Corrected entry: When the crew is trying to figure out how to submerge the U-571 for the first time, chief Klough exclaims "everything's in German". Is he surprised that they would use the German language on a German vessel?

Correction: He's not expressing surprise, he's simply expressing his frustration out loud. People do that.

Tailkinker Premium member

Corrected entry: During scenes where U-571 is being depth charged you can hear active sonar pings. The Kreigsmarine never developed active sonar and used passive sonar (basically a very sensitive listening device) instead.

Correction: Not true. While never as widely used as the ASDIC active sonar by the Allies (due to lack of anti-submarine warfare/convoy duties), the Kriegsmarine developed and used their own active sonar, called S-Gerät and its later variants.

Corrected entry: After the Lieutenant Commander lectures Lieutenant Tyler aboard the SS-33 about him not being ready to become a captain, the lieutenant leaves the room. As he closes the door a double vertical bar rank insignia can be seen on each side of his collar. The double bar is captain insignia in every branch of the military and in police departments nationwide. Lieutenant Tyler should be wearing single vertical bar insignia instead.

Correction: Incorrect. This is true for all U.S. Services except the Navy & Coast Guard. In the Navy, the double-silver bars is for full lieutenant (whereas a single silver bar is Lieutenant Junior Grade) The next rank is Lieutenant Commander (gold oak leaf), followed by Commander (silver oak leaf), and Navy/Coast Guard Captain is the silver perched eagle, which is Colonel in all other branches.

Lieutenant is actually the equivalent Navy rank to an Army Captain, That's why the Lt has double bars.

Correction: Within the context of that conversation, "captain" refers not to Tyler's rank, but possible billet (assignment) as CO of a naval vessel. The "captain" might actually hold any of several ranks, depending on the size and importance of ship/boat - it doesn't have to be O-6 (Navy/CG Captain or Colonel in the other services). The next step up in rank for Lt. Tyler, LtCdr, would be consistent with typical ranks held by wartime sub commanders of the period.

Corrected entry: In the film U-751 the torpedoes were shown leaving a trail of bubbles behind them. The type of torpedo which did that was the G7a 'T1' torpedo - which was pre-war issue. At the time of the film the standard torpedo of the Ubootwaffe was the improved G7e 'T2' torpedo which did not leave a trail of bubbles due to a different motor design.


Correction: The T1 torpedo was used alongside the T2 for a long time, because it was more reliable, had better range and speed than the T2. In fact, several U-Boot captains preferred the T1 for those reasons. In 1942 the improved T3 debuted, but availability kept the T1 in use for some time.

Corrected entry: German torpedoes had two types of detonators. The primary was a magnetic pistol which was triggered by the presence of a large metallic object like a ship or submarine. The second was through mechanical 'feelers' in the event that the pistol failed and the torpedo contacted the target ship. Thus, the grazing 'miss' where the German torpedo scrapes along the hull of the U-571 could not have happened. The torpedo would have detonated.


Correction: Torpedo detonators at the time could be quite unreliable, and duds, where torpedo failed to explode were common. In addition, magnetic detonators worked well only on ships weighing 2000 tonnes or more - almost three times more than a type VII submarine.

Corrected entry: An additional torpedo-related mistake: U-boat torpedoes were launched with a ram, which pushed the fish out of the tube. The motor of an armed torpedo did not start until after the fish had left the tube. They were not propelled out of the tube by their own motors as shown in the film.


Correction: Where does the film show the torpedo leaving the tube under its own power? I can't find a single example of this.

Corrected entry: W.W.II subs didn't have sub to sub attack capabilities and no underwater sub to sub kills were ever recorded during W.W.II.

Correction: That's not true. On 9 Feb, 1945 the British submarine HMS Venturer, commanded by James S. Launders, torpedoed and sank the German boat U-864. This is the only known incident in all of naval warfare in which one submarine sinks another while both are submerged.

Corrected entry: During the party at the beginning, Lieutenant Tyler addresses M. Dahlgren as "Captain." However, Dahlgren is wearing US Navy Lieutenant-Commander shoulder insignia, which is two ranks below captain. Tyler however, is wearing the right insignia. (00:10:30)

Correction: Lt. Tyler addresses Lt Cmdr Dahlgren correctly. In the Navy the commander of a vessel, regardless of his actual rank, is ALWAYS referred to as Captain. Also submarine commanders tend to be below the actual rank of captain. Lt Tyler and Lt Cmdr Dahlgren both are wearing the proper insignia for their rank.

Corrected entry: At the end of the film, when the torpedo hits the German destroyer, the explosion is totally out of proportion. No matter how strategic the position it hit, no torpedo of that era would be powerful enough to cause an entire ship to explode. (It's true that this did occasionally happen to tankers, but that was due to the large amounts of oil being carried - not the case with a destroyer.)

Correction: We don't know if the destroyer was carrying additional ammunition magazines that could have been hit, that would be enough to amplify the explosion.

Corrected entry: The scene where the German commander orders the survivors in the lifeboat to be shot is based on an allied myth. It is well documented that U-boat crews treated survivors gallantly - even giving them medical help, provisions, cigarettes and bearings to land. LATE (after the time this film supposedly takes place) in the war, Grossadmiral Karl Donitz even placed his own life on the line when he refused an order directly from Hitler that U-boat crews should execute survivors. He won on that issue and the order was rescinded, with only the comment that he should at least order his crews to STOP rendering assistance to the survivors.


Correction: This 'mistake' is debatable at best. UBoat commander Heinz Wilhelm Eck and two of the crew of the U852 were executed in 1947 for killing survivors of a ship they had sunk, in precisely the manner represented in this film. Reports of much the same thing happening were pretty common and there is good evidence that the US and Britain were similarly cavalier about survivors - look up the service records of the USS Wahoo and HMS Torbay for confirmation. In this case, the film deserves the benefit of dramatic licence.

Corrected entry: In the scene where the torpedo is running in the tube of the U-571 and could not be launched, reference was made to getting the fish launched before it detonated. That could not have happened. While it is true that the torpedoes did have a 'counter' of sorts to ensure a certain number or prop revolutions (distance) before the warhead would arm, that system was subordinate to another safety in the form of a 'tube feeler' which would not allow the counter to begin until the torpedo had actually cleared the tube. There was never any danger that the torpedo would detonate in the tube. The worst thing that could have happened was the fish would exhaust its fuel and be rendered useless.


Correction: These are Americans on a German boat. Do the Americans KNOW that the Germans use the same safety systems on their torpedoes as the Americans do? This may not be a mistake.

Corrected entry: In reality the U-boat would never have been left without anyone on board capable of making repairs to critical systems like the diesel engines. Everyone on a U-boat crew had extensive training regarding all critical systems as well as access to a full set of blueprints that were carried on-board for just such events. Also, as U-boat crews worked in shifts, half of the engine room crew would be resting in the crew quarters when the fire broke out.

Correction: While there is extensive cross-training, not everyone would be a certified engine mechanic. Looking at technical prints and knowing what to do with them is two very different things. Their mechanics were killed and that left them without anyone with expert knowledge of the engine, which was required for this level of repair.

Corrected entry: In the scene where they took the Germans captive after assaulting the U-Boat, the black cook tells one of the Nazi's, "I bet you never seen a black man before, have you." At this time of history, the term "black" was never used, even by blacks themselves. They called themselves "negroes" or "colored".


Correction: Simply not true. People of colour had referred to themselves as "Black" for many many years prior to the second world war. It may not have be a generally accepted term or even widely used on world scale but it was used. Victorians often called africans "Blacks" in literature.

Mad Ade

Correction: It did sink immediately.

Corrected entry: The American sub, while commandeering the disabled U-571, would not have left itself with no watch to be blindsided by the approaching German rescue sub, especially having the knowledge that it was very close and closing fast.

Correction: During this scene, it is dark, raining heavily, and there are many people on the deck guiding the prisoners, so if there is a watch, he may not be visible. Even if there was a watch, because of the darkness, the rain, and the fact that the enemy sub was submerged, it would be nearly impossible to see the German rescue sub until it fired a torpedo or surfaced.

Corrected entry: In this film it is the Americans who capture the enigma coding machine. However, in WWII it was a British submarine crew who eventually captured the device.

Correction: There were several enigma captures during the war. One notable American capture was the U-505. The Americans weren't the first to capture an Enigma, but they did capture some. The Germans were continually modifying their machine and the codes made by the machines. Each capture of the machine and it's supporting documents helped allies to continue to be able to decode German messages.

In reality, capturing the monthly machine settings was more important than the machine itself. Bletchley Park had already worked out how the rotors were wired. The American capture late in the war didn't provide much about Enigma and almost tipped off the Germans that a machine had been captured. It did provide useful info about other equipment though.

Corrected entry: When the Americans first board the U-571, they are looking for the "Christmas Tree" which is a series of red and white lights. When they first see it there is a red light on, however when they turn back to it seconds later all the lights are white, or clear. (00:51:15)


Correction: Since they were preparing the boat for dive, the light could have cleared between shots.

Corrected entry: The old U.S. 'S'-type submarine could never have been converted to resemble a German type VII or IX (Atlantic fleet boats) without drydocking and major work - which certainly could not have caught the crew by surprise.


Correction: It wouldn't have been difficult to make the S boat look like the U boat from the waterline up. The above-water profiles are very similar and would only require a few modifications. Throw enough metal workers at the task and it could be done in a night, easily. The S boat captain makes a point of running the disguised S boat low in the water to hide more of it's profile.

Corrected entry: The depth the U-571 is depicted as achieving was beyond 'crush depth' even considering the 2.5 safety factor all u-boats were designed to. There is no way the boat would have survived that depth.


Correction: The max depth depicted on the gauge is just beyond 200 meters. The maximum depth of the VIIC U-boat (which U-571 was) is 220 meters.

Corrected entry: When the U-571 is being depth charged one of the men asks Chief if he has ever been depth charged before. He says "once, in World War I..." But during WWII they did not refer to the first world war as World War I. They still called it The Great War. It wasn't until after WWII that either war was referred to that way. (01:18:10)

Correction: It was commonly called "The Great War" or sometimes "the war to end all wars" until World War II, although the name "First World War" was coined as early as 1920 by Lt-Col à Court Repington in The First World War 1914-18.

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.

More mistakes in U-571

Lieutenant Andrew Tyler: What the hell are you doing, huh? This is not a God damn democracy.

More quotes from U-571

Trivia: Matthew McConaughey didn't like his character's background, so he asked that it be changed from the original, not being promoted because he was a drunk, to basically never making a decision that might cost someone their life.

David Robertson

More trivia for U-571

Question: Throughout the film you can see that Tank, played by Dave Power, has funny-looking thin black scars on both cheeks. Was this a makeup effect for the character (and if so, why did they do it), or does the actor really have these scars on his cheeks (and if so, what from)?

Answer: The scars you see on Tank's face are fake, pure makeup. They wanted the character to have a gritty look.

More questions & answers from U-571

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