- "This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kenobi; it will soon see the end of the Rebellion."
- ―Darth Vader
The Battle of Yavin, also known as the Battle of the Death Star, was a major battle of the Galactic Civil War that led to the destruction of the first Death Star and Luke Skywalker's first step to becoming a fully-fledged Jedi. It was one of the Rebellion's first major victories.
- "Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they’ve obtained."
- ―Conan Motti
With the imminent completion of the Death Star the Alliance anticipated a major Imperial offensive against them and the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser Independence carried members of the Alliance High Command to Yavin IV to coordinate the Alliance's defense. Upon arrival the Independence sent Red, Gold and Blue Squadrons to Yavin Base. There they were augmented by veteran pilots as the Alliance gathered its resources in preparation for the coming battle.
The plans for the battle were completed after the crew and passengers of the Millennium Falcon seemingly successfully rescued Princess Leia Organa from the Death Star, along with detailed technical plans of the massive space station. Obi-Wan Kenobi had confronted Darth Vader and sacrificed himself so the party could escape with the plans and deliver them to Alliance command.
However, as Leia suspected, they were actually allowed to escape by the Empire so as to lead the Empire to the main Rebel base on the fourth moon of Yavin.
Studying the plans provided by R2-D2, the Rebels learned that the station had a small exhaust port which led to the main reactor, allowing a proton torpedo to reach the main reactor and destroy the station. However, the port was only 2 meters wide and situated in a narrow trench protected by turbolaser batteries. The trench would have to be navigated to allow the Rebel targeting system to lock on to the port, in a climactic portion of the battle called 'Trench Run'. There was little confidence that the weakness could be exploited in such conditions.
- "Lock S-foils in attack position."
- ―Garven Dreis
The Death Star arrived in system escorted by a small support fleet consisting of the Nebulon-B frigate Divad and two CR90 corvettes BB 45 and SB 35. While the Death Star prepared to fire its main weapon, a communications satellite was deployed to coordinate defenses. The Rebels, still planning their attack, knew that any delay to the Death Star's approach could spell the difference between victory and defeat. Therefore they planned a small attack to destroy the communications satellite and disrupt operations. A trio of X-wings, including Keyan Farlander, and a pair of R-22 Spearheads were dispatched to destroy the comsat. While Farlander's wingmen held off Imperial fighters, Farlander ignored the threat and headed straight for the satellite, destroying it with a proton torpedo. The mission was a success, preventing the Empire calling for reinforcements and disrupting their defenses, although two of the Rebel X-wings were shot down and the pilots had to be rescued later.
Farlander was quickly dispatched again in one of two X-wings charged with clearing some of the defenses around the trench. They succeeded in destroying several laser batteries as well as some small surface hangars, limiting the Death Star's ability to launch fighters for the cost of another X-wing.
The Trench Run
- "Evacuate?! In our moment of triumph?! I think you overestimate their chances!"
- ―Wilhuff Tarkin
- "I have you now!"
- ―Darth Vader
Following the preliminary attacks, a fleet of 22 X-wing, 8 Y-wing, and 2 R22 Spearhead starfighters scrambled to assault the station. The Death Star attempted to use its batteries to defend itself, but the defenses were designed primarily to fight off capital ships, not the small and agile Rebel starfighters. Ships destroyed several turrets and a rookie hotshot known as Rookie One destroyed a giant ion cannon mounted on the Station, in order to set the stage for the main phase of the assault.
The station commander, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, dismissed the attack as futile and refused to deploy the station's vast TIE squadrons. But Darth Vader, realizing the threat this force was, ordered his personal fighter squadron to scramble on his own authority. The TIE Fighter squadrons attacked the Rebel forces soon after they realized that their laser batteries were failing. An order was passed on, to stop all turbolasers from firing, letting the TIEs do the job, and to avoid the risk of Imperial fighters being shot down by friendly fire.
The rebels attempted three bombing attacks during the Trench Run. The first was carried out by three Y-Wings; the second by three X-wings. All proved unsuccessful as Darth Vader and his wingmen picked off the fighters one by one. A third run lead by Luke Skywalker also consisted of three X-Wings. One of his squad was damaged and forced to pull out; a second was shot down.
To the Rebel Command, all seemed hopeless; the Death Star had reached firing position, almost all the fighters were lost and the remaining pilot able to make the run, with Skywalker having senselessly deactivated his targeting computer. Skywalker, however, was advised by the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi to use the Force to make the seemingly impossible shot.
Vader, sensing that the last pilot was strong in the Force, prepared to kill him. However, at the last moment, Han Solo and Chewbacca of the Millennium Falcon surprised Darth Vader and with a laser blast destroyed one of his wingmen. In the confusion, the other wingman panicked and collided with Vader's fighter, sending him careening out of control and into space. Luke made the shot, and with the Force aiding him, his torpedoes entered the port perfectly. The Death Star exploded just seconds before its main gun would have destroyed Yavin 4. Grand Moff Tarkin and most of his staff were killed in the explosion. The Rebel Alliance had won a spectacular victory.
- "Great shot, kid! That was one in a million!"
- ―Han Solo
As a result of this battle, the Rebel Alliance gained credibility as a legitimate military opponent to the Empire. Between the effects of the battle and the dissolution of the Imperial Senate, thousands of star systems openly joined the Alliance in the months following the Death Star's destruction. As a result, the Empire began occupying worlds it had allowed to remain untouched earlier, both actions resulting in an escalation of the war.
A few months after the Battle of Yavin, the Empire launched a number of small raids at the Yavin moon, in an attempt to destroy the Core Group of the Rebellion.
These raids were carried out by small TIE squadrons launched from a small base near the Yavin system. They often maintained reconnaissance patrols rather than retaliatory attacks. The Rebel Alliance still had to evacuate Yavin 4 to escape retaliation from the Imperial Starfleet and eventually settled on Hoth. The last raid carried out by the Empire was a crushing assault consisting of a planetary blockade and large number of troops, TIE Fighters and AT-STs. General Jan Dodonna, mastermind of Yavin's defense, was not able to escape and was captured by Imperial forces and later imprisoned.
The newly launched Executor was dispatched to destroy the Rebel fleet. But Admiral Griff's squadron of Star Destroyers came out of lightspeed and collided with the Executor. By the time the crew regained control, the last Rebel ship jumped into hyperspace.
However, due to the significance of the destruction of the Death Star, the loss of millions of Imperial personnel and its significance in the eventual overthrow of the Empire, the Council set year 0 as the year when the Battle of Yavin happened; therefore they established the BBY/ABY calendar.
32 Rebel starfighters launched from Yavin IV. The whole fleet was comprised of Red, Gold, Blue Squadrons and one other squadron. The known pilots assigned to them are:
- Red Squadron (12 T-65 X-wings):
- Gold Squadron (BTL Y-wings):
- Blue Squadron (T-65 X-wings, R-22 Spearhead)
- Unknown squadron (possibly Green Squadron)
- pilots unknown (T-65 X-wings, BTL Y-wings)
- Other pilots (squadrons unknown):
Casualties and Survivors
- The Alliance's desperate assault on the Death Star was successful, but costly. Of the twelve members of Red Squadron, only two -- Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles -- survived the assault. All members of Gold Squadron except Keyan Farlander were reportedly killed as well. While a number of other pilots also survived the assault, casualties were extremely high.
- Commander Hamo Blastwell was presumed dead by other pilots following the battle, but was officially listed as missing in action. Blastwell had in fact survived, as later reports placed him working as an undercover agent for the Alliance, posing as an Imperial officer.
- A number of other Rebels stationed at Yavin 4 were either unable or unwilling to participate in the battle. Both Jal Te Gniev and Derek Klivian were grounded due to illness. Wes Janson would have joined the pilots at Yavin 4 some time before the battle, but stayed behind at his previous assignment due to illness. His replacement, Jek Porkins, was killed in the battle. Tyler Lucian fled Yavin 4 prior to the Death Star's impending arrival, fearing for his life.
- A Rebel Sullustan named Dr'uun Unnh was killed on the ground by a downed TIE Fighter that crashed into the jungle during the battle.
- All personnel onboard the Death Star were killed when the station exploded, including Tarkin, General Cassio Tagge, Admiral Conan Antonio Motti and other high ranking officers on Tarkin's staff. Thousands of other officers, troops and staff were killed as well.
- Nearly all Imperial fighter pilots involved in the battle itself were killed. Exceptions included Darth Vader, whose fighter was sent hurtling off into space, and a TIE Fighter pilot named Qorl, who crashed on the surface of Yavin 4. Qorl would survive alone in the jungles for decades before being discovered by students from Luke Skywalker's Jedi Praxeum.
- Maximilian Veers was on his way to report to the Death Star for his new assignment when the battle began. His command shuttle was attacked and crash landed on Yavin 4. He was rescued by Imperial forces some time after the battle.
- About half of the 501st Legion were still onboard the Death Star when it was destroyed. Another third got killed when their ships were destroyed by the explosion
Behind the scenes
The battle is based heavily on the battle scenes in the British war film The Dam Busters.
In the novelization of the film, Luke Skywalker's X-wing squadron is called "Blue Squadron" (this change was necessitated because the blue paint on the X-wings had to be removed for blue screen purposes), while the Y-wing squadron is called "Red Squadron". In the film, these colors are changed to Red and Gold, respectively.
The Farlander Papers reveals that Keyan Farlander is the pilot of the Y-wing fighter seen leaving the Death Star alongside Luke, Wedge and the Millennium Falcon, though some illustrations do depict more than one Y-wing among the surviving Rebel ships as the Death Star detonates.
Since the additions of retcons and elements from EU video games, it seems that the events shown in the film are actually a very limited portion of the 'actual' battle. The movie describes the battle only from the point of view of some members of Red Squadron and Gold Squadron, though that only covers some of the thirty ships mentioned and seen in the film.
These sources also suggest that the Rebels had to pass through Imperial forces before reaching the Death Star. Rebel Assault showed the Death Star was orbited by a Star Destroyer from which a TIE Fighter wave was launched. X-wing showed other Imperial vessels as well like Divad.
The novelization also mentions two additional squadrons -- Yellow and Green -- providing cover to those we see in the film. Though these other squadrons are not seen in the film, the number of fighters shown does suggest more than two squadrons.
A Blue Squadron at Yavin 4 is mentioned in X-wing: The Official Strategy Guide. Blue Squadron actually appears in the game Rebel Assault, though the specific details from that game (the player's character from Blue destroying the Death Star) are not canonical. The characters from that game do appear in Rebel Assault II, the storyline of which has been referred to in sources that are considered to be canon.
The fourth squadron has not been referenced in any other source besides the novelization and has not been named. Fans have speculated that the fourth squadron mentioned above could be named Green Squadron, since every other color used in the novelization has been used in other incarnations (assuming "Yellow" is just a substitute for Gold). This has not been officially established.
Though the film only shows us three surviving fighters, X-wing and Rebel Assault both show others flying away from the exploding Death Star. On StarWars.com's Q&A pages, Steve Sansweet says, it's "pretty definite" that more ships survived and just aren't visible on screen.
A-wings are shown taking part in the Battle of Yavin in X-wing and Rebel Assault, though other sources indicate the fighters were introduced some time after the battle. The A-wings in these games have been retconned into R-22 Spearheads, a forerunner of the later vessel, only nicknamed "A-wing". Writers created the Spearhead to specifically resolve this discrepancy, and the A-wing's appearance in Droids. Inside the Worlds of Star Wars shows an R-22 in the Rebel base shortly before the battle.
- Star Wars Empire: Darklighter
- X-wing Rogue Squadron ½ (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (novel) (First appearance)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- Tag & Bink Are Dead (Non-canonical appearance)
- Star Wars: Battlefront II (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars: Empire at War
- Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars: Rebel Assault
- Star Wars: X-wing
- Star Wars: Rebellion (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike
- Star Wars Empire 13: What Sin Loyalty?
- Star Wars Empire 14: The Savage Heart
- Star Wars Empire: To the Last Man (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Empire 7: Sacrifice (Mentioned only)
- Priority: X (Mentioned only)
- Fair Prey (Mentioned only)
- To Fight Another Day (Mentioned only)
- Vader's Quest (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Empire 22: Alone Together (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Empire 19: Target: Vader (Mentioned only)
- Allegiance (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Empire: In the Shadows of Their Fathers (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Empire: The Wrong Side of the War (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Rebellion: My Brother, My Enemy (Mentioned only)
- River of Chaos (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine (Mentioned only)
- Splinter of the Mind's Eye (Mentioned only)
- Splinter of the Mind's Eye comic (Mentioned only)
- A Valentine Story (Mentioned only)
- Entrenched (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Mentioned in opening crawl; also mentioned in dialogue in the Special Edition)
- Lucky (Mentioned only)
- Before the Storm (Mentioned only)
- The New Essential Chronology
- The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- X-wing: The Official Strategy Guide