Factual error: The film takes place during World War II yet the hair styles of the females, particularly the young ones, are straight out of 1965 when the film was released.
Factual error: Throughout the film the characters are often seen riding in M151 jeeps (horizontal grill slits) which were not in production until the Vietnam era. Odd because they did have a few correct era Willy's jeeps on the set, usually seen in the background
Factual error: The San Francisco house that Paula Prentiss leaves in order to catch the trolley to meet with her husband Tom Tryon's arriving ship is located on the corner of Lombard and Hyde Street. Famous for being the most crooked street in the world, is a mile and a half from the piers. In a later scene they are indoors when Tom Tryon pulls a shade down, you can see the San Francisco Bay Bridge and piers just below. This view would mean the house has moved to San Francisco's Telegraph Hill, the only location with such a clear view of the bridge, which is quite a distance away from the house's original location.
Factual error: When the Admiral asks for ships who have answered the "sortie" call the comment is made that none of the responding ships are radar equipped. A shot of the destroyer shows a radar antenna at the mast top.
Factual error: During the final battle scene, none of the Admiral's staff, including the Admiral are wearing battle gear, i.e. helmets & life jackets, as required by the navy.
Continuity mistake: During the discussions right after the attack on Pearl, between CINCPAC and all the admirals over the plotting table, Dana Andrews is nowhere to be seen. Then after a quick cut away and back, suddenly he is there just to the right of CINCPAC with all the other actors magically rearranged to make a space for him.
Factual error: Just before John Wayne's ship is torpedoed there are several shots of a neighboring destroyer out of the bridge's windows. The bow number is 298. DD-298 is the USS Percival, which was launched on 5 December 1918 and decommissioned on 26 April 1930 and scrapped in 1931. This is over 10 years before the beginning of WWII.
Factual error: Commander (later Captain) Eddington has a problem identifying warships. At Pearl Harbor, he incorrectly identifies USS Providence (CL82) as an AA cruiser (hull's in the 50's). Then, while piloting the PBJ in search of the Japanese fleet, he identifies the Yamato as having 12 main guns.
Continuity mistake: In the first few scenes concerning Captain Torrey's task group, the weather is sunny and clear (as it was Dec. 7, 1941). However, at one point when Cmdr Eddington enters the bridge, he is in very wet foul weather gear, and the same when they go into the coding room to decode the message to "seek-out" the enemy. Later when steaming toward the enemy the weather is clear again.
Revealing mistake: A the beginning of the attack on Pearl Harbor Destroyer 298 in the harbor. A shot of the ship shows an empty depth charge rack; a subsequent shot shows 1 charge on the rack, a tear shape type which was not introduced until later in the war. When the ship later attacks a Japanese sub the shot shows the old "ash can" charge being dropped.
Plot hole: The whole basis for replacing Admiral Broderick with John Wayne as operational commander of Sky Hook was that Admiral Broderick was deemed a failure. Wayne took over, planned for what looks like a week or so and launched an attack. First point - the Japanese had evacuated the island. It's pretty hard to miss the evacuation of 15 or 20 thousand soldiers by the IJN which would have made multiple large sorties over a period of several days. Also, there would have been massive explosions and fires as the Japanese destroyed facilities and supplies rather than leave them behind. (Check out the real evacuation of Guadalcanal during WWII - the IJN operation was so big we thought they were reinforcing the island) Second point - seems like Admiral Broderick's approach, no matter how incompetent it looked, must have worked. The Japanese gave up and left and it must have been as a result of Broderick's efforts. An evacuation like this takes time to plan and time to execute. The evacuation was decided upon prior to Wayne's arrival (Broderick had already won) and took place right under his nose (complete reconnaissance failure by Wayne).
Factual error: As LTJG McConnell is standing to colors on the USS Cassidy, he gets a call from the radio room, informing him that they are picking up "plane to plane chatter in Japanese". Until the attack actually commenced, the Japanese maintained strict radio silence, and upon commencement the coded signals "To, To, To", and "Tora, Tora, Tora" were sent by Fuchida's radioman, neither of which would necessarily be interpreted as Japanese.
Revealing mistake: Initially Captain Tory has his promotion orders read at a party (read by Henry Fonda who is presumed to be Admiral Chester Nimitz. He is temporarily promoted to Rear Admiral Lower Half (which is a 1 Star rank). When he arrives at his duty assignment he is wearing 2 stars which is a Rear Admiral Upper Half.
Plot hole: As Torrey's task force seeks out the Japanese, the JL talker on the bridge informs the Captain that the starboard lookout reports a ship on the bow. Immediately everyone goes over to the port side to see the vessel, which appears (through the binoculars) to be about five miles distant. Poor lookout discipline.
Other mistake: After being torpedoed, John Wayne orders Burke to radio Pearl Harbor. Burke asks "And break radio silence?" to which Wayne sarcastically replies "don't you think the Japanese know our position?" Actually, a submerged WWII sub could not transmit (radio) without surfacing. Having run up on the submerged sub by chance, only the sub knew their position at that moment. Breaking radio silence did in fact give their position away to the Japanese command.
Factual error: When Rock is shaving, and then when he goes to Eddington's cabin, both cabins and the passageway have fluorescent lights. Since this type of lighting wasn't commercially available until earlier in 1941, it is unlikely that an elderly heavy cruiser like "Swayback" would have been equipped with such modern lighting.