New this month Factual error: It takes a whole of two minutes from the discovery of the boarding party and the cry "Alarm" till the first Americans even enter the command central of U-571, and another almost 90 seconds till they secure the radio room. German subs were under strict orders to destroy all secret material the instant they had reason to believe a boarding was probable. To that end, all code books were printed in water-soluble inks on water-soluble paper, and even the electrical connections inside the rotors of the enigma machine were seawater-soluble. (Admittedly the latter was more with the idea of enemies salvaging sunk boats in mind, and I have no information on how fast that decay would have happened) All it would have taken is to lift up one of the floor plates and drop the stuff into the bilge below. And yes, since German subs of the era didn't have answering machines, the radio room would be manned around the clock. For that reason, boarding actions of that sort had to be above all lightning-fast. Dramatic as the fight scene is, in reality it would have ensured that the boarding party came away empty-handed. (00:38:30 - 00:41:45)

Doc Premium member

Factual error: In the last battle scene when you see shots of the German destroyer through the periscope the last one shot before it's blown up is really bad angling. The ship is far away but in the scope it's very close and the periscope (in order to get that camera angle) is 100 ft in the air.

Factual error: U-571 was sunk on January 8, 1944, by an Australian Sunderland. She was previously damaged by an Allied destroyer on March 22, 1943, but managed to come back to the base. All supply submarines (Type XIV or Type VIIF) were actually sunk by Allied planes or surface ships. I know that the movie is entertaining rather than historical, but why didn't the movie makers choose boats that disappeared without a trace instead?

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Suggested correction: As you said, it's entertaining, not historical, as such, the facts and events don't have to be 100% accurate. Not really a mistake.

Choosing a boat with a demonstrably different fate than depicted in the movie can be considered a valid historical mistake.

Doc Premium member

Factual error: The film is set during the war and there is a Toyota forklift driving around in one of the dock scenes.... (01:19:45)

Factual error: In the ship yard after the party, one of the navy crew is working on a sub and he is using a yellow plastic handled grinder. All tools in this era were metal handled. He's also wearing tennis shoes. (00:13:15)

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.

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Suggested correction: This is explained in the film saying that the plane came from the destroyer on a recon mission.

Ssiscool Premium member

If that is the explanation the film gives, it is a mistake in is own right. Firstly, destroyers did not carry recon planes, and secondly, recon planes are always equipped with floats, because they were launched from the ship by a catapult, but had to land on the water next to the ship to be lifted aboard by a crane.

Doc Premium member

Factual error: The language the American soldier and the secret-service officer use is grammatically correct German, but the pronunciation is very bad. No born German would ever be fooled by it.

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). It was not possible for a German submarine commander to direct an attack from the control room periscope as depicted in the film.


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.

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)

Factual error: Depth charges explode at a distance of some 10 meters from the boat without any fatal effect. In reality fatal (i.e. destroying) distance was some 50 meters.

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Suggested correction: The second sentence is in error. Hull-rupture maximum distance is approximately FIVE meters. K-gun DISPERSION range was selectable from the attacking DD or DE: (1) Mk-6 at 50, 75, and 120 yards, (2) Mk-9 at 60, 90, and 150 yards.Citation:http://uboat.net/allies/technical/depth_charges.htm states "The pressure hull of the U-boat was strong enough to withstand anything but a charge exploding 10 or 20 feet from its hull.", and http://www.math.iitb.ac.in/~manishk/msc_project/OR-Notes-Mirror/OR-Notes/mscmga.ms.ic.ac.uk/jeb/or/intro.html states "As mentioned above the standard 250lb depth charge was believed to have a lethal radius of only 5-6 metres."

I have seen German sources which suggest any depth charge going off closer than 100 meters would be instantly deadly. I don't know where those sites you cite get their info from, but descriptions of battles from the era of from a submariner's perspective make it look extremely unlikely that bombs of the stats which you describe would have been an effective weapon at all.

Doc Premium member

Factual error: The German supply U-boat couldn't have sunk the S-33 with a torpedo, as neither the Type XIV nor any other class of German supply sub was equipped with torpedoes (this would have meant less storage space for cargo).

Factual error: The "German" airplane which spots the crew before the destroyer scene is actually a Fiat G59 - a post-war two-seat training development of the G55 Centauro fighter. It is powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin engine.

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.

Factual error: The yard set has a red and white stop sign. Stop signs during WWII were yellow with black letters

Grumpy Scot

Factual error: Shortly after the crew of the S33 are forced to take to the U571 and destroy the German Supply Submarine Tyler announces that they will try to sail to Greenland or Land's End (England). From their mid-Atlantic position they would, therefore, need to sail east. In the next scene the submarine is seen on the surface sailing from left to right across the screen with the sun on the other side of them. Since from the North Atlantic the sun would always be to the south this must mean they are sailing west, away from Greenland and England and towards the United States. (00:57:05 - 00:59:25)

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.


Factual error: 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.

Factual error: When Tyler asks Tank "what's the status of the torpedo tube?" His hand is on the periscope tube and it spins freely That tube has many seals on it and is stiffer then that.

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