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Destruction of Alderaan

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Rescue on Death Star I[1]

Destruction of Alderaan
300px
Conflict

Galactic Civil War[1]

Date

0 BBY (Between 35:3:5 and 35:3:12)[3]

Place

Alderaan system[1]

Outcome

Alderaan and its inhabitants are all destroyed by the Death Star's superlaser[1]

Combatants

Galactic Empire[1]

Alliance to Restore the Republic

Commanders

Bail Prestor Organa

Strength
Casualties
  • 1 Imperial-class Star Destroyer
  • Numerous stormtroopers
Civilian casualties

All civilians on Alderaan[1]

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened."
Obi-Wan Kenobi senses Alderaan's destruction.[src]

The Destruction of Alderaan, also known as the Battle of Alderaan, occurred in 0 BBY at the order of Grand Moff Tarkin, in order to demonstrate the destructive firepower of the first Death Star, therefore resulting in the complete annihilation of Alderaan and its inhabitants.

Prelude

Skywalker's vision

"I've seen what I become… and I cannot let that happen." […]
"If there is to be balance, what you have seen must be forgotten."
Anakin Skywalker and the Father[src]

Around 21 BBY,[7] during the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker, his Padawan, and Obi-Wan Kenobi were drawn to a mysterious world called Mortis. Three Force-wielders were contained there—the Son, who aligned himself with the dark side, the Daughter, who sided with the light side, and the Father who maintained the balance between his two children.

In a bid to escape his confinement on Mortis, the Son attempted to seduce Skywalker to the dark side and gain his allegiance. He forced Skywalker to see a vision of his future, in which he saw many of the evil deeds he would have a hand in—as Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith—including the destruction of Alderaan. In order to prevent these dark events from occurring, he briefly sided with the Son, intending to force peace upon the galaxy. After learning of his son's actions, the Father erased Skywalker's memory of the vision and foreknowledge that he had been granted.

Tarkin's order

"With the Death Star completed, I must take vigorous action against the Rebels as soon as possible. The Emperor expects great things of this battle station, and of me."
―Wilhuff Tarkin to Darth Vader[src]
File:Aldnds3.jpg

In the absence of the Imperial Senate, Emperor Palpatine had established an environment where his subordinates were capable of unregulated military actions, including genocide.

From the very beginning of its design process, it was intended that the first Death Star be capable of destroying entire planets, but most Imperial strategists were certain that the threat alone would be enough to keep most worlds in line.

Tarkin felt differently; as he saw it, the Rebels were growing bolder, and only a very public demonstration of the battle station's power—against a Rebel target—would succeed in giving them pause. His argument convinced Palpatine, and so the Emperor approved, in advance, the destruction of the peaceful world.

An unexpected battle

A small fleet of Star Destroyers had escorted the Death Star to Alderaan. Tarkin, who was in charge of the Death Star, ordered a reconnaissance of the planet. The fleet scouted out the system, and came across a Rebel fleet. The two fleets exchanged fire, and as Mon Calamari Star Cruisers distracted the Imperial ships, assault frigates opened fire on the Star Destroyers.[8]

Reinforcements of smaller Imperial ships, such as Acclamator-class assault ships, supported the fleet and destroyed most of the Rebel ships. Meanwhile, the Death Star had completed the charging of its main cannon.[8]

Destruction

"Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station's destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan."
Wilhuff Tarkin to Leia Organa[src]

To obtain information on disappearance of the Death Star plans and location of the Rebel base, Darth Vader had taken the captured Princess Leia Organa to the Death Star after she was taken prisoner during the Battle of Tatooine.

Alderaanexplosion

The destruction of Alderaan left a massive asteroid field in the planet's wake.

When she refused to yield the location of the Rebel base, or the whereabouts of the plans, despite being tortured, Tarkin threatened to destroy Alderaan in an attempt to force her to confess. Fearing that Tarkin would use the superweapon on Alderaan and other peaceful worlds, she offered the location of an abandoned Rebel base on Dantooine. Thinking that he and the Empire had won, Tarkin went ahead and ordered the destruction of Alderaan anyway, shocking the Princess.

When the powerful superlaser was fired at the planet, it met Alderaan's powerful planetary shield. However, the shield was unable to withstand the incredible power of the superlaser, and was destroyed within milliseconds. At full power the hypermatter reactor had given a superluminal boost to the beam, which upon contact with the planet pushed a large portion of Alderaan's mass into hyperspace, destroying the planet in the process.

The destruction of Alderaan caused the deaths of approximately 1,999,940,000 sentients who were on the planet at the time, sending shock waves through the Force, weakening those who were able to feel them. Senator Bail Prestor Organa was the most famous casualty of this genocidal act. Governor of Aldera Tor Aramatha was also on planet at the time.[9] A colony of Caamasi was also wiped out. Ironically, they were refugees from the destruction of their own home planet in 19 BBY.[10] Leia Organa suspected it was nighttime on the capital city of Aldera when the superlaser hit the surface, and she wondered if her adopted parents Bail and Breha were awake when the planet-killing cataclysm struck.[4] More specifically, Leia Organa was later told that it had been a warm evening late in the spring when the Death Star appeared in the sky of Aldera.[11]

Aftermath of the blast

"The defense systems on Alderaan, despite the Senator's protestations to the contrary, were as strong as any in the Empire. I should conclude that our demonstration was as impressive as it was thorough."
Darth Vader[src]

The destruction of Alderaan failed in its psychological goal; wiping out a peaceful and idyllic paradise caused great consternation, especially in the Core Worlds; Atour Riten, the Death Star's librarian, who had been writing what he had intended to be a neutral record of the current war against the Rebellion, concluded, after the destruction of Alderaan, that such an action was one which made it impossible to be neutral in the conflict any further.

Palpatine announced the destruction of Alderaan

The Emperor announcing the destruction of Alderaan to the population of Coruscant and accusing Rebels.

The failure of the Empire to conceive an appropriate cover story further angered many citizens. The Empire did attempt to pin the destruction of Alderaan on the Rebel Alliance, but few believed them. First, Imperial sources reported that an Alderaanian superweapon was responsible for the planet's destruction and the Empire had no involvement with the incident. Satellite recordings of Alderaan's destruction, however, were smuggled out of the system by Rebel agents, and underground news sources began broadcasting the truth. The Empire tried to justify Alderaan's destruction, stating that the Alderaanian government was developing biological weapons for the Rebel Alliance.

Soon, the destruction of Alderaan turned out to be a major embarrassment for the Empire, causing several high-ranking Imperials to portray Grand Moff Tarkin as a rogue agent who destroyed the planet without official authorization.

The Graveyard

The remains of Alderaan, known as The Graveyard.

The planet's destruction caused thousands of Alderaanians, who had been off-world, to immediately join the Rebellion. Most Alderaanian members of the Imperial military promptly defected. A small minority who'd been in Imperial service, however, chose to stay on, blaming their own homeworld for its fate. Princess Leia would meet one such Alderaanian—the Imperial Navy officer Conn Doruggan—while negotiating the Bakura Truce with the Imperial governor Wilek Nereus on the planet Bakura in 5 ABY. The surviving Alderaanians founded the Alderaan Alliance as their new government.

However, sentients across the galaxy realized that if the Empire would kill them, even if they submitted, they had nothing to lose by rebelling. The destruction of Alderaan showed the citizens of the Empire that Emperor Palpatine's regime was willing to wipe out even the most prestigious member worlds of the galactic society, causing widespread opposition to the Imperial government. Rather than cower before the Emperor, whole systems would soon revolt. The Death Star was opposed and destroyed during the Battle of Yavin, killing Tarkin and his crew. After the destruction of the Death Star, many systems not under direct Imperial military control either declared neutrality or joined the Alliance to Restore the Republic.

The fall of the Galactic Empire had begun.

Alderaanians who were off-world at the time would later regularly go on pilgrimages known as the Return to the remains of Alderaan. The Return developed into a major cultural touchstone for Alderaanian survivors, with many describing it as a transcendent, life-changing moment. The procedure became fairly codified as more undertook it, resulting in the speech and ritual feeling somewhat impersonal to some Returnees. An industry developed around it catering to Alderaanians, and thieves frequently retrieved the gifts from the Graveyard.

After the planet's destruction, surviving Alderaanians founded a settlement on the planet Ejolus. Eight months after the Empire destroyed Alderaan, the colony was wiped out by the Imperial Star Destroyer Reprisal. It was revealed that the gunner Garil Dox caused the settlement's destruction without realizing that he killed his fellow Alderaanians. However, Alderaanians founded another colony on the planet that was named New Alderaan. After the fall of the Empire, New Alderaan would become a member world of the New Republic.

Behind the scenes

Although it has been debated, a shield effect is still present in the post-1997 version of Alderaan's destruction. In frames 4 and 5, the glow is concentrated in an area surrounding the point of impact, like shield interactions seen elsewhere in the films. Likewise, a similar shielding effect is seen in the premonition to Anakin's future as Darth Vader for Alderaan's explosion during the Mortis Arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The uniform glow also extends far out into space, beyond the limits of natural atmospheres. The original novelization of the film also has a reference to defense systems on Alderaan, which were as strong as any in the Empire, and helped make the demonstration even more impressive.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic offers a humorous twist on this event. Whereas Princess Leia attempted to spare Alderaan from the Death Star by lying that the Rebel Base was on Dantooine, the player can attempt to spare Dantooine from Darth Malak's fleet by claiming that the Jedi Enclave was located on Alderaan. As in A New Hope, the attempt will fail, as Malak had already discovered and destroyed the Jedi Enclave before that point in the game.

Ben Burtt originally considered leaving the explosion of Alderaan silent or to delay it for a few seconds after destruction. This delayed concept would later find its way in the creation of the sound-delayed seismic charges seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Appearances

Non-canon appearances

Sources

Notes and references

  [Source]


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