Saving Private Ryan errata

Ahh, the joy of plagiarised pedantry! I enjoyed the film, mainly because I got the missus to go (woman watching a war film!) but hated the bucketloads of syrupy sentiment and the implausible plot.

The factual errors are reproduced from this most interesting website!

Factual errors: When Jackson faces off with the German sniper (after Caparzo is shot), he is seen making an adjustment to his scope. He says, "two clicks for windage" but he is seen adjusting the scope's objective lens, not the windage (which is done using the external adjustments near the rear of the scope).

Anachronisms: The phone cord in the Ryan farmhouse is coiled. Phone cords in 1944 were straight.

Anachronisms: In Neuville town, there is a car whose license plate number is 241 BG 50, where 50 is for French département of the Manche. But this sort of numbers' attribution on French cars began in 1950 ; number 241 BG 50 must have been given in year 1954.

Factual errors: Between shooting Caparzo, and himself being shot by Jackson, the German sniper is seen checking the scene through his rifle scope. The scope has a soft rubber eyecup and the sniper fits it snugly to his eye socket. Firing any caliber of high-powered rifle with your eye in contact with the scope would cause serious injury and rifle scopes usually have 3"-4" of "eye relief." You would not be able to focus on anything with your eye in contact with the scope.

Factual errors: When they are on the beach you see more than four tanks but on 6 June 1944, only two tanks out of 29 made land.

Factual errors: When the soldiers are attacking the radar site, a dead cow on the field is shot on, with blood spraying off the cow's surface. However, unless the cows had been killed within the previous hour or two, livor mortis would have caused the blood to settle in the lower part of the body, not the upper - plus it would have congealed after about five hours.

Factual errors: After the horrific D-Day scene, when Captain Miller gets his mission some days later, a panorama of the seascape shows no ships in view. The area ought to have been teeming with ships bringing more units to the front, supplying those already present, and protecting the supply line.

Anachronisms: When the Captain in charge of the typing pool brings the three Ryan telegrams to his Colonel, the map behind the Colonel is a Mercator Projection of the world, split at the International Date Line. Mercator Projections in 1944 would have placed North America in the center and divided the Eurasian continent equally on both sides. The decision to split the map at the International Date line wasn't officially made until the National Geographic Society decreed it in 1988.

Miscellaneous: At no time does any rank insignia appear to be visible on Sgt. Hill's sleeves. Among non-officers, only a private lacks any rank insignia.

Miscellaneous: By the time Miller and his squad reach the area with the downed gliders, it is already D-Day plus four. After four days, the brigadier general's body and those of the others scattered around the glider would have been much more badly decomposed than was shown.

Miscellaneous: After the skirmish at the radar site, Mellish tells Upham to ask "Steamboat Willie" if he was the one who "shot" Wade. But it's clear from the slit-like wounds in Wade's abdomen that he was hit with shrapnel from a grenade, not hit by a bullet.

Anachronisms: During the scene after the attack on the machine gun at the radar site, the squad is seen burying the solders from the 82d Airborne Division, that had been shot before the squad arrived at the site. The helmets that are placed upon the rifles stuck in the ground next to the bodies of the 82d Airborne dead have the "spade" insignia of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 101st Airbrone Division, not the 82d.

Factual errors: When Jackson is shooting at the soldiers from the bell tower, the sights are in a different spot than where the bullets go.

Factual errors: At the sniper scene, Jackson says he is 450 yards out, but the sniper's Kar98 scope zoom capablility is zoomed much too far. The scope had praticly all 450 yards zoomed in. Those scopes can maybe see 75 yards well.

My favourite error - as a proud pedant - is the glaring error in splitting the Mercator projection at the International Date line.

To be fair to the film, I think they did as much research as could be expected.
All that aside it wasn't a bad film but my only real argument is with the post production team, specifically the Foley Men (sound specialists).

Please.. it would have made the opening sequences so much more effective... if only the HV incoming had made the expected loud, neck-cringing 'CRACK!' and not trundled past with an anaemic LV 'whssst'!

Mr Spielberg did it again in 'Band of Brothers' and took some of the gloss off what was probably one of the best series ever to hit the TV screens.
'Whsst, whsst, whsst' just doesn't cut the mustard when you're supposed to have an MG42 hammering away.

A long ago TV production called 'Contact' got it right, with an effective bit of sound engineering, although the script was a load of McNabish crap.
MrPVRd said:
My favourite error - as a proud pedant - is the glaring error in splitting the Mercator projection at the International Date line.

As a schoolkid in the 60's (i.e. before the NGS decided to split the Mercator projection at the International Date Line in 1988), I seem to recall that the Mercator projections were already split at the International Date Line.

This was because we had British-printed maps and therefore had the Greenwich Meridian at the centre. It was also quite sensible as it's the only way to open a globe without cutting through a continent and still retain a land mass in the centre.

Is it feasible that a British map was shown, rather than a US one, particularly as the relevant theatre of operations would be in the middle (and hence, less distorted), and therefore this isn't actually an error?
And the old favourite.
Apparently the password 'Thunder-Flash' Was oly to be used on D-Day but it is used throughout the film.
Is it not possible however that units isolated and cut off decided to carry on using the password as they were not in touch with their CoC to recieve an updated one?
suits_U said:
Is it not possible however that units isolated and cut off decided to carry on using the password as they were not in touch with their CoC to recieve an updated one?
I would say it's not only possible, but likely.

Saving Private Ryan was a landmark film all the same. It marked a change in the way the subject of WWII was handled. With Band of Brothers, they had the experience of Saving Private Ryan, lessons learned since then, more research, and of course the real men of Easy Company to help. There were a few inconsistancies (Sgt Carwood Lipton noted a few regarding a scene where the men were singing and one where a soldier was portrayed with a beard).
Fcuks sake, do people actually sit through a film and count mistakes...get a life. "Sgt Hill's jacket had no rank"...Perhaps he had to get a new jacket at the last minute..who actually gives a fcuk


Book Reviewer
This is a great example of counting trivia and ignoring the big stuff.

The big glaring omission n D Day is the absence of any evidence that this was an ALLIED rather than a US story.

- The Royal Navy and Royal Marine boat crews have been erased from history.

- The only mention of the British is that they are "held up making tea in front of Caen. How did the cut off paras work that one out?

- The film shows the US paras facing "Tiger Tanks" yet the only troops facing ANY real tanks by D+4 were the British. The real heroes of fights in villages attacked from several directions on D+6-8 by tanks and infantry were the Canadians and the Durham Light Infantry.

Second glaring error is the plot line. Finding Private Ryan is a G1 Admin task for the 101st Airborne, not the basis of a ranger mission! Military logic can be twisted but not event he US Army of WW2 would waste the lives of a patrol to save a specific soldier's mother from grief.

PS Some of the pedantry is simply wrong.

Factual errors: When they are on the beach you see more than four tanks but on 6 June 1944, only two tanks out of 29 made land.

That's only the DD Tanks that attempted to swim ashore from ONE of the battalions supporting the landings at Omaha. A further two were landed rather than swum in from the same battalion (741st?) the second battalion landing on the beach were not ordered to swim but were landed from the LCTs You can count more than two in Robert Capa's famous photos of Omaha Beach. I am sure that the signals log of the 352nd Infantry Division they report tanks moving up the Vierville Draw at 07 30 hrs. I could be very petty but I have packed my copy for a house move. Hows that for pedantry :)
It was the "P51 Tankbusters" that got me. Should have been a Typhoon but the director/production/company wouldn't countenace any British involvement. They were then going to use a P47 Thunderbolt (although none were in theatre AFAIK) but it was too much money so they had an air superiority fighter magically blowing up a "Tiger Tank". (Actually a T34 with a body kit).

It could have been even worse - the original story board had Tom Hanks rolling a grenade down the tank's barrel into the lap of the gunner. When it was pointed out that this was b_____x they suggested that he shoot his pistol down the barrel to set off a loaded shell!


EX_STAB said:
They were then going to use a P47 Thunderbolt (although none were in theatre AFAIK) ...

Err... Not quite, I'll post you a pic when I get home this evening. It shows some P-47's coming up to take a closer look at the F-5 Lightning PR aircraft making a run up GOLD.
Petriburg said:
EX_STAB said:
They were then going to use a P47 Thunderbolt (although none were in theatre AFAIK) ...

Err... Not quite, I'll post you a pic when I get home this evening. It shows some P-47's coming up to take a closer look at the F-5 Lightning PR aircraft making a run up GOLD.

Fair enough. Were they the "tank busting" variety?

Still should have been a Typhoon IMO but I'm not that arrsed to be honest!




Most of the military tactics displayed in SPR are utter tosh, so its hardly worth picking out the myriad of smaller errors. E.g. For much of the film, the Ranger patrol is seen bimbling along - in enemy territory - in a bunched-up loud-mouthed gaggle, often choosing skyline over dead ground. Maybe having your sniper OP party sitting right in the windows of the church bell-tower is not a good way to conceal yourself from approaching Panzer grenadiers, etc. Etc, etc, etc, etc....
Abit **** i know, but Tom Hanks is seen wearing a helmet with swivel chinstrap bales when in fact only fixed bale helmets were worn -swivel bales didn't appear in the ETO till September.
The 101st Airborne never wore the big mesh helmet nets and all the hand signals were Vietnam era compliments of that big ego Dale Dye.

With Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers etc. what you have to consider is the fact they were taken from the writings of an extremely biased author, who 'wearing his stars and stripes tinted Goggles' proceeded to write so called Historical accounts of D-Day - Stephen E Ambrose (May he Rest in Peace) his writings are very good but he seemed to have lost the plot when it comes to the fact that there were actually other countries fighting for the Allies from D-Day onward!!! if you read and take in what he says, he is always slating the Brits at every opportunity, calling the Battle for Caen a complete British disaster and how better the Americans could have done it etc. he talks about how the Americans were the only ones to land 'opposed' on the Normandy beaches thus suffering the heaviest losses! yes they did indeed suffer immensely and lost more than anyone during the D-Day landings but could this in some very small way have been due to the fact that a large % of the British, French etc. were Battle hardened troops who were the survivors of years of fighting! he also fails to mention facts like the Americans refusal to trust the Royal Engineers "Hobart's Funnies" (Major General Sir Percy Hobart, who had commanded the famous British "Desert Rats" armored division in North Africa and his 'inventing staff' designed and built a series of unusual vehicles designed to breach all the enemies obstacles and borne out of the disaster previously at Dieppe where 3,500 out of 6,000 Canadians were very unfortunately wiped out with the loss of almost all their armour during an earlier attempt at gaining a foothold on the French mainland).

'A combination of events, almost forced the Americans back into the sea.

The first concerned a decision taken by General Omar N. Bradley, the Commander of the First US Army, who had the responsibility for Omaha and Utah beaches.

Bradley rejected the use of Hobart's Duplex Drive tank in favour of regular tanks with flotation screens around their hulls. During the attack, however, these were launched too far out in rough waters, swamped in the first few minutes and went under. Twenty-nine out of 32 tanks floundered, thus stripping the G.I.s of any armoured support, only 5 out of a total of 64 floating tanks in support of the American beaches made it ashore.

A bombing run to pound German defences was hampered by thick clouds which blanketed the beaches. Fearful that soldiers in landing craft could become victims of Allied bombing, the drop was put off by the briefest of time. As a result, 13,000 bombs fell on the Normandy countryside instead of hitting hard at the Germans.

A storm of shells from US battleships also failed to meet their targets. As a result, the first wave of men hitting the beach were struck down by intensive enemy gunfire. Landing craft coming in continued to disgorge their human cargo on a narrow shelf from which no exits had been opened.

By the end of the day, just a small strip of real estate was obtained at a cost of over 2,000 lives.'

Out of the 40 Duplex Drive Tanks from the British 79th Armoured Division dropped out to sea, 33 of these made it to shore! the Americans didn't trust the AVRE's (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) and thus didn't have the use of the Brits 'inventions' the flails for mines and barbed wire, the Bobbins carried by the AVRE's huge reels of hessian and steel poles that could be dropped in ditches and on the blue clay to allow troops and tanks to advance, they used the first mobile assault bridge (the SGB) and also the crocodile a churchill tank that could project a flame 200 yards! On the morning of D-Day by 9:30 a.m. the Royal Engineers had cleared seven out of the eight exits from Sword beach - The Brits by no means had an easy ride of it as this short phrase taken from "The Piper on Sword Beach" -

'The British suffered heavy losses due to mines, bullets, bombs and shells. Many wounded men were engulfed by the rising tide. It was difficult to imagine that these beaches were once full of debris and cadavers.

As I walked, I imagined hearing the strains of "The Road to the Isles" played by piper Bill Millin as he marched up and down these very beaches. He boosted the morale of many as they came ashore fifty years ago on this beach..'

Ambrose only mentions the U.S. Rangers at Pointe du Hoc (which was a remarkable assault against defended 30 metre cliffs!) but failed to mention the British 47 Commando Unit -

'The commandos were specifically trained for amphibious operations and spearheaded for the main forces. No. 47 Commando produced one of D-Day's most startling success stories.

After being forced back from their original landing place, they tried again further east. Thereafter, they fought their way through coastal villages to occupy the high ground south of their target, Port-en-Bassin....'

As good as Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers are in showing the World what these very brave men went through, Stephen E Ambrose failed miserably in every book to mention the equally brave men of the British Military!!!

I remember watching a young Steven Ambrose interviewed on the fantastic World at War series from the 70's, he often compares us with the Americans and is keen to highlight our failings while highlighting American success. He was particularly keen to mention the fact that we didn't take Caen on D-Day.
He wrote some good books but i think alot of his critcism's of us took the shine off of his work -according to Ambrose we were tiny players in a largely American war.



War Hero
German armoured formations had been held far inland by Hitler, contrary to the wishes of the commanders in the field. Rommel and Von Runsdedt. Despite this an initial if uncoordinated German armoured counter attack took place against the British beaches on the evening of June 6th. Over the next couple of days despite Allied air interdiction, most of the German Panzer Divisions in the area were either in Normandy launched ferocious if not completely coordinated counter attacks against the British and Canadian beach heads or enroute.

This concentration of German heavy forces against the British/Canadian flank of the invasion was foreseen by Montgomery and factored into his plans for the breakout. Using his own Divisions to hold the German armour in place around Caen meant they were not in a position to oppose and American breakout further west which was eventually what happened. The plan was well though out and logical and it did work, eventually.

So much for a General who Hollywood portrays as an idiot!


I really cannot worry about these micro points too much mostly because once you start looking for them there is no end to it and it ruins the film.

But I saw something about the Somme recently that really started me off on one. It really was so damn annoying for something that sold itself as a historically accurate documentary. First of all there was a close up of a British soldier supposedly firing at the enemy. No recoil as the actor was just working the bolt. And his rifle was of course a Lee Enfield No.4. Gahhhh!

Next a German soldier is seen returning fire. Again working the bolt with sound effect "bang" added. Except nobody had pointed out to said actor that he might care to stop and pretend to reload after 5 rounds "fired".

Nearly on a par with the big battle scene in El Cid where the Spanish and Moorish armies are going at it bigtime. And in one shot, way in the distance, a little choo-choo train can be seen puffing along a hillside :p

Mr Happy

You are quite right to slag ambrose, if he's dead then I take pleasure from the fact that he will not be able to rewrite history as he feels fit again.
MrPVRd said:
Factual errors: When Jackson is shooting at the soldiers from the bell tower, the sights are in a different spot than where the bullets go.

Well isnt that the point of that scene. He misses :? Panic ensues, he keeps missing and it leads to his fiery demise?

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