Character mistake: At the beginning of the movie, the German sub gets surprised and severely damaged by a destroyer. The sonar man first notices the enemy destroyer approaching, but only a short time before the destroyer is already literally on top of the sub. German sonar at the time had the capacity to detect ships up to more than 7 miles away, so the sonar man really had to be asleep at his sonar station not to notice the destroyer approaching. (00:03:40)
Factual error: The submarine gets buzzed by a single engine German fighter. They are somewhere between the US coast and Greenland. The Germans had no aircraft carriers nor bases in the area. Since it was not a float plane how did the fighter get there? It could not possibly have flown the several thousand miles from continental Europe.
Factual error: At the beginning of the film the German commander is shown directing an attack using the periscope in the control room. German U-boats had two periscopes: a 'sky' scope (the one in the control room) used exclusively for searching the area directly above the boat prior to surfacing, and the 'attack' periscope located in the conning tower (turm). There'd be no sense in the commander using the sky scope - the attack scope had an integrated firing switch, much more stable view, smaller outline over water and better magnification. (00:03:00)Badbird
Factual error: When the Americans are initially scrambling to figure out how the German submarine works, Rabbit opens a torpedo breech door, closes it and reports to Tyler "We have four fish, tubes are flooded." They are obviously not all flooded, otherwise Rabbit would just have flooded the compartment by opening the breech. (00:53:12)Deadmarsh28
Factual error: When the boarding party are eating dinner on SS-33 before the raid, some of their spanking-new, freshly pressed Kriegsmarine utility uniforms (strange in itself) have breast eagles on the left chest instead of the right. I've never seen any German Wehrmacht uniform with an eagle on the left.
Continuity mistake: When the S-33 is torpedoed, the boarding party members (including Tank) stand motionless, staring at the destruction in horror. Then Tank shouts "The scuttling charge!" and hurries towards the aft hatch to disable the explosives. Five seconds later, as the Chief throws a rope to Tyler, Tank can be seen standing motionless behind him, still staring at the destruction in horror. (00:48:30)
Factual error: When the American crew storms the U-571 and reaches the aft compartment, where the last Germans are gathered, we can see a row of bunks on each side of the chamber. The VIIC type has no crew acommodation in this place; the last compartment houses just the electric motors and some pumps and auxiliary machinery, as well as the breach of the aft torpedo tube. (00:43:30)
Factual error: At the beginning of the film the depth charge attack is shown rupturing a diesel fuel line in the engine room, which showers the fuel DOWN on the crew stationed there. In fact the fuel lines ran UNDER the deck plates and so a broken line could not shower fuel in that manner. (00:05:55)Badbird
Factual error: When the marine commando shows the sailor his "luggage" (the boxes of explosives) to be loaded onto the submarine, some of the boxes have orange Explosive B placards. Those are Dept. of Transportation placards. The D.O.T. didn't exist until 1966 and the placards were not used until later than that. (00:19:55)
Continuity mistake: Just after shooting the radio room on the German destroyer, U-571 submerges so quickly that the sailors do not manage to plug the gun. After a few moments when the boat goes from 180 to 200 meters there is a short shot from the above when we can clearly see that the gun is perfectly plugged. (01:13:30)
Factual error: Although the type of mission depicted in the movie did occur, it was not Americans that were known to do them. Canadian and British teams were specialized to do this mission.