewman, who was wearing a helmet. Since the helmet protected his entire head, all Chapman could have done is hit him in the neck, which would not have incapacitated him.
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An A-6 tanker is shown as one of the first planes to land after the strike was canceled. In fact, the tanker is one of the last planes to land, so it can refuel planes that may be low on fuel for various reasons, such as missed landing attempts.
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Miscellaneous 

During the first discussion after the transit, with department heads, the small compartment for the meeting is the ship's television (CCTV) station briefing room, not suitable for a Commanding Officer and his department heads to meet. More than likely, the ship's actual C.O. spaces were off limits.
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When the carrier is returning to Pearl, it's actually an older carrier, USS KITTY HAWK (CV63), as evidenced by the signal flags on the inboard yardarm- NZFF.
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After the 'transit', the Executive Officer calls the Commanding Officer 'skipper', a major Navy faux pas; it is a derogatory word for a C.O., as 'skipper' is the master of a small pleasure boat or fishing boat. Ditto, later, when the unruly sailors have a Senior Chief and a Chief Master at Arms surrounded, the CMAA also says it, and Cdr Lasky, too. In fact, you will hear it more in this movie than from all the collected episodes of Gilligan's Island.
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Throughtout the movie, ship's clocks vary by hours in scenes where closeups are interspersed with wide shots.
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The DVD-edition's English subtitles incorrectly refer to CDR Owens as "Kag" (he is the "CAG", Commander Air Group) and CDR Thurman as "Ex-O" (he is the XO, Executive Officer).
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Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

When Commander Owen climbs out of his aircraft after landing on the carrier near the beginning of the movie, the sleeves of his flight suit are rolled up. While this technically violates Navy regulations, which state that sleeves must be down during takeoff and landing, aviators commonly push their sleeves up to keep their arms cool.
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After the "transit," the executive officer calls the commanding officer "Skipper," a major Navy faux pas; it is a derogatory word for a CO, as a "skipper" is the master of a small pleasure boat or fishing boat. Ditto, later, when the unruly sailors have a senior chief and a chief master-at-arms surrounded, the latter also says it, and CDR Lasky, too. In fact, you will hear it more in this movie than from all the collected episodes of Gilligan's Island.
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CAG's helicopter, taking himself and the two survivors to the desert island, takes off from the aircraft carrier. Minutes later, he appears to be seen in one of the debriefing rooms when Captain Yelland is addressing the crew. However, that is not James Farentino who plays the CAG, but another actor who resembles him.
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Plot holes 

Senator Chapman had never HEARD of a helicopter in 1941, even though they had been in development in various countries around the world since 1920, and were in fact drawn by Leonardo DaVinci in the 1500's. The first successful AMERICAN helicopter, designed by Igor Sikorsky, was flown 2 years previously in 1939, in Stratford, Connecticut, and was of great interest to the Armed forces at the time, So Chapman, as head of the Armed Forced Committee WOULD have been aware of it.
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It should have been very obvious to Senator Chapman that something was out of place once he met the Nimitz's executive officer, Commander Thurman, who is African American. The armed forces would not be integrated until 1948, so there would be no way there could be an African American line officer in any capacity on a ship in 1941. However, this could have been ignored or addressed off camera.

Also, black sailors were not uncommon. Dorie Miller earned a Navy Cross for his actions at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS West Virginia on December 07, 1941. He was killed in action in 1943 aboard the USS Liscome Bay.
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Radar shows one contact at 130 miles which turns out to be the yacht. However, on the first view of the yacht there is a freighter on the horizon.
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After the Japanese planes attacked the yacht, USN protocol would be to fire on them so as to prevent a second attack as had happened. Capt. Yelland was derelict in his duty by failing to order the Zeros splashed after the first attack. He failed to do so even after the second attack that destroyed the yacht. In reality, once the planes fired on an American vessel, the Tomcats would have splashed them.
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As Lasky is being flown out to the carrier, the crew member standing in the door pulls down his microphone and talks to Lasky directly. Both he and Lasky were wearing headsets, which serve as hearing protection from the loud noise and also as the only way to communicate. Lasky could not have heard what the sailor was saying.
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During the siege, every rifle is an M-16 and several crew are holding them within clear sight of the 1941 senator (and his assistant), and therefore is another obvious anachronism (along with the already mentioned African American executive officer) which he fails to notice or mention. That distinctive rifle did not enter US military service until 1964 and wasn't even designed until 1959.
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Revealing mistakes 

When we first see the yacht that the Zeros later destroy, there are two bow ropes attached to it, and they are both taut. The yacht, supposedly in the middle of the ocean, was tied up to something.
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When the Japanese pilot seizes the M-16 of the nearest Marine, he hits the man in the chest with it; as he does the gun visibly bends, indicating it's a prop made of rubber.
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(At about 1:30): When the "storm" appears for the second time and the captain argues with his officer about what to do next (whether to outrun it or not), the view out of the bridge window clearly shows a landscape beneath the storm "eye", when they are supposed to be in the middle of the ocean. You can even make out tiny cars running in the distance on the left side of the window.
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Sunrise on December 7, 1941 in Hawaii was about 0630 and when the planes are being loaded with their weapons and the helicopter is dropping off the Senator, shadows indicate it's closer to mid day and not early in the morning.
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The barricade is rigged and raised before the Nimitz goes through the time storm for the first time. But in all the shots of the ship going through the storm and emerging from it until the A-7 actually lands in it, the barricade is not seen.
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When some of the planes are landing just before the first time storm, the shadows under the planes reveal that the shots were filmed in bright sunlight despite the ship being in the middle of a thunderstorm.
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When Commander Owen's F-14 is lining up to land on the carrier in the beginning of the movie, there's a brief shot where you can see another man's face in the pilot's rear-view mirror during the shot from the back seat of the cockpit.
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In the shots of the yacht floating in the water, not only can taut anchor lines be seen securing the craft to something out of camera range, but the turquoise color of the water gives away the fact that it's floating in a fairly shallow area considering it's supposed to be out in the Pacific Ocean, quite a ways from Pearl Harbor. Also, in some of the shots of yacht, land can be seen far off in the distance.
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When the Japanese pilot takes Laurel hostage and points the M1911 at her, he's holding it in his left hand. You can clearly see that the safety is on and the only way to quickly take the safety off and shoot, would be with your right thumb. So in this position, he is no immediate threat to her safety as far as the pistol is concerned.
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The side number of the helicopter that brings the Japanese pilot aboard the Nimitz changes from 733 to 736 between shots when the helicopter lands and the pilot climbs out.
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Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Continuity 

When the A-7 that followed the U.S.S. Nimitz through the storm landed, it appeared that the pilot died as a result of flying a jet through the distortion. When the Carrier Strike Group does the same thing later in the movie, there is no concern for those pilots suffering similar consequences, and, indeed, the CSG is shown engaging in a successful landing sequence, without the barricade or other emergency measures that were taken for the first pilot.
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Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

After 'transiting' the second time, all aircraft returning from aborted strike mission landed with empty weapon stations (i.e., no bombs, no missiles). This is routine for bombs, which are dropped in a safe area over water after an aborted mission so as not to risk them being jarred loose, arming and detonating on landing.
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Plot holes 

After the second transit, the fact that CDR Owens had no family or relatives is mentioned, thus there should be no issues with him suddenly being "missing" from the ship when it returned. No one seems concerned about the family or relatives of rest of the helicopter crew (all missing and presumed dead in the explosion), or A-7 pilot who crashed into the barrier (possibly dead), or the Marines who were shot in sickbay (one was possibly dead).
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Revealing mistakes 

The senator takes a flare gun from its container and uses it to force the pilot to take off the helicopter. But flare guns are never loaded in their containers, and that would have been very obvious to the pilot. Flares are very large and a glance at the flare gun would reveal that it's empty.
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See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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