- "My name is Rex. Captain. 501st clone battalion."
- ―CT-7567 remembers his service
The 501st Legion, also known as the 501st Battalion, and later known as "Vader's Fist," was an elite military division of the Grand Army of the Republic. Consisting of highly-trained clone troopers engineered by Kaminoan cloners, the 501st served under the command of the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker throughout the Clone Wars. It was deployed to numerous contested planets across the galaxy during the conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, including Christophsis, Geonosis and Umbara. Command of the legion was temporarily reassigned to Jedi General Pong Krell, whom the 501st mutinied against after learning of his fall to the dark side of the Force. As the war progressed, CT-5555—an Advanced Recon Commando who served in the 501st—uncovered a plot to destroy the Jedi Order, but was killed by CC-1010 of the Coruscant Guard before he could prove it.
Although the 501st faithfully served both the Republic and the Jedi, the clone troopers were compelled by their programming to execute Order 66, a secret protocol designed to force the clones into killing their Jedi officers. As such, the 501st marched on the Jedi Temple of Coruscant and, with the aid of Skywalker—now appointed as the Sith Lord Darth Vader—proceeded to purge its inhabitants, including Padawans and younglings. Afterward, the 501st gained the nickname "Vader's Fist" and continued to serve as his personal stormtrooper legion under the new regime of the Galactic Empire. Approximately two decades after the proclamation of the New Order, the 501st fought the Rebel Alliance at the Battle of Hoth in 3 ABY. By then, the Imperial Military had supplanted its clone units with birth-born human recruits.
The 501st Legion was composed of clone troopers that had been engineered as part of an army to serve the Galactic Republic. It was divided into multiple sub-units such as Torrent Company, which served in the first battle of the Clone Wars—the galaxy-wide civil war between the Republic and Separatist Alliance—under the leadership of Clone Captain CT-7567 ("Rex"). Following the Republic victory on Geonosis, the 501st was deployed to the front lines as part of the newly-formed Grand Army of the Republic.
- "You're exactly the kind of men I need in the Five Hundred and First."
- ―CT-7567, drafting CT-1409 and CT-5555 into the 501st Legion
The Jedi Order, guardians of peace and justice, accepted a commission as leaders of the Republic military. As a result, the 501st was placed under the command of Anakin Skywalker—recently promoted Jedi Knight and General of the Grand Army—with Captain Rex serving as his first officer. During the Battle of Christophsis, Ahsoka Tano became apprentice to Skywalker, and therefore served as a Jedi commander in the 501st. After securing victory alongside the 212th Attack Battalion on Christophsis, the 501st was redirected to the planet Teth with orders to rescue Rotta, son of the Hutt crime lord Jabba Desilijic Tiure. They sustained heavy losses against the Separatist Droid Army, but ultimately prevailed in the Battle of Teth with the support of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and the 212th.
Skywalker's legion continued to serve the Republic over the course of the war, completing a variety of assignments and gaining new troopers—such as CT-1409 ("Echo") and CT-5555 ("Fives")—deemed worthy of serving in the ranks of the elite 501st. As Skywalker often worked alongside his mentor, Kenobi, the 501st also served with the 212th on several missions, including the voyage of Duchess Satine Kryze from Mandalore to Coruscant. The Death Watch, a terrorist organization opposed to Kryze's government, failed to assassinate the duchess before she could reach the galactic capital due to the combined efforts of the 501st and 212th. Later, a detachment of the 501st was sent to Naboo along with a squad of clone ordnance specialists where they ultimately prevented Doctor Nuvo Vindi's plan to attack the population through biological warfare.
Following the theft of a holocron from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, the 501st's Carnivore Battalion was sent on a mission to Devaron in order to retrieve the artifact from Cad Bane. In the ensuing battle between the Republic and Separatist forces, the battalion manned the All Terrain Tactical Enforcer, designated 773, alongside two other brigades. The bounty hunter was presumed to have died in the battle, but in fact survived by disguising himself with the clone armor of the 501st trooper Denal.
Battle of KaminoEdit
- "Echo, Fives, you're both officially being made ARC troopers."
- ―CC-2224, to CT-1409 and CT-5555
When the Separatists plotted to deal the Republic a crippling blow by destroying the cloning facilities of Kamino, the 501st and 212th rushed to the defense of their homeworld. The Battle of Kamino was a hard-fought victory for the Republic, due in part to the actions of the 501st. In particular, the troopers Echo and Fives were recognized for their service by Captain Rex, as well as CC-2224 ("Cody") of the 212th, and were both promoted to the elite status of ARC trooper in the aftermath of the battle. Afterward, Rex and the new ARC troopers of the 501st were sent with Skywalker and Kenobi to infiltrate the Citadel. Though succeeded in reacquiring the information pertaining to the Nexus Route from General Even Piell and his captain, Wilhuff Tarkin, the group lost Echo, who survived but was presumed dead, in addition to several other casualties.
Battle of UmbaraEdit
- "Remember, General Krell, the entire invasion depends on your battalion."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, to Pong Krell
The 501st was along the battalions that the Republic deployed to reconquer Umbara from the Separatist Alliance. During the campaign, Skywalker was recalled to Coruscant by the Jedi High Council at the request of Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, leaving the 501st under the command of Jedi General Pong Krell. Although he was a recognized war hero with a distinguished record of service, Krell became a Separatist spy after turning to the dark side of the Force. He deliberately sabotaged his own strategies to undermine the clones, whom he regarded with contempt and disgust.
Krell's betrayal was exposed after deceiving the 501st and 212th into fighting each other, causing clones on both sides to kill each other by mistake. Both battalions mutinied against his command, causing the fallen Jedi to slaughter many clones before he fell into captivity. In response to his actions, Krell was summarily executed by his most loyal soldier, "Dogma," who was subsequently taken into Republic custody for killing an officer.
Conspiracy of Order 66Edit
- "There's been a rebellion, sir. Don't worry. The situation is under control. […] I'm sorry, sir. It's time for you to leave."
- ―Appo, to Bail Organa
During the Battle of Ringo Vinda, the 501st was forced to retreat from the Separatists due to an unexpected development: CT-5385 ("Tup") killed Jedi General Tiplar. Suffering from a malfunction in his inhibitor chip, the trooper became hostile towards the Jedi, which in turn led to a premature execution of Order 66—a clone protocol designed to turn the clone army against their Jedi officers in the event of a Jedi rebellion. This turn of events led to an investigation on Kamino, but later moved to Coruscant at Chancellor Palpatine's request. By then, ARC trooper Fives had partially uncovered the nature of the inhibitor chips and, believing they were a threat to the security of the Grand Army, requested their immediate removal from the brains of every clone trooper. However, the Chancellor revealed his knowledge of the chips and their true purpose to Fives, causing the clone to become a fugitive after attempting to assassinate Palpatine. The rogue clone made an effort to expose Palpatine's conspiracy, but was killed by CC-1010 ("Fox") of the Coruscant Guard before he could prove his claims.
In 19 BBY, approximately three standard years since the start of the Clone Wars, the conspiracy that Fives discovered came to fruition with the mass execution of Order 66, leading the Grand Army to betray their Jedi leaders. Palpatine, who had orchestrated the Clone Wars as Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith, utilized the clone army as the instrument of both the fall of the Jedi Order and the Sith's rise to absolute power. Aiding the Dark Lord in the initial phase of the Jedi Purge was Anakin Skywalker, now anointed in the dark side as the Sith Lord Darth Vader. Sidious' new apprentice was tasked with leading the 501st Legion in a direct attack on the Jedi Temple, resulting in the deaths of its inhabitants while thousands of Jedi were killed by their troops across the galaxy. By then, the 501st served under Clone Commander "Appo," who was originally a clone sergeant during the invasion of Umbara, in addition to Vader. The commander was severely injured by Padawan Zett Jukassa before the latter was killed by a squad of 501st troopers, an incident witnessed by Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan.
Galactic Civil WarEdit
- "Those aren't just stormtroopers. They're from the Five-Oh-First Legion. Darth Vader's personal legion."
- ―Everi Chalis
In the aftermath of Order 66, Sidious consolidated his power as Emperor of the First Galactic Empire. The new regime retained the Grand Army as the first generation of Imperial stormtroopers with the 501st Legion remaining under Vader's personal command. Over the course of the Empire's reign, the 501st acquired the nickname "Vader's Fist" due to their association with the Emperor's chief enforcer. By the time of the Galactic Civil War, the legion was deployed against the forces of the Rebel Alliance, ultimately serving in the Battle of Hoth three years after the Battle of Yavin.
Although the 501st went on to serve the Republic's successor, Captain Rex chose to oppose the Empire having never executed Order 66 due to the removal of his chip prior to the event. After spending years in retirement, the aging clone veteran contributed his skills and experience to the fledgling rebellion that culminated in the formation of an alliance to restore the Republic.
The 501st Legion utilized the Phase I clone trooper armor during the early period of the Clone Wars, from the first battle on Geonosis until the introduction of the Phase II model by the time of the Battle of Mon Cala. On certain occasions Rex and other members of the 501st made use of jetpacks for aerial transportation and greater mobility.
In general, the 501st maintained the appearance of the standard clone trooper as designed on Kamino. However, Captain Rex became part of a growing trend of clone officers who customized their uniforms with unique color-based designs and supplementary pieces of armor. By the time of the Battle of Christophsis, Rex wore his armor with blue markings, a command pauldron, and a kama. Over time more troopers of the 501st came to customize their own kit, also using blue as a complementary color to the standard white.
As the war continued, Phase II clone trooper armor became widespread within the ranks of the Grand Army, supplanting the Phase I model. When the 501st upgraded their armor, they adopted a common color scheme and markings that identified their unit affiliation. Nevertheless, some clones—such as Rex, the ARC troopers, and even common soldiers—retained their own unique designs that differed from the rest of the 501st.
Behind the scenesEdit
"501st Legion" is also the name of a fan costuming organization formed in 1997 by Albin Johnson and Tom Crews. The group originally intended to re-create accurate stormtrooper costumes, but has expanded to include Sith Lords, bounty hunters and other villains from the film series, encompassing EU source material as well as canonical ones. The group goes under the nickname, "Vader's Fist", and was the inspiration for George Lucas to add the organization into official Star Wars canon. The group actively does charity and volunteer work for a number of organizations, and currently consists of over 10,000 members worldwide.
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