Factual error: The Tiger tanks portrayed in the movie are actually Soviet T-34s. You could tell by looking at their wheels. Real Tigers had interleaved wheels. These Tigers had the T-34 suspension. Obviously, Tigers are so rare (only one operational Tiger left) that another tank had to be substituted. But an excellent job was done to make the T-34s look like Tigers.
Factual error: In the scene where the Americans are fighting the Germans in Remelle, there are two Tiger 1 tanks. In reality, there were no Tiger tanks on the American front in Normandy. All Tigers in Normandy were placed on the British and Canadian front south of Caen.
Factual error: In the end scene, after the final battle, Reiben is seen calling for a medic to assist Miller. When he gets up to go and find a medic, he picks up his BAR by the barrel. Having just fought in a fairly long action with a high rate of fire, his BAR barrel would be far too hot to touch, let alone pick the rifle up by. It would take 15 or 20 mins for it to cool down enough to handle. He should have picked it up by the foregrip (The wooden bit under the barrel).
Factual error: After the soldiers' initial disembarkment they are shown crouching in groups near the shore and later running towards the bunkers. Unlike the movie shows, anything even as simple as crouching behind the tank traps, let alone actually standing up and running, was impossible at Dog Green Sector and indeed for anyone when pinned down by a machine gun from a high far-away position. In the real-life landing at Dog Green within 7-10 minutes all the officers of the landing company were dead and the survivors inert. They could do nothing except throw away all their equipment and slowly crawl up the beach, shielded from bullets by the incoming tide and dead bodies. 1 hour 40 minutes after landing twelve (known) survivors made it to the base of the cliffs. Only 2 had enough strength left to go on and fight with another group. (The second wave, apart from one boat which was almost entirely killed, opted to land elsewhere when they saw the fate of the first wave.) In this way the movie rather poorly represents what it meant to make a properly opposed landing on D-Day - although whether this is justified or not is another matter. (00:07:00 - 00:07:40)
Factual error: The American troops at Ramelle bridge are supposed to be fighting the 2nd SS Panzer Division. Two things wrong: the 2nd SS never had Tiger tanks in Normandy, having turned over their Tiger battalion to another unit in Russia prior to being transferred to France. Second, in the scenes with the Tigers, a 1st SS Panzerkorps insignia (Crossed Keys) is seen on the front right hull of the Tigers; 2nd SS Panzer Division was never a part of 1st SS Panzerkorps.
Factual error: In the scene where the American troops are storming the German radar station, you can see a few dead cows with oversized bellies provoked by putrefaction, which means that they were killed at least 12 hours ago. When one of the cows receives a bullet, you can see highly-oxigenated fully arterial red blood spurting from the wound, something impossible to happens in a dead body. Blood at this time of death should be nearly black or brown. (01:24:00)
Factual error: When Jackson takes out the German sniper, we see the German snipers point of view through his scope and he eventually spots Jackson who fires at him. First you see the flash, then the bang, and then the German sniper gets hit through his scope. This is wrong because bullets from a powerful sniper rifle travel much faster than sound, he couldn't have heard the shot before he got hit. (00:51:30)
Factual error: The "tank traps" (actually designed to flip landing craft, when submerged) on Omaha are back-to-front. The bottom of the pole that that rests on the other two should be nearest the sea and not as shown in the movie. Documentary footage of the actual landings will confirm this. (00:09:15)
Factual error: When the Americans arrive in the first village (the one where the family is marooned upstairs in what's left of their house) there is a car. The car's registration plate follows the post-war system, not introduced until 1950. (00:49:00)
Factual error: During certain scenes in the movie, we see Jackson switching his Weaver M73B1 sniper scope on his M1903A4 sniper rifle with a Unertl sniper scope. The problem is that the Unertl scope was used exclusively by the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theatre on their M1903A1 sniper rifle. Even if we accept the premise that the Unertl scope was a 'battlefield pickup', the mounts for the Weaver 73B1 and Unertl are entirely different. The Unertl mounts require modification of the upper handguard, and drilling and tapping of the barrel for a forward mounting block. In the bell tower (and other) scenes, it is clear the rifle has a stock upper handguard. Therefore, it could not accept the Unertl scope.
Factual error: When Capt. Miller talks to the pilot of the crashed glider telling his story the guy says he lost 22 men in the crash. Only one problem: his glider is a Waco CG-4A (the similar-looking but larger Waco CG-13A wasn't used in the Normandy invasion). The maximum load for one of those was only 13 fully equipped troops and the two pilots, and that's without a jeep. As a jeep is visible in the rear of the fuselage, there couldn't possibly have been more than 6 men on that glider including the pilots, or it never would have gotten airborne.
Factual error: When the group is trying to take the German radio tower and the medic gets killed, the American hiding behind the cow is watching through a small rifle scope. The adjustment knobs should be on the top and side of the scope when held level and upright. The American is holding them crooked which means the crosshairs should be crooked, but when it shows the view through the scope, the crosshairs are perfectly vertical and horizontal. (01:24:15)
Factual error: Some of the ammunition cans were made after World War II; they have smooth sides instead of a recessed border and "low area."
Factual error: During the final fight scene the German armour enters the town (a built up area) with open-topped AF V's and unbuttoned tanks. The Germans learned not to do this, greatly to their cost, at Stalingrad and other urban battles. It is very unlikely they would have risked their scarce armour in such a way without first securing the area with infantry.
Factual error: In the scene where the soldiers are going through the dog tags to try and find Ryan, they all have the smaller chains attached to the tags. When taking the dog tags off a dead body, the smaller link that you see attached is broken away from the necklace around the dead body. It would be rare, if ever, that a soldier would take the time to reconnect the smaller chain. More likely, he would simply take the tag.
Factual error: After Miller has been shot, whilst trying to reach the detonator to blow up the bridge, we see him sat against what is supposed to be a wartime German motorcycle and sidecar. The vehicle in question is actually a Russian Ural M66 which was only produced during the 1970s.
Factual error: When Upham and Mellish are conversing before the fight at Ramelle, Mellish is seen placing Mk. 2 Pineapple grenades into Upham's helmet. The "spoon" on the grenades does not look to be the correct type. The ones in the film appear to be modern, folded, sheet metal painted dark green; World War II era ones are a simple piece of stamped, sheet steel. The modern ones are angular while World War II ones have a slight curve.
Factual error: During the final fight at Ramelle, Mellish and Henderson are displacing from their first machine position to the next; almost getting shot by a Tiger tank gun. When they run, Henderson grabs the barrel of the 1919A4 Browning Machine Gun. He had just fired a long burst, the barrel would be too hot to grab it.
Factual error: When Mellish and Henderson are fighting in the room in Romell, twice German Steilgrenates are thrown into the room. Both times they are picked up and thrown back and then the grenades explode. This is highly unlikely since the Steilgrenate had a short (4.5 sec) fuse and would likely have blown up in the hand of the person throwing it back. It was more common that Germans threw back American grenades which had a much longer fuse delay.
Factual error: The typing pool scene, in which we first learn about Private Ryan, features vintage typewriters of various makes and models being used to notify families of soldiers killed in action. One of the first typewriters we see is a Swiss-made Hermes Ambassador from the mid-1950's. (00:28:40)