Pearl Harbor is an Oscar-winning war film released in the summer of 2001 by Touchstone Pictures. It stars Ben Affleck, Josh Harnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Voight and Alec Baldwin. It was a dramatic re-imagining of the attack on Pearl Harbor, produced by the team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, who had previously directed summer mega-blockbusters such as Armageddon and The Rock. The final section of the movie relates the Doolittle Raid, the first American attack on the Japanese home islands in World War II.
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the entire movie.
The movie begins on a Tennessee farm as two kids, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), play in a pretend fighter plane they made, pretending to be shooting down German planes. As they are playing, Rafe's dad is out dusting the fields in his old cropduster. When he lands and goes into his tractor, the two boys sneak into his plane and keep the pretend fight going. They accidentally start the plane and "fly" it down the runway, almost crashing it until it finally stops. Danny's father (William Fichtner) comes out and starts screaming at them and smacking Danny. Rafe grabs a board and whacks the dad to stop the beating, protecting his best friend and calls him "dirty German". Danny's father counters and explains to Rafe that he fought the Germans in World War I and wishes that he may never want to witness the horrors of war again, especially to Danny. Just as Danny's father walk away, Danny thank Rafe for stoping him but ran towards his (miserable) father and accompanies him back home.
It's now years later, and World War II is now raging Europe, 25-year-old Rafe (Ben Affleck) and 24-year-old Danny (Josh Hartnett), both First Lieutenants in the U.S. Army, are at a U.S. Army Air Corps training field commanded by Major Jimmy Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). Rafe is as very cocky as he and Danny do a particularly dangerous stunt (a game of chicken) that almost kills them (and more importantly to the brass, almost damages the planes). They are called into Doolittle's office where they are reprimanded, but Doolittle is actually quite impressed with Rafe as he reminds him of himself when he was young.
Later, Doolittle tells Rafe that he has been accepted to go to Britain and join Eagle Squadron, a squadron of volunteer American pilots serving with the Royal Air Force in the fight against the Germans. It is strictly a volunteer assignment, and Doolittle tells him it's his duty to talk him out of it. Rafe asks Doolittle what he would do, and Doolittle says he would go, so Rafe agrees to go as well.
Prior to Rafe leaving, there is a big dance in New York, and many nurses are coming to the event. Some of the nurses are traveling there by train, and one of them, Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale), is telling the other nurses how she first met Rafe while assessing his fitness to fly, and there she first agreed to go out with Rafe. They have been going out now for four weeks and two days. At the dance, Rafe tells Evelyn that in the morning he is headed off to Europe. They have a tearful good-bye, and Rafe tells her not to come to the train station to see him off. He goes to Europe, and Evelyn and Danny get transferred to Pearl Harbor.
While in Europe, members of the squadron Rafe is scrambled to intercept a formation of Heinkel He 111 bombers, but Rafe's fighter is attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 escort. His oil line is ruptured, and his canopy jams. His aircraft crashes into the sea. In Hawaii, Evelyn is informed that Rafe is missing and presumed killed.
Three months later while separately going to the same movie, Danny and Evelyn see a newsreel that shows British fighters being shot down by the Germans. Thinking of Rafe, both Danny and Evelyn leave the theater and by accident meet each other out front of the building. They strike up a friendship again which eventually leads to a romantic encounter in a parachute storage room.
Evelyn has stopped mourning Rafe, but on the morning she discovers she's pregnant, Rafe walks in. As it turned out, after he crashed into the English Channel, the impact meant he could escape, and he was rescued by a French fishing boat and returned to occupied France where he couldn't get word out to them that he was alive. Suddenly Danny appears, holding a telegram that Rafe is alive. Somehow, Rafe instantly realizes that Danny and Evelyn are now together and left, refusing to talk to Danny.
Danny and Rafe argue and eventually drive to a hillside to discuss what they are going to do about their situation. They have been drinking and fall asleep in their convertible under the stars. They are awakened the next morning by Japanese Zero fighters, Val dive bombers and torpedo bombers flying overhead. The barely-awake pilots think that it was the U.S. Navy planes performing exercises.
The Japanese attack catches the U.S. fleet largely unaware, despite Admiral Kimmel having been informed of a Japanese midget submarine destroyed near the entrance to the harbor. Much of the surprise came not from a lack of awareness of the planes, but a radar station dismissing the large number of contacts as a flight of B-17s. A bomb dropped from a Kate bomber ruptures the forward part of the USS Arizona's ammunition magazine, literally splitting the ship in half and sending it to the bottom. Meanwhile, Japanese fighters are attacking the airstrips present on the island to prevent any attempt to intercept the attack aircraft. Petty Officer Doris "Dorie" Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a cook on the USS West Virginia, mans an antiaircraft gun and manages to shoot down a Japanese plane.
Around the same time, Evelyn, Sandra, Betty and the other nurses head towards the hospital to help injured people. On their way they are strafed by Japanese planes, and many people flee into the hospital while some are killed. The gunfire forces Evelyn and Sandra to hide behind a fountain. Suddenly, a plane drops a bomb, and Betty is killed while the other women hide in the hospital.
Later, Evelyn and the other nurses are working frantically with masses of incoming casualties, having to prioritize which lives can be saved and who receives priority care.
Rafe and Danny make it to their Army auxiliary airfield, and together with another pilot who manage to get their planes moving, though the other pilot is killed before getting off the ground. The two of them shoot down seven Japanese planes over the Harbor. They even use the same maneuver that got them into trouble at Doolittle's school to force four Zeros to crash into each other.
The attack finally ends, and because of their heroism, Rafe and Danny are both promoted to Captain and assigned to Doolittle (now promoted to Lt. Col) for a top secret mission. The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Jon Voight) addresses his Infamy Speech to the Congress and declares a state of war, thus propelling the United States into the war. While meeting with his Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Roosevelt wants to send a message that the Japanese homeland is not immune from bombing by doing exactly the same thing that Japan's forces did to them. They are going to put about 16 U.S. Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers onto the aircraft carrier, USS Hornet (instead of the usual light naval assault bombers), sail out close to Japan, take off a few hundred miles offshore, bomb Tokyo and land in China.
For the next five or six weeks, Rafe and Danny are in training, learning how to fly these planes, and most importantly, learn how to take off in such a short distance more suited to launching fighters and light-strike aircraft. To achieve this, the bombers are stripped off and remove any unnecessary weight. Finally, they load the planes onto the aircraft carrier and head off towards Japan. The Hornet and her escorts are discovered by Japanese patrol boats, and have to take off a couple of hundred miles earlier than planned. They now know that they won't have enough fuel to get their original landing point in China and will instead have to land their aircraft earlier than planned.
They bomb Tokyo as planned and limp towards China, running out of fuel. Rafe crash lands his plane, but is caught by elements of the Imperial Japanese Army which are assigned to the invasion of China. Just as he's about to be shot by the Japanese, Danny comes flying down, shooting the Japanese soldiers, with forward-mounted machine guns as he crashes his plane, too.
The two, along with a few other men are confronted by more Japanese soldiers, and after a small gunfight, they are captured. Danny is dying but is tied to a board attached to his shoulders. Rafe is about to be shot when suddenly Danny takes his board and whacks the Japanese soldier, protecting Rafe, just as Rafe had done for him when they were younger. Another Japanese soldier then shoots Danny in the chest, mortally wounding him. The Japanese soldiers are then finally shot by the other American airmen.
Chinese soldiers arrived on the scene, and they are saved. Danny's wounds are mortal though and he dies in Rafe's arms. Just before he dies, Rafe tells him that he can't die because he's going to be a father. Danny tells him no, and that Rafe is going to have to be the father.
Later, the surviving Doolittle Raiders are seen coming off the plane. A pregnant Evelyn is there waiting to see who gets off. Rafe appears, and she is elated but waits to see if Danny is next. A somber Rafe then reaches back inside and helps carry out the coffin containing Danny.
Towards the end of the war, Evelyn was being awarded the Purple Heart for her service in the Navy, and Dorie Miller becomes the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Rafe receives the Distinguished Flying Cross from President Roosevelt for his heroism in the raid, in which Doolitle cited "that's for all the raiders". Evelyn (voiced by Kate Beckinsale) narrates the unforgettable events that America could not escape the war, as she claims that World War II for them began at Pearl Harbor. Soon, their nation grew stronger after the war than ever before. The wreck of the USS Arizona on Pearl Harbor became the symbol of hardship and determination of America's victory in the war.
A few years later, Rafe, Evelyn and their son Danny, who is named in honor of Rafe's best friend, are playing in the backyard. Then Rafe asks Danny if he would like to go flying, and an excited Danny points to the crop duster plane and, together, Rafe and little Danny fly off into the sunset.
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- Ben Affleck - Capt. Rafe McCawley, U.S. Army Air Corps
- Josh Hartnett - Capt. Danny Walker, U.S. Army Air Corps
- Kate Beckinsale - Nurse Lt. Evelyn Johnson, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps
- Alec Baldwin - Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Corps
- Jon Voight - Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States
- Dan Aykroyd - Capt. Thurman, U.S. Navy Intelligence
- Cuba Gooding, Jr. - Petty Officer Doris Miller, U.S. Navy
- William Lee Scott - Lt. Billy Thompson, U.S. Army Air Corps
- James King - Nurse Betty Bayer, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps
- Tom Sizemore - Sgt. Earl Sistern, U.S. Army Air Corps
- Mako - Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, Imperial Japanese Navy
- Catherine Kellner - Nurse Barbara, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps
- Sara Rue - Nurse Martha, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps
- Jennifer Garner - Nurse Sandra, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps
- Colm Feore - Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, U.S. Navy
- Ewen Bremner - Lt. Red Winkle, U.S. Army Air Corps
- Greg Zola - Lt. Anthony Fusco, U.S. Army Air Corps
Production, release, and critical response
Pearl Harbor was released Memorial Day weekend in 2001. Despite its dazzling special effects and a massive promotional campaign, critical response was largely negative, as its 25% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer indicates. Many critics dismissed the film as visually polished but historically insensitive, also citing such literary flaws such as the banal dialogue, underdeveloped love triangle plot and the shallow nature of the lead characters. Critic Roger Ebert summarized Pearl Harbor as "a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle," and claimed that, "The filmmakers seem to have aimed the film at an audience that may not have heard of Pearl Harbor, or perhaps even of World War Two." Director Michael Bay has said that Roger Ebert's criticism of Pearl Harbor is the most offensive of his entire career. According to Michael Bay: "He commented on TV that bombs don't fall like that. Does he actually think we didn't research every nook and cranny of how armor-piercing bombs fell? He's watched too many movies. He thinks they all fall flat — armor-piercing bombs fall straight down, that's the way it was designed! But HE's on the air pontificating and giving the wrong information. That's insulting!" The grandiloquent tone of the film was frequently cited as the polar opposite of the 1998 Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan. Although the movie cost approximately U.S. $140 million to film and promote, it grossed a modest U.S. $200 million at the domestic box office, but it soon earned a respectable $450 million worldwide. Despite many believing it was a disappointment, the film was actually one of the highest-earning pictures of 2001. Pearl Harbor was released on DVD on December 4, 2001, three days before the actual 60th anniversary of the attack. At the 2002 Academy Awards, Pearl Harbor was nominated for four awards, winning one for Sound Effects Editing. Its other nominations were for Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Song.  At the 2001 Golden Raspberry Awards Pearl Harbor was nominated for six awards: Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Actor (Ben Affleck), and Worst Remake or Sequel (presumably of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!); but lost to Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered in all but the latter category, wherein it lost to Tim Burton's version of Planet of the Apes.
In addition, many Pearl Harbor survivors dismissed the film as grossly inaccurate and pure Hollywood, and the film's depiction of James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle as a loud, arrogant egotist as opposed to the warm, genial, brave, and modest man many believed him to be was drew the wrath of some who had known the man in his lifetime. For many people, From Here to Eternity (1953), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) remain better cinematic treatments of the period in Hawaii before the attack, the Pearl Harbor attack itself, and the Doolittle Raid, respectively.
The movie Team America: World Police has a song in it entitled "The End of an Act" which mainly notes Trey Parker's criticisms for the film, comparing how much the character misses someone to how bad Pearl Harbor was.
Replacing real figures
The roles that the two male leads played by Affleck and Hartnett have in the attack sequence are analogous to the real historical deeds of U.S. Army Air Corps Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, who took to the skies during the Japanese attack and, between the two pilots, shot down between six and ten (depending on source) Japanese fighters. However, the movie itself makes no mention of or allusion to Welch's and Taylor's existence in history, and the movie's plot involving the leads, aside from their roles in the attack sequence, does not match any other historical account of Welch or Taylor.
Taylor, who died in November 2006, previously declared the film adaptation "a piece of trash... over-sensationalized and distorted".
Because Bay's movie makes no mention of or allusion to Welch's and Taylor's existence, some consider the very presence of the two fictional main characters in their steads a blatant usurpation of the true historical figures' roles. This point, when coupled with what many critics feel is an arbitrary and ill-conceived love triangle plot involving the fictional replacements, makes some regard Pearl Harbor as an abuse of artistic licence].
Like many historical dramas, Pearl Harbor provoked debate about the artistic license taken by its producers and director. National Geographic Channel produced a documentary called Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor which covers some of the ways that "the film's final cut didn't reflect all the attacks' facts, or represent them all accurately." One of the few small historical accuracies in the film is the wristwatch of the character Danny. Danny's wristwatch is the same style as World War II wristwatches issued to servicemen during that period.
Historical inaccuracies were found in the film included, but are not limited to:
- Early childhood sequences:
- Stearman biplane (the crop-duster aircraft) was not produced until 1935. The opening scene of the film is set in 1923. Many Hollywood movies in the 1960s and 1970s used a Stearman as their stock "old biplane." A more appropriate aircraft would be a Curtiss JN 4 "Jenny", but very few are available for this sort of work.
- Eagle Squadron sequences:
- A Supermarine Spitfire fitted with a four-blade propeller is shown during the airfield and flying shots in the film. It is a Spitfire variant that was not available until later in the war. Also, although the Eagles did use Spitfires, they were originally eight-gun Mk IIs, later superseded by the Mk V and IX (used by 71, 122 and 133 Eagle Squadrons). However, since there is only one Mk II in flying condition (flown by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and as such not used for film work), the Mk V was used, as well as the later Mk VIII. The original plan was to use a highly-inappropriate Spitfire XIV in dogfight sequences with a genuine Messerschmitt Bf 109E.
- Ben Affleck's character is portrayed as joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) as part of the Eagle squadron; serving U.S. airmen were prohibited from doing so, though American civilians joining the RAF were allowed. His eyesight would have been checked for RAF service.
- Ben Affleck's character was based at RAF Oakley. This base was actually a training base in the war, not a fighter base. Historians point out that during the hot August summer of 1940, such expedients invariably did take place from time to time, and even for squadron training exercises.
- During the Battle of Britain flight sequences, the British Spitfires are shown flying in the standard American four-ship formation. The British usually flew in the three-ship Vee or "VIC" formation at this stage of the war. Again this is open to dispute, because by the time of the late Battle, the RAF had adopted the German Luftwaffe "Rotte" and "Schwarm" system, known in RAF parlance as the "Finger Four," which the United States Air Force itself adopted as "Four Ship" formation.
- Pearl Harbor sequences:
- The Japanese aircraft carrier from which the invasion force was launched featured jet catapults and an angled flight deck. These were not included on aircraft carriers until the mid-1950s. In addition, the flight deck did not have wood planking.
- The USS Arizona Memorial, which straddles the sunken USS Arizona], can be briefly seen in a pan shot. The memorial was dedicated in the 1960s.
- President Roosevelt]] did not receive the news of the Pearl Harbor attack by an aide or advisor running into the room. He was having lunch with Harry Hopkins, a trusted friend, and he received a phone call from Secretary of War]Henry Stimson. Hopkins refused to believe the report. The President believed it.
- Admiral Kimmel had received warnings about an attack but, thinking them vague, did not put his forces on full-scale alert. This contradicts the film's portrayal of Kimmel as a leader railing against Washington's apathy about the Japanese threat.
- Even though he specifically asked, by dispatch and in person, for all information, Admiral Kimmel never received the secret Magic dispatches that showed vital information. He also never received the famous 14-part message that the Japanese were delivering in response to the U.S. "ultimatum" of November 26. Especially not the 14th part which indicated the 1:00 p.m. (EST) delivery of the message and ordering the destruction of the "coding" equipment, even though this had been decoded some nine hours before the attack.
- The reports that were given to Admiral Kimmel led him and his staff (as well as General Short, the Commander of the Hawaiian Army units) to believe that if Japan did attack, it would be somewhere in the southwest Pacific and not Pearl Harbor. In fact, they concurred when he deployed his task forces away from Hawaii. Before Pearl Harbor was attacked, he had deployed them around Wake and Midway Islands.
- The so-called "War Warning" dispatch that Admiral Kimmel received on November 27, 1941, did not warn the Pacific Fleet of an attack in the Hawaiian area. It did not state expressly or by implication that an attack in the Hawaiian area was imminent or probable. It did not repeal or modify the advice previously given me by the Navy Department that no move against Pearl Harbor was imminent or planned by Japan. The dispatch warned of war in the Far East. The number and equipment of Japanese troops and the organization of Naval task forces indicates an amphibious expedition were either the Philippines, Thailand, or Kra Peninsula, or possibly Borneo.
- Admiral Kimmel was not on a golf course on the morning of the attack, nor was he notified of the Japanese embassy leaving Washington, D.C., prior to the attack. The first official notification of the attack was received by General Short several hours after the attack had ended. Also, the report of attacking an enemy midget-submarine, in real life, did not report sinking the sub.
- At the time of the attack, the battleships in Battleship Row were tied directly together, not spaced apart as they were in the movie.
- Japanese Navy Air Service aircraft of that period were painted very light gray-green and not dark green.
- The ward dresses of the nurses have a different style than the ones Navy Nurses actually wore during World War II, and no nurse would have worked with long hair falling freely about her shoulders.
- The USS Whipple can be seen clearly in a background shot of the boxing scene on the USS Arizona.
One of the intelligence photographs taken by the Japanese spies shows a North Carolina-class battleship. The USS North Carolina did not arrive at Pearl Harbor until June 1942.
- A retired Iowa-class battleship was used to represent the USS West Virginia for Dorie Miller's boxing match. However, the main gun barrels are corked, which is unusual during wartime or training exercises. Furthermore, Iowa-class battleships have a 3x3 main gun configuration versus the 4x2 layout of the West Virginia. Also, the West Virginia did not have the World War II-era bridge and masts found on newer U.S. battleships until reconstruction was finished in 1943. The Iowa-class themselves didn't enter service until 1943-44.
- In the film, the P-40N model of the P-40 Warhawk U.S. fighter aircraft is shown. However, the "N" model of the P-40 was not available to the United States until 1943.
- At the airfield where the pilots are composing themselves and trying to take action against the strafing Japanese planes, Ben Affleck's character erroneously says "P-40s can't outrun Zeroes, we'll just have to outfly them." In fact, the standard tactic for American and Allied pilots, from the AVG (Flying Tigers) in late 1940 through 1941 and throughout the Pacific War, was basic "hit-and-run." They would dive on Zeroes, get what "hits" they could, and then outrun them (though it could be referring to the P-40s starting from a standstill and having to climb, during which the Zeros would outrun them).
- In reality, although Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned the attack, he was not present on any of the carriers that bombed Pearl Harbor. He was aboard the battleship Nagato in Tokyo Bay, where he heard reports of the attack and supposedly made his famous "sleeping giant" statement.
- P-40 and Zero fighters are shown doing tight maneuvers and incredibly dangerous stunts, almost like X-Wing fighters from Star Wars. Although the Zero was nimble and was the most feared fighter of the Pacific War until the F6F Hellcat debuted in 1943, the P-40 was not able to "dog-fight" with the Zero.
- Dorie Miller's actions during the battle are altered. In the film, Miller comforts Captain Mervyn S. Bennion and is with him when he dies. Miller delivers the captain's last orders to the ship's executive officer and then mans a machine gun. In reality, Miller helped move Bennion to a safer location. Bennion continued to direct the battle until he died of his wounds just before the ship was abandoned. While Miller did man an antiaircraft gun, he was never credited with any kills (as opposed to the one shown in the film).
- The USS Texas doubles for the USS West Virginia during the sequences featuring Dorie Miller. The Texas is considerably different in design than the ship she portrays, most notably lacking the "cage" masts that distinguished West Virginia and California-class battleships. During these sequences, the West Virginia appears moored by herself, but in reality the battleship Tennessee was moored inboard (between the West Virginia and Ford Island) at the time of the attack.
- In the attack, a sailor is shown jumping clear of a falling battleship "tripod" main mast. No battleship lost a tripod mast in such a manner. Not even in the sinking of the USS Oklahoma, which capsized, did a mast fall in such a way as shown in the film.
- In the film, Dorie Miller is shown firing a twin Browning M2 air cooled 50 caliber machine gun. In reality, the .50 caliber machine guns found on the USS West Virginia were water-cooled via a large water cylinder around the barrel, similar manner to the .303 Vickers Heavy machine gun.
- Doolittle Raid sequences:
- In preparation for the attack, Doolittle (Baldwin) is shown training the pilots on land in a flat, sparsely wooded valley near mountains somewhere in the American Southwest. The actual training was done at the airfield known today as Columbia Metropolitan Airport in West Columbia, South Carolina. It is a far more verdant and mountainless area in the state's "Piedmont" topography. In fact, it continued to be a training site for B-25 crews during the war, which would use islands in the nearby Lake Murray for target practice. A crashed B-25 that was recovered from the lake in the 1990s was restored and is now on display in the state museum.
- Several shots of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier depicted it as having an angled flight deck, a technology that was not implemented until after the war. While the USS Hornet was portrayed by a World War II era vessel (USS Lexington), the USS Hornet was an earlier modified Yorktown-class carrier, whereas the Lexington was a modernized Essex-class carrier. The Japanese carriers are portrayed more correctly by comparison—a few of them did have their bridge/conning tower superstructure on the port side rather than the more common starboard configuration.
- Affleck and Hartnett's characters are shown taking part in the Doolittle bombing raid over Tokyo in which, as fighter pilots, they would not have been allowed to participate.
- The B-25 Mitchells shown participating in the raid are "J"-models, although the models used in the actual raid were "B" models.
- When the task force is discovered by Japanese patrol boats in the film, the bomber crews desperately attempt to lighten their loads to make room for more fuel. The replacement of defensive machine guns with painted broomsticks causes Hartnett's character to complain, "We're using broomsticks for tail guns!". In reality, the false tail guns were among the modifications made to the B-25s prior to the mission's launching.
- Several crewmen on Affleck and Harnett's B-25s are killed in the firefight with the Japanese, including Harnett's character. In fact, no members of the raid were killed in this manner. Three airmen died in the crash landings in China, three were later executed as POWs by their Japanese captors, and one died of starvation in captivity. (Four other POWs were recovered alive near the end of the war).
- Other inaccuracies:
- The scene where a Japanese plane drops a bomb to the USS Arizona, it fall straight down after being released. This breaks the laws of physics. Bombs released by planes in flight travel in the same direction as the plane was flying in.
- Mitchel Field is incorrectly spelled "Mitchell Field."
- Despite Long Island's flat, level surface, mountains are visible in the flying shots over Long Island.
- Navy Nurse Betty claims to be 17 years old and that she has cheated with her age to be accepted, but Navy Nurses were required to be registered nurses to join the Navy Nurse Corps, which meant three years of prior training and passing a state board examination, very unlikely qualifications for any 17-year old. The minimum age to join the Navy Nurse Corps was 22.
- President Roosevelt is seen rising from his wheelchair to inspire his staff after the attack. There is no record of him having done or even being capable of doing this in real life.
- The observation car seen in the train station was made for the California Zephyr, which did not appear until after World War II.
- The sequence where Josh Hartnett's and Ben Affleck's characters "play chicken" with their P-40s at the U.S. airbase is cited in the film as taking place in early 1941. This is prior to Affleck's departure to the UK to join Eagle Squadron in time for the Battle of Britain. Although the "Battle of Britain" (proper) took place from July through October 1940, a lesser air battle continued thereafter. The first Eagle Squadron was formed in September 1940. Eventually, there were three Eagle Squadrons, right up until the U.S. entered the war (virtually the same timing as the Flying Tigers in China). A news sequence that precedes scenes of Ben Affleck's character participating in the Battle of Britain indicates that the Soviet Union has already entered the war, placing this scene in mid-to-late 1941. This is unlikely as the crucial part of the Battle of Britain was long over then.
- The Queen Mary is seen in New York Harbor in full Cunard colors. It is more likely that she would have been painted gray and would have served in war duties as either a troopship or hospital vessel. By late 1940, the **Queen Mary was on her way to Sydney to be fitted out as a troopship.
- The radar monitors shown in Pearl Harbor are the more modern type which show the rotation of a dish. This type of radar was not in use at that time.
- The distinct outline of a U.S. Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier, the USS Constellation, can be made out in a wide-angle shot. The first ship of this class was not commissioned until 1961. In the same shot, the sail of a modern submarine can be easily made out.
- There is no reason that U.S. Navy nurses would assess whether pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps were fit to fly. It is reasonable to assume that the Army would use its own medical staff.
- Dorie Miller is shown receiving his Navy Cross on the deck of a battleship. He actually received his medal in a ceremony aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, shortly before the Battle of Midway.
- Prior to the attack, Admiral Yamamoto turns a Japanese calendar to Sunday December 7 to make note of the date of the operation. In reality, when the attack started at 6:37 am Hawaii time, it was 1:37 am on Monday December 8 in Japan. The date December 7 was used because it is noted by Americans as the date of the attack. The Japanese version shows Yamamoto making note of the December 8 as the operation date.
- The dollar bill with the overprint of Hawaii, did not come out until the summer of 1974.
During the panning shot of the fleet just before the Doolittle raid, a Burke-class destroyer is visible in the back. These ships did not come into service until 1999.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt claims Stalin begged him to join in World War II. This never happened. However, in the 1943 Tehran Conference, Stalin did press both Roosevelt and Churchill to open a second front.
- Roosevelt's famous Infamy Speech was severely altered in the film.
- When taking off on the Doolittle Raid, and in the training scenes beforehand, the B-25 bombers can be seen taking off with the wind on their tails. Aircraft always take off into the wind - most especially when a short takeoff run is desired.
- During the Doolittle Raid, the pilots' radio transmissions are heard in Pearl Harbor, which was technologically impossible in 1942. Additionally, at the end of the raid, Doolittle orders his radio operator to "break radio silence". Since the transmissions were heard at Pearl throughout the raid, there was never any radio silence to begin with.
A two-disc Commemorative 60th Anniversary Edition was released on December 4, 2003. This release included the feature on disc one, and on disc two, Journey to the Screen, a 47-minute documentary on the monumental production of the film, Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor, a 50-minute documentary on little-known heroes of the attack, a Faith Hill music video, and theatrical trailers.
A Pearl Harbor DVD giftset that includes the Commemorative Edition two-disc set, National Geographic's "Beyond the Movie" feature, and a dual-sided map was released concurrently on December 4, 2001.
A deluxe Vista Series director's cut of the film was released on July 2, 2002. The extended cut of the film included the insertion of additional gore, Doolittle addressing the pilots before the raid, and the removal of a campfire scene; it runs at 184 minutes compared to the 183 minutes of the theatrical cut. This elaborate package includes four discs of film and bonus features, a replication of Roosevelt's speech, collectible promotional postcard posters, and a carrying case that resembles a historic photo album. The bonus features include all the features included on the commemorative edition, plus additional footage, including three audio commentaries: 1)Director and film historian, 2)Cast, and 3)Technical staff, features including The Surprise Attack—a multi-angle breakdown of the film's most exciting sequence (30 minutes) --includes video intro by Michael Bay, Multiple video tracks that include pre-visualization and final sequence, Commentaries from veterans, Pearl Harbor Historic Timeline - a set-top interactive feature produced by documentarian Charles Kiselyak (30 Minutes), Soldier's Boot Camp - This segment follows the actors as they take preparation for their roles to an extreme (30 Minutes)), One Hour Over Tokyo - The History Channel's documentary, Super-8 Montage - A collection of unseen super-8 footage shot for potential use in the movie by Michael Bay's Visual Assistant, Mark Palansky, Deconstructing Destruction - an in-depth conversation among filmmakers with interactive industrial light and magic sequences, and Nurse Ruth Erickson interview. Whereas the theatrical cut was rated "PG-13", the director's cut was rated "R".
On December 19, 2007 a 65th Anniversary Commemorative Edition Blu-ray was released.
- Washington Post (2006-12). Kenneth Taylor; Flew Against Pearl Harbor Raiders. Retrieved on 12 December 2006.
- Admiral Kimmel's Story, Henry Regnery Co., 1955.
- Winchester, Jim, ed. Aircraft of World War II (The Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books, 2004.
- Filming locations in the Los Angeles area
- Pearl Harbor at the Internet Movie Database
- Pearl Harbor at Rotten Tomatoes
- Pearl Harbor at Box Office Mojo
- Adudathuda DVD podBLAST alternative DVD commentary for Pearl Harbor (disc 1)
- Adudathuda DVD podBLAST alternative DVD commentary for Pearl Harbor (disc 2)