- "Within months, the 501st gained a well deserved reputation as 'Vader's Fist.'"
- ―Entry from the Journal of the 501st
The 501st Legion, also known as the 501 or 501st Battalion during the Clone Wars and later known as "Vader's Fist" and the Five Hundred and First, was an elite unit of clone troopers commissioned by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine during the Clone Wars that later became a stormtrooper unit. Made up of units like Torrent Company, the 501st fought in many battles, such as the Battle of Teth and the Battle of Coruscant, becoming one of the most well-known legions. In 19 BBY, the 501st became Darth Vader's personal unit as he led them during Operation: Knightfall, in which the clones helped take down the Jedi, whom they believed to be traitors to the Republic.
Following the rise of the Galactic Empire, the 501st transitioned into a stormtrooper unit, like other clone units. Given new armor and weapons, the 501st faithfully served the Empire, operating under the direct command of the Sith Lord Darth Vader. After the Battle of Kamino, the 501st became the last remnant of the Grand Army of the Republic fully composed of Jango Fett clones, as opposed to the ever-growing and more diverse Stormtrooper Corps, where the Fett clones became a minority, with the inclusion of a pool of clones from different templates and birth-born recruits, while others were not clones, but humans from an Imperial academy; by 0 BBY though Vader was known to comb through the ranks of all stormtrooper units and transferring the very best to the 501st, a fact that angered other Imperial agents - like Mara Jade - who had to work with lesser qualified units.
The legion fought in a number of battles during the Galactic Civil War in an effort to defeat the Rebel Alliance and bring peace to the galaxy, although the Alliance ultimately triumphed. Though the 501st was disbanded after the Battle of Endor, the Chiss Grand Admiral Thrawn resurrected the designation by forming a new 501st Legion. He also added more diverse recruits to the 501st, including non-Humans. The reconstituted 501st was stationed in the Unknown Regions, where they protected Thrawn's Empire of the Hand. Over a century later, the legion was in the service of a new Empire, by then under the rule of Emperor Roan Fel.
When Fel was deposed by Darth Krayt shortly after the conclusion of the Sith–Imperial War, the 501st Legion fell under the control of the Dark Lord of the Sith in the year 130 ABY. Seven years later, however, Fel returned from exile and joined in the war against Krayt in order to reclaim his throne. Under the leadership of General Oron Jaeger, the 501st deserted the Dark Lord's Galactic Empire in order to join the Fel faction.
- "It's been said that the 501st got the best of the war. We also got the worst."
- ―Opening entry from the Journal of the 501st
The troopers of the 501st Legion were clones of the bounty hunter Jango Fett, who had been selected by Jedi Master-turned-Sith Lord Dooku to be the template for an elite army. Cloned by expert Kaminoan scientists, the troopers were given top-notch training in many fields, as they were designed to be the ultimate soldiers.
Members of the 501st Legion fought in the Grand Army of the Republic against the Confederacy of Independent Systems in the First Battle of Geonosis, the opening battle of the Clone Wars, in 22 BBY. By the year 21 BBY, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had founded the 501st Legion by moving a number of clones to a secret location on Coruscant known only to the Chancellor's most trusted advisers, far away from the normal training center on the planet Kamino. These clones were given special training by Palpatine's command staff to make the 501st the most feared legion in the galaxy. Some members of the legion would be covertly transferred to other units; however, they were tracked to ensure that they would be available in the future if they were ever needed for any special assignments, as Palpatine suspected they would be.
The core group of this legion was assigned to serve under Jedi General Anakin Skywalker and Clone Captain CT-7567, nicknamed "Rex." With Skywalker's help, the 501st quickly earned a reputation for incredible victories, often snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Among the 501st's earliest battles was the Battle of Christophsis, where they served under Skywalker, Captain Rex, and High Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi. Based out of Crystal City, the 501st troops managed to recapture Christophsis from the Confederacy, beating back Separatist General Whorm Loathsom's multiple assaults. However, Loathsom soon deployed a deflector shield to protect his battle droid troops, and the clone troopers were forced to pull back and defend the Republic's heavy cannons. After Skywalker and his newly assigned Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, destroyed the shield generator, the heavy cannons annihilated the droids and forced the Separatists to surrender.
Immediately following the Republic victory on Christophsis, the 501st detachment Torrent Company was sent with Skywalker, Tano, and Rex to Teth to recover Hutt crime lord Jabba Desilijic Tiure's son, Rotta, in order to gain access to hyperlanes passing through Jabba's territory for the Grand Army. Ferried to Teth's surface in LAAT/i gunships, the Republic unit began a grueling campaign up the vertical face of a cliff to the B'omarr Monastery where Rotta was being held. Utilizing AT-TE walkers and grappling hooks, Torrent Company was able to defeat the Separatist battle droids holding the monastery, though half of the unit was lost on the way up. After Skywalker and Tano located and rescued Rotta from the depths of the castle, the Confederate forces—under the command of Dark Acolyte Asajj Ventress—launched a counterattack on the Teth monastery. The Jedi and clone troops were forced to barricade themselves inside the stronghold, losing three-quarters of their remaining forces in defending the castle. Skywalker and his Padawan then left to find medical assistance for Rotta, leaving Rex in command of the troops.
Ventress and her forces were soon able to break through the monastery door's controls, and the defense of the monastery cost Rex all but five troopers. The Captain and the rest of the survivors launched a last stand against the battle droids. General Kenobi and the 212th Attack Battalion eventually arrived at Teth, reinforcing the remnants of the 501st and securing the defeat of the Separatists. A treaty was established between the Republic and Jabba the Hutt, but although the 501st was replenished with new troops, the loss of the original Torrent Company left scars on all involved. Soon after, Rex and troops of the 501st were redeployed with Skywalker and Tano aboard their recently-christened fleet of Venator-class Star Destroyers to protect Bothawui from the Confederate General Grievous, who was intent on capturing the planet. Departing from Coruscant, Skywalker's forces eventually arrived at Bothawui and defeated Grievous, securing a Republic victory. 501st troopers Rex and Denal also helped Skywalker and Tano in destroying the Separatist listening post Skytop Station.
Rex, Tano, Clone Sergeant Coric, and six new Torrent Company recruits—Ross, Boro, Joc, Hil, Vere, and Ince—later participated in a routine shakedown cruise aboard Captain Gilad Pellaeon's assault ship, the Leveler, in the Dantus sector. However, their short respite from the war ended when they were called in to rescue the Republic Intelligence agent Hallena Devis, who had been taken hostage by rebel forces in opposition to the Regent of the nearby JanFathal. Receiving assistance from the Altisian Jedi sect as well as Skywalker, the task force was ultimately successful in extracting and rescuing Devis; however, troopers Vere and Ince were killed in the mission. Torrent Company itself continued to endure losses even after the JanFathal mission. Rex inducted rookie troopers ARC-5555 and CT-21-0408, respectively nicknamed "Fives" and "Echo," into the 501st for their service in recapturing a Republic outpost from the Separatists and alerting the Republic to an impeding Confederate attack on Kamino. A few months later, Rex, Fives, Echo, and other elements of the 501st were serving with Skywalker and Kenobi on board the former's flagship, the Resolute, when they were assigned to stage a defense of Kamino, which was being targeted by Grievous, Ventress, and the Separatists. The Jedi and the 501st rushed to the clones' homeworld and were able to prevent the Confederacy from stealing a sample of the clones' DNA, and Fives and Echo were promoted to the prestigious rank of ARC troopers for their valiant service in the campaign.
The 501st also served with Skywalker and Tano in reinforcing Jedi General Aayla Secura, who was being ambushed by a Separatist fleet over Quell. Arriving at Quell aboard the Resolute, 501st troops were deployed in LAAT/i gunships to board Secura's cruiser, the Liberty, which was under attack by rocket droids. Skywalker and Tano rescued Secura and Clone Commander CC-5052 from the damaged Star Destroyer, but their escape cruiser's hyperdrive was accidentally tripped by a Vulture droid attack. The group mistakenly jumped to hyperspace, leaving Admiral Wullf Yularen in command of the remaining troops. The 501st's Torrent Company later helped to retake the Bothan colony world Kothlis from General Grievous, serving there under Kenobi, Tano, Rex, and Coric. Upon arrival at Kothlis aboard the Republic Star Destroyer Indomitable, Torrent Company joined in the battle to regain control of Kothlis's spynet facility. Although the campaign was ultimately a success, it saw the unit's greatest depletion since the Battle of Teth. The injured clones from the 501st company were sent to the Kaliida Shoals Medical Center for treatment, Rex and Coric among them.
The legion also participated in "mopping up" the remaining droid forces on the planet Ryloth shortly after the world's liberation from the Confederacy, helping Skywalker and Tano to defeat the droids based out of the ruined city of Resdin. Eventually, Rex and a 501st contingent were sent to reconnoiter Geonosis, where evidence of Separatist droid foundries had been discovered. Upon arriving in orbit of the world, the task force was unable to make contact with the clones on the surface but ran preliminary scans and discovered the droid foundries in the planet's northern and southern hemispheres. In his report to the Jedi Council, Rex recommended a full-scale invasion to retake Geonosis, and the Jedi Council used the information to mount an assault on Geonosis that was ultimately successful.
Later in the war, the planet Umbara seceded from the Galactic Republic and joined the Separatist cause. As a result, the Republic launched a massive campaign to retake the planet through military force. When the Republic invasion army arrived on Umbara, the clone troopers of the 501st Legion spearheaded the assault under the command of General Anakin Skywalker and Captain Rex. The initial objective was to capture the planet's capital, and the success of the campaign ultimately depended on the 501st Legion. Upon landing on the planet's surface, however, the 501st immediately encountered heavy resistance from the soldiers of the Umbaran Militia. Although the 501st suffered some casualties in the first wave of the invasion, Skywalker and his troopers ultimately succeeded in repelling the Umbarans.
When Skywalker allowed the 501st time to rest before continuing the march to the capital, the Umbarans ambushed the unsuspecting Jedi and clones. Their position was resecured when General Pong Krell a squadron of BTL-B Y-wing starfighters cleared the area of hostiles with a bombing run. Afterward, Krell informed Skywalker that he was ordered to return to Coruscant by command of the Jedi High Council and at the request of Chancellor Palpatine. With Skywalker removed from the campaign, General Krell became the temporary commanding officer of the 501st Legion for the duration of Skywalker's absence.
Some of the clones in the 501st, such as Captain Rex and Arc trooper Fives, had grown accustomed to Anakin Skywalker's personal approach to leadership. Thus, they were unprepared for Pong Krell's different command style, which centered on discipline and military protocol. While the rest of the clones obeyed their Jedi officer without question, Rex and Fives came to privately and openly question the general's strategy. Prior to the Umbara campaign, Krell built a reputation as a successful general who's unwavering focus on military objectives won many key victories in the Clone Wars. This track record for success also included high casualty rates among the clones who served under him. A stern and unyielding Jedi Master, Krell had no tolerance for failure or insubordination.
Due to the significance of the 501st Legion's part in the campaign, Krell ordered the clones to launch a frontal assault on the capital and overcome any resistance with the full force of Republic military might. But when their position was compromised by the Umbarans, Rex ordered his troopers to retreat. The general was outraged by their withdrawal, but also ordered more clones to reinforce Rex and his men. After the Umbarans fell in retreat, Krell confronted Rex for disregarding his orders. Fives intervened by openly criticizing the general in front of the other troopers, but then stood down after being ordered to do so at the point of a lightsaber. In order to diffuse the situation, Rex asserted how his loyalty to the general conflicted with his concern for the clones. Krell was actually surprised by Rex, given the fact that most clones obeyed orders without question, and somewhat complimented the captain for his tenacity. Before Rex and Fives could contemplate Krell's words, however, another group of Umbaran soldiers ambushed them, and the 501st were forced to resume the fighting.
The 501st Legion received its next objective when they were ordered to disable an Umbaran airbase in order to sever its supply lines to the capital city, therefore making the enemy stronghold more vulnerable to military assault. During this time, some troopers within the 501st argued over General Pong Krell's command style. Fives and Jesse strongly disapproved of Krell's strategies because of his lack of concern for clone lives; Dogma was fiercely loyal to his general and took the opportunity to defend Krell's tactics against the others' doubts; Hardcase was unconcerned with his comrades' dilemma and only wanted more opportunities to kill enemy combatants. Although Captain Rex retained his own misgivings over Krell's tactics, he wanted to honor his code of loyalty by faithfully executing the general's will without question. As Fives became increasingly outspoken and critical, Rex reminded him that Krell was an effective leader, citing the Jedi Master's extensive record of key military victories. Furthermore, Rex also reminded Fives that the duty of every clone—every soldier—was to obey their orders and, when necessary, to sacrifice their lives for victory.
The fierce Umbaran resistance that stood between the 501st and the airbase caused Rex to amend General Krell's original plan by dispatching Fives and Hardcase on a covert mission to infiltrate the targeted location and steal a pair of Umbaran starfighters. At the same time, Rex and his troopers pressed with the forward assault, in accordance with the general's strict orders. Fives and Hardcase ultimately succeeded in their mission and, with their commandeered fighters, caused significant damage to the airbase before coming to the aid of Rex and his men. As the airbase was engulfed in flames, Krell ordered Sergeant Appo to send the rest of the 501st to reinforce Rex's troops. Shortly afterward, the surviving Umbarans were captured and the fallen airbase was secured under Republic control.
End of the war
- "In our bones, we knew the war was almost over. The galaxy held its breath, waiting to see which side would make the final, daring move. As fortune would have it, the Republic moved first."
- ―Entry from the Journal of the 501st
In the final days of the war, the 501st was frequently shuttled across the galaxy, often divided into specialized groups to assist other missions. Under the orders of Chancellor Palpatine, the 501st would sometimes operate outside of the usual command structure, with detachments of the unit serving at many pivotal campaigns. In 19 BBY, the final year of the war, the 501st took part in several battles pivotal in ending the war. In the Battle of Mygeeto, they were involved in Project Hammertong, a clandestine mission to acquire a power crystal for Chancellor Palpatine, who secretly had plans of constructing a superlaser-armed battlestation. The clones succeeded in pushing back the droid forces, recovering the power crystal, and crucial to the mission, keeping their commander, Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, unaware of their true purpose.
The legion also fought in the Battle of Felucia alongside Jedi Knight Aayla Secura. Despite conditions the troopers would remember as hellish, they defeated the Confederacy's droid forces, as well as several wild acklays. Shortly before the Battle of Coruscant, members of the 501st were stationed on Coruscant, where they were used to carry out security patrols. Not long afterward, the 501st fought in the Battle of Coruscant in an effort to rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine from the Confederacy. Members of the legion, many flying starfighters in battle for the first time, destroyed a number of droid starfighters and capital ships. Most importantly, they created a diversion, clearing a path for Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi to infiltrate the Confederate flagship, the Invisible Hand, and rescue Palpatine.
After that battle, some members of the 501st were dispatched to Kashyyyk. When they jumped out of hyperspace, they found the planet blockaded by the Separatists. The 501st was forced to punch a hole in the Confederate Navy, which they accomplished along with stealing a set of attack plans for the upcoming battle. They then landed on the planet's surface, where they fought alongside the 41st Elite Corps and Jedi Master Yoda. Following this battle, a detachment of the 501st was transferred to Utapau. They fought with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and helped the 212th Attack Battalion defeat the droid forces there by taking down various CIS gun batteries and destroying an energy column. Most importantly, General Kenobi was able to kill the Confederacy's Supreme Commander, Grievous.
Fall of the Republic
- "What I remember about the rise of the Empire is… is how quiet it was. During the waning hours of the Clone Wars, the 501st Legion was discreetly transferred back to Coruscant. It was a silent trip; we all knew what was about to happen, what we were about to do. Did we have any doubts? Any private traitorous thoughts? Perhaps, but no one said a word. Not on the flight back to Coruscant, not when Order 66 came down, and not when we marched into the Jedi Temple. Not a word."
- ―Entry from the Journal of the 501st
As the battle was winding down, a group of clones from the 501st was discreetly transferred to Coruscant, in preparation for Order 66—a top-secret order given by Chancellor Palpatine which stated that the Jedi had rebelled against the Republic, and needed to be eliminated. On Coruscant, the 501st rendezvoused with the Sith Lord Darth Vader, formerly known as Anakin Skywalker, and were given their orders: destroy the Jedi. Though they appreciated the Jedi, their loyalty lay first with Palpatine, as all clone troopers had been taught to obey the Supreme Chancellor first and foremost. Vader led them into the Jedi Temple, ready for battle. Though some may have held quiet doubts about what they were commanded to do, years of psychological programming and conditioning prevented any of them from resisting such an extreme order, and so they said nothing.
With their inability to resist morally-questionable orders, the 501st Legion steadily marched behind Darth Vader and towards the main entrance of the Jedi Temple. Then they carried out Order 66 to the letter by attacking every Jedi in their path, from masters and knights to padawans and younglings. With most of the senior members of the Jedi Order scattered throughout the galaxy on various fronts, the Temple's remaining occupants were left in a hopeless position as Vader and the 501st clone troopers turned the Temple into a scene of slaughter and mayhem. Though the 501st suffered their own fair share of casualties, and even though several Jedi were able to escape from the doomed battle, the clones' superb training and Vader's relentless onslaught resulted in the deaths of almost every Jedi within the Temple. Meanwhile, Palpatine was transmitting Order 66 around the galaxy to different clone commanders. Nearly all obeyed their orders without question, killing their unsuspecting Jedi officers who made the mistake of trusting the clones with their lives.
The Coruscant Security Force tracked a number of suspected Jedi, such as Tru Veld, and called in the 501st for assistance in capturing them. The legion also attacked and killed a number of Jedi on Shinarcan Bridge a couple of hours after the declaration of Order 66, and Jedi Knight Etain Tur-Mukan was killed by a fellow Jedi when she tried to stop him from killing one of the 501st troopers. Following the extermination of the Jedi, Decoy Squad Five was tasked with deceiving any Jedi that returned to the Temple in order to kill them, though the eight-member squad was later killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, who had managed to escape the carnage and return to Coruscant. The 501st troopers that remained behind to occupy the Temple attempted to kill Kenobi and Yoda, only to be wiped out by the two Jedi Masters.
- "We were establishing a new era, an era of order and peace."
- ―Entry from the Journal of the 501st
A short time after the execution of Order 66, Palpatine would announce that he was reorganizing the Republic into the Galactic Empire, which he would rule as emperor. Now serving the Empire, the members of the 501st took the designation stormtrooper, as well as new armor, weapons, and ships. They would continue to serve directly under Vader, and in the years to come, would fight in a number of pivotal battles. The legion was often deployed in places where its advanced fighting skills could be used to make a political statement. Most of its missions were classified, so as to hide what it was doing from the Imperial Senate. In the years following Order 66, the 501st would fight on a number of mop-up missions against either remnants of the Confederacy or the few Jedi that had managed to survive Order 66. To assist in the hunt for Jedi survivors, clone deserters, and varied Imperial dissidents, Vader brought together the ARC troopers and clone commandos who had formerly served in the Republic's Special Operations Brigade and formed a new special forces unit that was attached to the 501st Legion. Known as the Imperial Commando Special Unit, the Imperial 501st's veteran commandos were responsible for the death of Jedi Master Iri Camas on Celen and for killing the Jedi Knight Borik Yelgo aboard the Coth Fuuras space station.
A short time after Order 66, the 501st Legion went on Kessel to help Darth Vader take down the Jedi conclave there. Vader fought against a total of eight Jedi, and though he was wounded, the 501st aided him in killing them. When it was over, the eight Jedi lay dead. Vader's reputation, along with that of the 501st, grew tremendously with this victory. On the planet New Plympto, Commander Vill led a detachment of the 501st against Nosaurian forces still loyal to the Confederacy. The Nosaurians held out for a time, but Vill and his men succeeded in defeating the rebels at the Battle of Half-Axe Pass.
The 501st followed Vader to Murkhana, where they confronted a group of clones who had refused to execute Order 66. Vader killed most of them and had the rest taken into custody, and then led his men to Kashyyyk once more, where they fought against a group of Jedi who had survived Order 66. Led by Commander Appo, they killed and enslaved tens of thousands of Wookiees in an effort to gain workers for the Emperor's new secret project, the Death Star superweapon. Some of the Jedi, including Master Roan Shryne, were killed. However, before dying, Shryne managed to kill Appo. Vader then brought a unit from the 501st with him on a visit to the devastated planet of Honoghr. There, they were attacked by the native Noghri, who proved to be a match for the elite stormtroopers. Impressed, Vader devised a plan to enslave the species and use them as his personal assassins.
In late 19 BBY, Emperor Palpatine dispatched Darth Vader on an assignment to rescue Admiral Garoche Tarkin, the son of Moff Wilhuff Tarkin who disappeared while hunting down insurgents in the Atoa system of the Ghost Nebula—a barely explored area in the Expansion Region of the galaxy. Commander Voca and two battalions of the 501st Legion were placed under Vader's direct command for the mission. Captain Shale, a friend of Admiral Tarkin and trusted subordinate to Moff Tarkin, was sent on the mission as well. Once the Imperials arrived at the planet Atoa, the stormtrooper clones launched a brutal and merciless assault on an Atoan city, killing most of its defenders while Vader personally led the attack. Commander Voca obeyed the Sith Lord's orders without question hesitance, even when commanded to execute anyone old enough to hold a weapon, as well as to drown defenseless prisoners in a river.
After locating the remains of Admiral Tarkin's missing Star Destroyer, Voca and squadron of 501st V-wing starfighters assisted Vader and Shale with their inspections of the destroyed warship. However, the Imperials were caught completely off guard by a group of Atoan starfighters, mainly because the 501st failed to thoroughly sweep the area and thus fell into a trap. Regardless, superior technology, superb training and the leadership of a Sith Lord helped the 501st to turn the tide and defeat their ambushers. When a captured pilot revealed to Vader that Tarkin was held on an unknown world that was covered in tar-pits, Vader ordered Voca to assemble the 501st and prepare for a ground assault.
The rescue attempt ultimately proved to be costly effort. The planet's tar-pits made it almost impossible for the AT-AT Walkers to operate effectively. As a result, more than a few Walkers, including several 501st squads, were lost while trying to attack an Atoan city that was built to move like a ship on the tar-pits. The direct assault, however, was only meant to serve as a distraction so that Vader, Shale Lady Saro and a company of storm commandos could infiltrate the city and execute a stealth attack. Though they succeeded in capturing the bridge crew, they failed to retrieve Tarkin since the admiral was not in the city as they were led to believe.
Up until the botched attempt to rescue Tarkin on the tar-pit covered world, the 501st Legion suffered few casualties. But on Darth Vader's Star Destroyer, a mutiny broke out and caught the Imperials completely by surprise. Shale betrayed the Empire and incited the storm commandos to commit the ultimate act of treachery by attempting to assassinate Vader. Although Vader survived the attempt on his life, most of the ship's crew were not as fortunate. All of the officers were executed and many stormtroopers were killed by their mutinous clone brothers. Commander Voca and the troopers with him managed to survive long enough for Vader to assist them against the commandos.
After executing the last of the traitors on the Star Destroyer, Vader and his remaining troop were forced to evacuate the warship due to Shale's sabotage. Though they managed to escape before the vessel's destruction, their shuttle was severely damaged after crash landing on another unknown world in the Atoa system. Vader, Voca and eight stormtroopers survived the crash; the rest of the 501st soldiers were dead. The Imperials were then ambushed by a large force of Atoan insurgents. Outnumbered and exhausted, the 501st were utterly unprepared to defend themselves, thus forcing Vader to confront the enemy alone while Voca and his troops tried to escape to safety. Their path was cut off, however, by the traitor Shale and a group of insurgents. Shale half-halfheartedly apologized to the commander before ordering his men to execute the last soldiers of Darth Vader's lost command.
Despite the loss of Commander Voca and the two battalions of the 501st Legion, Darth Vader was ultimately able to complete his true mission for the Emperor, which was to assassinate Garoche Tarkin so that his father would grow to hate the Empire's enemies even more than he already did. At first, Vader was captured and rendered helpless. But his self-hatred and desperation strengthened the dark side of the Force within him, thus allowing him to break free and eventually kill Shale, Lady Saro and Garoche Tarkin, all of whom had betrayed him and the Empire. Though he nearly killed himself in the process, Emperor Palpatine was able to have Vader retrieved and repaired on Coruscant.
Another crucial mission took place a year after the Empire's rise. Queen Apailana of Naboo greatly disapproved of the Empire and its policies, including the systematic extermination of the Jedi Order. Thus, she secretly used her homeworld as a shelter for any Jedi fugitives that were seeking protection. As the Empire swiftly strengthened its rule over the galaxy, Queen Apailana broke off diplomatic ties in order to explore military options. In response to Naboo's act of defiance, the 501st Legion was dispatched to Naboo with orders to assassinate the queen, her bodyguards and any Jedi found on the planet.
As the 501st annihilated the security guards throughout Theed, Apailana tried to escape from the city while her remaining guards and Jedi protectors fought to defend her. Their efforts were in vain, however, and the 501st succeeded in assassinating the queen. With the opposition crushed and the capital secured, the 501st Legion's mission was a success and Naboo quickly fell back into line. It was the first time that the 501st was ordered to forcibly adjust a planet's government; similar missions would follow over the years.
Their track record for successful missions, combined with a fearsome reputation for brutal efficiency, earned the 501st Legion the nickname "Vader's Fist," not in the least because their primary commanding officer was Darth Vader. As the Sith Lord's personal legion of stormtroopers, the 501st executed many top-priority assignments over the years since the end of the Clone Wars. Hence, the 501st essentially became responsible for aiding the Sith Lords in building their empire throughout the first decade of the New Order.
Sometime after the Battle of Naboo, the 501st was sent to Mustafar to stop a droid rebellion led by the rogue Geonosian Gizor Dellso. When the Empire learned that Dellso discovered a hidden droid factory, the Geonosian fugitive had already reactivated the facility and produced a new army of battle droids. The 501st first had to fight his fleet before they were able to land on the planet. They also succeeded in taking back the plans for an experimental starfighter that Dellso had managed to steal from the Empire previously. On Mustafar, they destroyed numerous droids as well as Dellso's prototype droid schematics before confronting Dellso and his bodyguards. The troopers killed Dellso as well as his guards, then bombarded the planet from space.
In 12 BBY, a special detachment of the 501st Legion was dispatched to Kamino with orders to suppress and destroy a covert rebellion on Kamino. When the Empire discovered that a group of disgruntled Kaminoan scientists had taken it upon themselves to liberate their homeworld. Thus, they created the Anti-troopers, an army of clone soldiers created from the genetic template of Jango Fett. In addition to the Anti-troopers, a new generation of ARC troopers was engineered to bolster the strength of Kamino's new army. With Kamino's priceless cloning technology in danger of being lost to the Empire, the 501st was tasked with annihilating their renegade clone brothers in order to bring Kamino back into the Empire's fold. To better ensure the success of the mission, the 501st was placed under the command of the bounty hunter Boba Fett, an unaltered clone, who was hired to serve as the mission commander because of his knowledge regarding Tipoca City's inner workings.
The combined might of the Anti-troopers and ARC troopers was ultimately no match against Fett and the more experienced 501st stormtroopers. After completing several primary objectives such as retrieving Jango Fett's DNA, disabling the clone tanks' life-support systems to prevent the creation of more Anti-troopers and destroying a pair of LAAT/i gunships, the 501st crowded the remaining enemy clones onto the facility's platforms where they were all exterminated. Though they destroyed the entire rebellion at the cost of killing their own clone brethren, Emperor Palpatine no longer had any faith in the concept of an army created entirely from just one man. Hence, new genetic sources were introduced and resulted in stormtrooper clones that were not based on the Fett template. Not long afterward, the Stormtrooper Corps began recruiting real Humans into their ranks. As a result of the huge influx of different clones and enlisted troopers, the Fett clones were reduced as a small minority within the army that they once filled as a whole.
Stormtroopers of the 501st were also stationed at the ruins of the Jedi Temple at some point when Darth Vader's secret apprentice Starkiller arrived in search of the Great Holocron. Since the apprentice could not afford to be discovered by Emperor Palpatine, he was instructed by Vader to kill all who saw him. Thus, Starkiller eradicated a number of 501st troopers guarding the Temple in order to preserve the secrecy of his existence.
Galactic Civil War
- "For months we had treated the Rebellion like a disobedient child, only to have our tolerance repaid with treachery on in unimaginable scale."
- ―Entry from the Journal of the 501st
In 0 BBY, the 501st would have their first encounter with the Rebel Alliance. A group of prisoners on the Death Star, led by a captured Jedi, rebelled and stole a set of schematics for the superweapon. The 501st managed to put down the brief insurrection, recaptured the set of the plans, and killed the Jedi.
The 501st soon learned that the plans they thought they had recovered was a decoy. They followed Vader around the galaxy, trying desperately to get back the lost plans. Following a battle on Polis Massa in which the Rebellion put up a much greater fight than expected, the 501st once again thought that they had recovered the plans. Much to Vader's displeasure, they learned that it was once again a decoy from the Alliance. They then learned that Princess Leia Organa had the plans. With that information, the Star Destroyer Devastator followed the Tantive IV, Organa's ship. Above the Outer Rim planet of Tatooine, the Devastator managed to disable the corvette. The 501st then stormed the ship, and stunned Organa, but failed to locate the plans, as an escape pod containing them had been jettisoned.
Though some troopers were by now tired of this chase, they were not so foolish as to voice their complaints, and suspected that soon this pursuit would be over. The unit believed that Organa would cave in to Vader's methods of persuasion, and inform him of all the Alliance's secrets. However, she refused to divulge any secrets, even under torture.
Meanwhile, the 501st was stationed onboard the Death Star. Much to their displeasure, Organa was able to escape from her cell with the help of several Rebels who managed to infiltrate the Death Star. The Alliance finally received the plans, and was able to discover a weak spot in the battlestation's defenses—an unshielded thermal exhaust port located on the surface. Unfortunately for the Alliance, the Empire had finally discerned the location of the Rebellion's secret base—the moon Yavin 4. Taking the Death Star to the Yavin system, the Empire expected to finally emerge victorious. However, in the subsequent battle, the Rebel Alliance was able to destroy the Death Star. Around two thirds of the men of the 501st died in the explosion. In response, the remnants of the 501st joined the Empire's blockade of Yavin 4. The legion managed to destroy a number of capital ships and starfighters in space before landing on the surface. There, they managed to kill three Bothans who were among the Alliance leadership. Still, the 501st was furious, as they felt like they had overlooked the Rebellion, only to pay for it with the lives of millions. The men were determined to end this threat once and for all.
In 0.5 ABY, the unit was sent to Makrin City along with Vader on a mission to capture Leia Organa and arrest Governor Barshnis Choard for high treason. Though Organa escaped with the help of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and five rogue stormtroopers, Choard was arrested and taken into custody.
In 3 ABY, the 501st took part in the Battle of Hoth along with Blizzard Force. The unit destroyed the Alliance's shield generator, and placed a homing beacon under the last Rebel transport, allowing several Star Destroyers to bombard the planet, decimating the transport and killing a number of Rebels. Overall, the battle was an Imperial rout. The 501st believed they had finally ended the Rebel Alliance threat, calling this battle their finest hour. However, a year later at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance destroyed the second Death Star with Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader onboard. The Empire, and the 501st, was in shambles.
Fall of the Empire and rebirth
- "Many years ago Thrawn told us that if he was ever reported dead we should keep at our labors here and in the Unknown Regions, and to look for his return ten years afterward."
- ―Voss Parck
After the fall of the Empire, the squabbling of numerous Imperial warlords caused the 501st Legion to be dissolved and its soldiers assigned to other units. Upon assuming command of the Imperial military in 9 ABY, Grand Admiral Thrawn reconstituted the 501st Legion, knowing the symbolism of the legion's name and reputation. Thrawn assigned the new 501st to protect the Empire of the Hand in the Unknown Regions while he attempted to restore the galaxy under Imperial rule.
The Chiss also took the step of incorporating non-Humans into the 501st, something that would have been considered unthinkable under Palpatine. As reformed, the most basic unit in the 501st was a squad of four troopers, capable of acting as a fire team within a larger force, but also able to serve as a self-supporting commando team on special missions. Also as a result of the Empire's collapse and Thrawn's reforms, the new 501st Legion was no longer composed by a super majority of Jango Fett's clones. As with the rest of the Stormtrooper Corps, the ranks of the 501st became dominated by enlisted troopers, Human and non-Human alike.
In 22 ABY, the 501st Legion's Unit Aurek-Seven helped Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker explore the crashed ship Outbound Flight. With the aid of the stormtroopers and Chak Fel, the son of Baron Soontir Fel, the Jedi were able to defeat the alien Vagaari. The 501st's service to the Empire of the Hand was short-lived, however, when the fledgling state was dissolved and its territories annexed to the Chiss Ascendancy. Despite the fall of Thrawn's Empire, the 501st Legion continued to exist as a military unit under the new Empire, a successor-state to the former Galactic Empire.
The inclusion of non-Humans into the 501st intensified over the years, thus necessitating the creation of specialized armor was created for certain species. Further reforms also enabled females to serve as stormtroopers in the 501st as well. By the year 130 ABY, the 501st Legion was still an active unit in the Empire, at the time ruled by Emperor Roan Fel. In the same year, the Empire succeeded in reconquering most of the known galaxy after defeating the Galactic Alliance in the Sith–Imperial War. However, the resurgent Galactic Empire experienced a regime change when Fel was deposed and forced into exile by a Sith coup d'état. When Darth Krayt declared himself the new Emperor of the galaxy, the 501st Legion continued its service under the Empire's new sovereign.
In the year 137 ABY, the 501st was stationed on Bastion under the command of General Oron Jaeger. After spending nearly a decade hiding from Krayt's forces, the fugitive emperor, Roan Fel, returned to Bastion with the goal of using the former Imperial Capital as his base of operations. Although Lieutenant Kiefer remained staunchly loyal to Darth Krayt, Fel gave an impassioned plea to Bastion's military garrison, urging the soldiers to serve him once again. To Kiefer's surprise, the stormtroopers of the 501st Legion knelt before the deposed monarch, thus signaling their switch of allegiance from Krayt to Fel. Kiefer, outraged by the 501st's betrayal, declared for Krayt and attempted to execute Fel on the spot—only to be fatally shot in the back by mutinous stormtroopers. General Jaeger personally welcomed Roan Fel and committed the 501st Legion to his cause.
With Bastion secured as the center of the so-called "True Empire," the 501st Legion remained on the planet and served as the exiled emperor's praetorian guard throughout the duration of the Second Imperial Civil War. Roughly a year later, Darth Krayt perished in the Battle of Coruscant and his Galactic Empire ceased to exist by 138 ABY. However, Roan Fel died in the same battle as well. With both emperors dead, the Galactic Federation Triumvirate was formed to establish a new form of rule over the known galaxy. The Triumvirs consisted of Admiral Gar Stazi, Jedi Master K'Kruhk and Roan Fel's successor—Empress Marasiah Fel.
A number of troopers fought in the 501st over the years. Originally an ordinary unit, the 501st, under the direction of Chancellor Palpatine, developed into an elite squad. Following the rise of the Empire, the unit became Darth Vader's personal legion, receiving the nickname "Vader's Fist". The members of the legion gained a reputation for being ruthless and efficient. Following the Battle of Endor, non-Humans were eventually integrated into the legion, and a number of reforms took place.
- "If we can't stop them, then we delay them as long as we can, and after that we make sure they have to crawl over our bodies. It's been an honor, gentlemen."
- ―Rex, to Torrent Company, during the Battle of Teth
CT-7567, nicknamed Rex, was the gruff, no-nonsense leader of the 501st Legion and Torrent Company during the early stages of the Clone Wars. His abilities of leadership and confidence were spotted early by the Kaminoan cloners, and he went through additional rigorous training in a variety of tactics and fighting styles to enhance his abilities, emerging to eventually hold the reputation as one of the toughest clones in the galaxy. Having displayed himself in battle, he wore honorific Mandalorian Jaig eyes on his helmet with his customized armor. Serving directly under Anakin Skywalker, he adopted the Jedi's tendencies for unorthodox combat strategies and tactics. He led the 501st in many battles, including ones at Christophsis, Teth, Bothawui, JanFathal, Quell, and Kothlis. Rex cared greatly for his men, and was always on the look for clones that showed grit under fire for consideration as potential 501st recruits.
- "Agent Devis said to come back for you, sir. An officer's missus always outranks him, so she's like a commodore. And she's in my face."
- ―Coric, to Rex
Coric was a clone trooper trained in both combat and the medical field. Serving in the 501st Legion's Torrent Company, he used his talents to treat injured troops during the Battle of Christophsis, manning the Republic's temporary medical station in Crystal City. The sergeant led a squad at the following Battle of Teth, which saw him emerge as one of the few Torrent Company survivors alongside Captain Rex and five other clones. Coric once again served with Rex on JanFathal, flying the shuttle that the Republic task force used to extract Intelligence Agent Hallena Devis from the world and escape to Captain Gilad Pellaeon's Leveler. During the flight back, the sergeant employed his medical skills to help the injured Ince, but the trooper died shortly after returning to Leveler. Coric expressed a dry humor, even in the direst situations, much like Rex himself.
- "I was rather fond of Commander Appo."
- ―Darth Vader, on Appo's death
CC-1119, or Appo, was in command of the 501st by 19 BBY. He had trained under the Alpha-class Advanced Recon Commando Alpha-17. Before rising to the rank of commander of the 501st Legion, Appo served as a sergeant in the ranks of the 501st during the Republic campaign on Umbara. When Order 66 was put into effect in 19 BBY, Appo participated with the rest of the 501st in Operation: Knightfall—the utter destruction of the Jedi Temple and the massacre of its occupants. During this mission, he led the legion under the command of the newly-anointed Sith Lord Darth Vader. While the operation was still being carried out, Appo was injured by the Padawan Zett Jukassa, who attacked a group of clones, including Appo, as they barred Senator Bail Prestor Organa from entering. However, Jukassa was killed by Fox, and Appo survived to continue leading the 501st under the orders of Vader. Appo and his men later helped Vader defeat several Jedi at the Kessel conclave, and would follow Vader to Murkhana. Following a confrontation with several rebellious clones there, Appo and his men accompanied Vader to Alderaan in hopes of arresting Senator Fang Zar for treason. On Alderaan, Vader was able to fatally injure Zar as he tried to flee, and the Dark Lord then led his men to Kashyyyk. Appo was killed by Roan Shryne on Kashyyyk, although Vader then finished off the Jedi while the forests of Kashyyyk burned from Imperial bombardment.
- "Don't worry about him; let him go!"
- ―Fox, ordering his men to cease firing at Bail Organa
CT-0000/1010, also known as Fox, was a sergeant by the time of Order 66. Stationed on Coruscant, he helped establish patrols in the Coruscant underworld to locate terrorists. Fox also knew of the Mandalorian Journeyman Protectors on Concord Dawn, and wished to become one at some point. In 19 BBY, Fox was a member of the squad that stormed the Jedi Temple under the command of Lord Vader, and helped guard the the Council Towers' hangar complex. When Senator Organa arrived during this incident, asking to speak to the Jedi Council and demanding to know what had happened, Appo insisted he leave. When the Padawan Zett Jukassa suddenly attacked the clones, Fox shot and killed him. He then ordered his men to let Organa leave unharmed as the senator fled away in his airspeeder.
Retired clone trooper
- "After the Kamino uprising, the Emperor decided an army of genetically identical clones was too susceptible to corruption. Future clones would be bred from a variety of templates. Though the 501st itself remained pure, gradually, the rest of the Imperial Army became more and more diverse. We never really got used to the new guys."
- ―Entry from the Journal of the 501st, composed by the retired clone trooper
This man composed a journal of his thoughts during some of the most well-known battles in which he fought during his decades in the 501st. A clone of Jango Fett, he was a member of the 501st from its formation, and took part in the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War. This trooper recorded entries on the battles of Mygeeto, Felucia, Coruscant, Kashyyyk, Utapau, Naboo, Mustafar, Kamino, Polis Massa, the Death Star, Tantive IV, Yavin, and Hoth.
- "Holding her is dangerous. If word of this gets out, it could generate sympathy for the Rebellion in the Senate."
- ―Daine Jir, to Darth Vader, referring to Leia Organa
Daine Jir was a member of the 501st by 0 BBY. Jir was known as a dedicated, competent officer who was unafraid to speak his mind, even to Darth Vader, a man who normally tolerated no dissent among his soldiers. However, it was said that the Dark Lord appreciated Jir's honesty and even respected Jir. In 0 BBY, Jir helped lead the attack on the Tantive IV above Tatooine. There, the 501st was able to capture Leia Organa, and turn her over to Vader for questioning. Jir warned Vader that holding Organa could be dangerous; if the Senate learned that the Empire had taken one of its own into custody, it could create controversy and even support for the Alliance. However, Vader was unconcerned and ordered Jir to destroy the Tantive IV and then send a distress signal claiming the ship had been hit by meteorites.
Su-mil was an Eickarie member of the 501st from Kariek. Originally a freedom fighter on his planet, he participated in the Battle of Kariek in 22 ABY, in an effort to liberate his planet from the control of The Warlord. Fighting alongside the 501st, the Eickaries were able to defeat the Warlord. Impressed with the efforts of Su-mil, the trooper Jorm Whistler Mackenni offered him a position in the squad. Su-mil accepted, and took the name Grappler. A member of Unit Aurek-Seven following Mackenni's retirement, he participated in the Battle of the Redoubt against the Vagaari.
- "General Oron Jaeger, 501st, commander on Bastion."
- ―Oron Jaeger
Oron Jaeger was the commander of the 501st in 137 ABY. Jaeger was injured during the Battle of Corulag, and was fitted with cybernetic implants during his surgery. The implants made him a cyborg and allowed him to perform various complex tasks at once, such as monitoring communications. Jaeger remained loyal to Emperor Roan Fel after he was overthrown by the One Sith in 130 ABY, although he did not rebel against Darth Krayt's new government, feigning loyalty until Fel arrived on Bastion and succeeded in taking the planet back from Krayt's supporters. When Lieutenant Kiefer—who was loyal to Krayt—attempted to kill Fel, Jaeger shot and killed him.
Behind the scenes
The 501st Legion was first canonized in 2004 by the novel Survivor's Quest and e-book Fool's Bargain, both written by Timothy Zahn and released simultaneously. This was a reference to the fan organization known as the 501st Legion charity group. Formed by Albin Johnson and Tom Crews in 1997, it was originally composed of members who wore stormtrooper costumes, and has since expanded to include all trooper variations, as well as Sith Lords, bounty hunters, and other villains from the series. It boasts over 3,500 members in 40 countries. The 501st Legion helps coordinate volunteers at Celebration, the official Star Wars convention. The group also has the nickname "Vader's Fist," which was subsequently also made the in-universe designation for the legion. The honorary leader is David Prowse, the actor who physically portrayed Darth Vader in the original trilogy.
In Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Heroes and Villains, the 501st Legion is referred to as the 501st Battalion.
In a further tribute to the real-life organization, the legion of blue clone troopers led by Darth Vader into the Jedi Temple in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was designated the 501st. Although this name was not mentioned in the film itself, much of the support material and merchandising for the film make this reference, including the video game Star Wars: Battlefront II, which first gave backstory to the legion.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition
- "Sir, a squad of stormtroopers from the 501st Legion have breached the corridor ahead."
- ―Lietuenant Marsen, to Lord Starkiller
The video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition features an alternate timeline that follows the non-canonical dark side ending of The Force Unleashed. The game features a different take on the Battle of Hoth, although the 501st Legion is still deployed to the planet Hoth just as they had been in the canonical version of the battle. After infiltrating Echo Base, a squad of 501st snowtroopers are ambushed by Rebel troopers in one of the corridors near the main hangar.
At the same time, Lord Starkiller—Emperor Palpatine's Sith apprentice and successor of the late Darth Vader—is proceeding to the hangar as well. Along the way, his liaison, Lieutenant Marsen, informs Starkiller via comlink about the 501st's predicament. Starkiller aids the troopers by killing all of the insurgents and wampas in the area. The Imperial soldiers then attack the remaining Rebels in the hangar while the Dark Lord of the Sith confronts his former Master's son, a pseudo-Jedi named Luke Skywalker.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game
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- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: The Ultimate Sith Edition