|Imperial Rank Plaque|
Rank indicator plaque
|Physical and technical specifications|
Rectangular metal chrome plate fitted with raised colored squares
|Usage and history|
- "You are in command now … Admiral Piett."
- ―Darth Vader promoting Captain Piett
The Rank insignia of the Galactic Empire, or Imperial Rank Plaques, were a system of badges used to indicate and distinguish officer rank within the forces of the Galactic Empire. The system was primary an adaption and further development of the rank insignia of the Galactic Republic. It was not restricted to the imperial military during the time of the New Order. Political organization such as, COMPNOR, also made use of this system.
A rank plaque consisted of a rectangular metal chrome plate fitted with raised colored squares. It was designed to be worn on the top left torso region of Imperial service uniforms, dress uniforms and even on battle armor. If an officer’s function demanded code cylinders (containing encrypted data and high level access codes), they were worn on either side of the rank plaque. As code cylinders indicated importance, they were frequently referred to as “rank cylinders”. The colored squares of rank plaques were typically red, blue or yellow, and arranged in single or double rows. Very low ranking officers, like Imperial Academy cadets, were commonly fitted with only a single colored square, while top ranking officers, like grand moffs, displayed up to 12 squares. Because of the colorful display, fellow servicemen could easily recognize rank from a distance.
There were many similarities among the rank plaque designs of the Imperial Navy, the Imperial Army, and the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps. For instance, all three military branches had lieutenants displaying their rank with two red squares placed on top of two blue squares. But there were also many sub-branches, specialized units and divisions within the imperial military. Manny of these deviated from the mainstream double rowed, red and blue rank insignia. The majority of the alternate rank displays were arranged in single rows. It was not uncommon to see Imperial Navy, Army and Stormtrooper officers wearing single rowed rank plaques. Also the ISB officers of COMPNOR made use of single rowed rank plaques.
Examples of Imperial Rank InsigniaEdit
Over a hundred years after the death of Emperor Palpatine, under the Fel Empire and later during the Darth Krayt Galactic Empire and the Empire-in-exile, rank plaques of similar design were still in use. At this time the Imperial forces wore the insignia on the top center torso region and alternately on the collar of uniform.
Behind the scenesEdit
In the Star Wars movies, the seniority of Imperial officers is generally indicated by increasing numbers of rank squares and code cylinders, but there is no easy way to extrapolate a simple hierarchy of ranks and insignia, and no direct evidence that George Lucas or the movie costume designers and production crew ever created a strict system. Only between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are there many points of contact in terms of the specific insignia used, but even here, there are distinct incongruities.
It is important to note that a spoken title may not be synonymous with an officer's actual rank. For example in a time of war it is common for officers to be promoted and/or transferred often. Thus a commander may be referred to as captain if he were acting as captain in a "graded" captain's absence, even though the title confers no inherent promotion of that commander. Additionally when two or more officers aboard a naval vessel would have the grade of captain, "graded" captains not serving as commanding officer may at times assume the title of "commander" out of respect to the adage that a ship may have only one "captain". Also, a commanding officer may assume the senior title of "commander" as a sign of command, particularly in situations where the commanding officer would command a formation of more than one vessel, or be in command of several ground units. This would also be true on a large project, such as the Death Star, where titles may not synchronize with actual ranks and rank badges to reduce confusion along the chain of command.
The Expanded UniverseEdit
The rank system used in Expanded Universe material is, in contrast to the films, largely consistent and systematic. While there are a few inconsistencies, a basic hierarchy of ranks and insignia, which first appeared in West End Games sourcebooks for the D6 role-playing game in the late 1980s, has recurred in novels, comics and computer games down to the present day. This system is generally assumed to have originated with the RPG, although it is possible that it may have been based on production notes or costume-design sketches from the films. WEG certainly had access to large amounts of such official material.
Of course, not every aspect of the canon WEG rank system is clear. It is impossible for this simple system to provide an exact match with all the variety of movie badges. In addition, the relationship between Navy and Army ranks and insignia is vague and ambiguous. The bulk of confusion among fans has stemmed from the fact that the rank hierarchy associated with this system inconsistent with the real-world Anglo-American (UK/US) standard. The appearance of Commander ranking between Captain and Major is often remarked on. Nevertheless, the naval rank system of the Rebel Alliance, as well as real-world Scandinavian and other European navies, also places commanders above captains.
The English word commander as well as the word commodore has its origins in the French word commander/commandeur , meaning to command. Historically, the title Commander has generally been used to describe officers in command of military formations or operations. Many European countries adopted several French words and military norms during the 18th century and all the way up to the Napoleonic Wars. The “Commander” title found its way into formal rank designations of several Armies and Navies. With this in mind, Star Wars ranks may have been conceived out of ranking systems of non-Anglo-American origin.
Fanon insignia systemsEdit
Over time, a number of alternative fanon insignia systems have appeared on the internet. These speculative systems rarely conform to the canon tabulations, and do not always accommodate the full range of specific examples shown in canon material–although in fairness, their creators may not know all the relevant official sources.
Probably the most notable of the various fan-constructed systems is that on the influential Star Wars Technical Commentaries website. This offers detailed discussions of ranks and insignia, but although hypotheses from these websites have found their way into the general fan consciousness, they have no canon status, and involve a number of important assumptions incompatible with EU material.
The RotJ "rank blooper"Edit
Lastly, mention should be made of the supposed rank badge blooper in Return of the Jedi. It is often said in fan discussions that a wardrobe mistake resulted in the actors playing Imperial officers being given costumes with the wrong insignia, but there appears to be no official source that confirms this.
What is clear is that Kenneth Colley is once again wearing the insignia which he wore when his character was a Captain, while Michael Pennington as Moff Jerjerrod shares his badge and cylinder combination with a (presumably rather more junior) officer in the Endor garrison. But it is unclear whether the inconsistency here is really a "blooper," or just another change in the usage of insignia, like the wholesale discontinuity between the first two movies.
For a blooper to exist would also imply that the production crew were working with an idea of what rank insignia were appropriate to certain positions–but what can be said for sure is that much remains uncertain or ambiguous about the processes that have given rise to the complex system of rank insignia used in canon material.
Study of Imperial rank insigniaEdit
The first thing that must be noted in any study of Imperial rank insignia is the lack of any clear overall survey of the system. There are several partial tables, and numerous specific examples, but no guide to how to bind them all together.
The second observation that must be made is that, while the basic visual vocabulary of rank badges remained broadly consistent throughout the Empire's history, the specific insignia in use did not always remain constant. The insignia of a typical Lieutenant serving as a crew-pit supervisor on the bridge of a Star Destroyer just after the Declaration of a New Order in 19 BBY were markedly different from the rank-badges of an officer of the same rank serving in the same role on a Star Destroyer during the Battle of Hoth in 3 ABY.
In any discussion of the evidence for rank insignia, it ought also to be borne in mind that it is not strictly necessary for the badges to follow any fully mathematical or logical pattern, or for officers of corresponding ranks in different arms of the military to bear the same badges. This is not to say that elements of logic and cross-service synchronization never existed; but the most basic requirement is merely that particular insignia are sufficiently distinct for personnel to recognize them rapidly as indicating the particular status of the wearer. Simplicity or synchronization cannot be used as justifications to override primary evidence when that evidence does not fit a theory.
Lastly, there are specific questions concerning the quality of source material, which will be discussed as they are encountered in the course of this analysis.
Standard Imperial rank insignia consisted of one or more horizontal rows of colored rank squares carried on a metal plaque on the left breast of the tunic, normally combined with pen-like metal code cylinders worn in narrow pockets at either shoulder. Rank distinctions were indicated by variation in the number, color, and arrangement of squares and the number, style and arrangement of cylinders. Epaulets were also occasionally worn, although with the exception of Grand Admirals, these were almost exclusively confined to dress uniform and rare formal occasions.
The uniforms and insignia of the Imperial military evolved directly from those worn by the forces of the Old Republic during the Clone Wars. During the conflict, gray/green uniforms superseded the blue ones that had been widely worn by Judicial Department personnel in previous decades, and where previously rank insignia had been worn only rarely, a system of rank badges now became widespread, still poorly documented, but clearly the precursor of that used under the Empire.
There is no explicit evidence either way to say whether any specific revision of rank insignia accompanied the transformation of the Republic into the Empire at the end of the conflict; but in first weeks of the New Order, we have evidence for officers at all levels of the hierarchy, beginning with the newly-appointed military proconsuls, the Moffs.
Moff Wilhuff Tarkin of Seswenna sector had a rank badge with five blue squares above three red and two gold, with two code cylinders in either shoulder pocket; the metal backing plate of his rank badge had raised rectangular bosses separating the individual colored squares, a detail which was probably standard at this time. Marcellin Wessel, another member of the first group of regional governors, also had a rank badge with two rows of five squares, again with blue in the top row, and a combination of red and gold below; but he wore one red and four gold tabs in place of Tarkin's three and two, and it is not clear how many code cylinders he carried.
It is likely that the difference between Tarkin and Wessel's insignia indicates a slight variation in rank, but it is unclear precisely what that distinction was. Also, it must be added that Tarkin wore a different insignia when he assumed command of the Death Star project, very soon afterward: a badge six squares wide, worn with four rank cylinders. Unfortunately, lighting glare on available images makes it difficult to identify the colors of his pips, but it is not impossible that this was already the same insignia that he would later wear as Grand Moff, with blue squares over three red and three gold.
The next group in the hierarchy for whom we have evidence at this stage are the commanding officers of capital ships. When the Captains in the Imperial Navy were summoned to a personal briefing from Palpatine and Darth Vader, they wore a rank plaques with three red squares over three blue, with a single code cylinder in the left-hand shoulder pocket—and while some exceptions are known, this would remain the most common sort of Captain's insignia for decades to come. It is still possible that this combination of badge and code-cylinder had already been established as the standard insignia of a ship's captain during the last years of the Old Republic, but this precise insignia is not recorded in any surviving images or descriptions dating from the Clone Wars.
Finally, the earliest days of the Empire offer the first clear evidence for the badges of rank worn by junior officers. Under the Old Republic, lower-ranking officers aboard Judicial vessels had generally worn no rank insignia at all, and surviving representations of Navy subalterns in the Clone Wars are essentially nonexistent, but immediately after the establishment of the New Order, visual records preserve the insignia of a Navy Lieutenant serving as a controller in one of the crew pits of a Star Destroyer: four blue squares, worn with no code cylinders, but placed between rectangular raised bosses in the metal of the plaque in the same manner as on Moff Tarkin's badge.
From this evidence, it is clear that from the earliest years of the Imperial regime, a variety of rank insignia were used across the spectrum of the Imperial military, worn by junior officers, commanders, and senior officials alike—in sharp contrast to the lack of insignia on the uniforms of most Judicial personnel under the Old Republic. Some of these insignia would remain in use throughout the history of the New Order, although certain elements would soon disappear, such as the metal bosses on the rank plaque. In the present state of knowledge, however, we can do little more than to note specific examples of insignia associated with specific ranks at this date: it is not possible to present a more wide-ranging survey of Imperial rank insignia until the last years of the Empire, and it is to that timeframe that this discussion must now turn.
Tabulation in the Imperial SourcebookEdit
It is generally agreed that the most reliable and accurate body of evidence for events in the Imperial period consists of surviving visual footage, and priority will accordingly be given to that material here; but while this offers useful examples of rank insignia, it contains no explicit guide to the overall structure of the system, and it is not by any means clear that one system is being consistently used in all the footage.
A tabulation of Imperial rank insignia exists in the Imperial Sourcebook, a guide released by the Alliance in the years between the Battles of Yavin and Hoth. The rank badges shown there are described as "interim insignias until the reorganization prompted by the Battle of Yavin is concluded", and they are outlined in the table below.
The first thing to note about this system is that higher grades are indicated not simply by an increase in the number of code cylinders and rank squares, but also by an increase in the size of the rank plaque, with three distinct widths being used for junior officers, field officers, and command officers. As a result, the only distinction between the badges of a Major and a General is the width of the metal backing behind their rank pips; both ranks bear four red squares above four blue, with a single cylinder in the left-hand pocket, but the General's insignia are spaced wider on a broader plaque.
Even if we take this element of the system into account, other features of the table still require explanation: the examples given includes an odd miscellany of Army and Navy ranks, while the insignia for Captain, shown as the second lowest on the list, is the same as that worn by the officers who commanded the Empire's mightiest Star Destroyers.
A partial answer to these problems seems to be that a Lieutenant, Captain and Commander were indicated by the same rank badges in the Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy, in spite of the difference in grade and responsibilities that these titles indicated in differing arms of the military. A Captain in the Army led a company, a Captain in the Navy commanded a capital ship, but multiple specific examples show both of them wearing three red pips over three blue, with a single code-cylinder on the left. We might expect the same to hold true for officers in Starfighter Command, where a Captain was the leader of a starfighter squadron, but the evidence here is less clear, and will be discussed more fully below.
Nevertheless, the tabulation in the Imperial Sourcebook can be seen as a unified expression of rank insignia across the two main arms of the Imperial military: in the Army, the hierarchy above Commander continued through Major, Colonel and General, while in the Navy, Commanders advanced to Admiral. All the individual insignia are attested adequately in other sources, and while they by no means represent the totality of all known Imperial insignia, the fact that these specific insignia could be worn by officers of the relevant ranks as identified here is not in doubt: it is known that the Captain's insignia had already been in use in the earliest days of the New Order, and in spite of the caution expressed in The Imperial Sourcebook that this system might simply be "interim", most or all of the insignia shown here remained in use for many years.
Nevertheless, a number of insignia are known that are not part of this pattern. Many of these, especially in the years after 0 BBY, can be interpreted as nothing more than subtle extensions to the basic system outlined above, and will be discussed in depth below; but a radically different system was in use in the events surrounding the Battle of Yavin itself, and it is to this system that we must now turn.
Insignia and ranks at the time of the Battle of YavinEdit
Around 0 BBY, a body of visual footage recorded during the brief operational career of the first Death Star depicts a number of officers ranging across the rank hierarchy. These men's insignia are notable firstly for being on the whole different from those observed in the New Order's later years, and secondly, for lacking any explicit schematization such as that outlined above. The situation is further complicated by the second-tier evidence of the Rebel training guide known as the Death Star Technical Companion. While the nature of the material means that conclusions cannot always be stated with confidence, this section will outline the evidence as it currently stands.
|Grand Moff Tarkin|
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, the Governor of the Outland Regions, wore a rank plaque with a row of six blue tabs over three red and three gold, with two cylinders in either shoulder pocket. The plaque corresponds exactly to the insignia that the post-Yavin tabulation (discussed above) assigned to a Priority Sector High Commander–a title that probably denotes a Grand Moff in his military capacity as High Admiral and/or Surface Marshal of his Oversector; the four code cylinders may indicate high rank even within the hierarchy of Grand Moffs.
It can also be noted that Tarkin's insignia was differentiated from the badge which he had worn as a Moff two decades earlier by the addition of an extra square at the outer end of each row on his rank plaque: thus, the insignia of a Grand Moff was almost certainly based on an earlier badge for a Moff, but while it might be presumed that an ordinary Moff's insignia may still have retained its former appearance at this date, this is not known for certain.
One additional uniform detail distinguishing Tarkin from his subordinates was the absence of metal cartridge-boxes from his belt: these were worn by all the remaining senior personnel aboard the battle station, with the sole exception of Imperial Security Bureau representative Colonel Wullf Yularen.
Admiral Conan Antonio Motti and General Cassio Tagge, the senior Navy and Army officers aboard the Death Star, wore similar insignia, with six squares in a single row, and a distinctive code-cylinder arrangement. In their left-hand pockets, both men carried a pair of code cylinders of an unusual design with ribbed tops, and on the right, a single cylinder of the standard design. The only distinction in their insignia was the color of the squares on their plaques: Motti, the junior of the two, wore two blue and four red squares, while Tagge had a row of six red squares.
General Moradmin Bast, Tarkin's senior adjutant, wore an insignia of four gold and two red pips, with a single code cylinder at either shoulder; Bast was lower-ranking than Tagge, but higher-ranking than Motti. Imperial Officer Cass, who reported the return of the scout ships from Dantooine, wore the same insignia, but apparently with no code cylinders at either shoulder. However, while they were probably senior personnel within the hierarchy aboard the Death Star, it is not certain what specific rank either of these men held.
Captain Khurgee, the hangar security officer in charge of inspecting the captured Millennium Falcon, wore a row of six gold squares, with a single rank insignia at either shoulder. It is unclear, however, whether his rank of Captain was held in the Navy, Army or Starfighter command hierarchy, and in the absence of clear evidence, it is impossible to say for sure whether his insignia were appropriate for the commander of a Company of soldiers, a Squadron of TIEs, or even a Star Destroyer. Six gold pips are also worn by one of two unidentified officers present at the briefing where Tarkin announced the dissolution of the Imperial Senate, though this time worn without code cylinders.
It should be noted that the above seven men are the only personnel shown in the Death Star footage as wearing what is generally considered to have been standard dress for Imperial line officers, namely lancer uniforms in green, khaki or field-gray. All wear six pips across the width of their rank plaque. All except Tarkin have only a single tier of rank squares on their badge, and cartridge boxes on their belt, while the number and style of code cylinders varies considerably. Most appear to be senior officers, and while it is eminently possible that other, more junior officers clad in khaki, green or gray served aboard Death Star, the only other personnel shown in these colors in extant footage wear single-breasted coatees and long trousers, with uniform caps but no rank badges.
Extant footage from the Death Star does, however, show a number of other officers wearing tunics of different colors than the norm. The senior Intelligence personnel, Colonel Yularen and Officer Evax wore white tunics, and will be discussed more fully below, while mention should be made of two unidentified officers in bluish tunics. The first of these is glimpsed briefly in the background of footage of the command briefing mentioned above, apparently with a row of five red squares on his insignia, but no rank cylinders. This man's breeches are concealed by the table in the extant footage, and he is bare-headed, but a second officer in the same color of tunic wears black breeches, and a black forage cap. This man's rank plaque carries three red squares followed by three gold, again worn without code cylinders. It is unknown what the rank or posting of these men was, although further scrutiny of the footage may reveal further details or their uniforms, or perhaps additional examples of similar dress.
Lastly, some mention must be made of the rank insignia associated with the all-black uniforms which in 0 BBY were widely worn by elite officers, including commissioned personnel in stormtrooper detachments, starfighter units, and security details. In contrast to the other officers discussed above, blue squares predominated on these men's rank plaques, with two code cylinders being worn, one at either shoulder.
The insignia of Commander Nahdonnis Praji, apparently the most senior black-uniformed officer in the extent footage, consisted of a plaque with four blue squares followed by two red ones. More common than this was an insignia of four blue squares, worn by blackshirt Lieutenants, such as Tanbris, Shann Childsen, and Pol Treidum, but some officers with this insignia could evidently be styled ‘Commander’, such as Daine Jir. This may have been an informal title accorded to a Lieutenant holding some sort of low-level unit command, but alternatively, Daine Jir may have held the rank of Commander in an Army-style system, while the 'Lieutenants' with the same insignia may be Navy officers: as mentioned above, four blue pips had been the insignia of a Lieutenant serving as a deck officer on a Star Destroyer in the earliest days of the Empire, though then worn without code cylinders
Lieutenant Treidum's deputy in Docking Bay 327 seem to have worn an insignia with red squares, although this is only shown briefly in motion-blurred footage, and it has not yet proved possible to verify whether his rank-plaque had one or two tabs.
From the surviving footage alone, a number of particular rank insignia can be associated with specific individuals in the hierarchy of the Death Star, but in many cases, we do not have a specific rank to associate with an insignia, and it is not possible to infer more than the broad outline of the system from the evidence of the footage alone. It can be noted that higher rank was, in general terms, indicated by increased numbers of rank squares and code cylinders, but it is not clear what precise role was played by the color of the squares, and there is no firm evidence as to whether insignia were synchronized in any way across different arms of the military.
Four variations of code cylinder are observed: none; one in either pocket; one normal one on the left and two of unusual design on the right; and two of normal type in either pocket. The relative hierarchy of the different combinations seems obvious, although it is not clear whether these served as modifiers to the rank plaque, or indicated command privileges in a way not directly connected to it.
It may be significant that, on the tunics of line officers, gold and blue squares are never combined in a single line: Khurgee wears gold, Cass and Bast wear gold followed by red, Tagge wears red only, and Motti wears blue and red. Lastly, Governor Tarkin's insignia has in its upper row a complete row of blue squares, below which occurs a second row with its own combination of red and gold. However, it must be noted that any putative system inferred from these observations cannot be extended to the blackshirt insignia, as Commander Praji wears four blue tabs followed by two gold.
To say more, further evidence would be required, and for this, we must turn to the Death Star Technical Companion.
The Death Star Technical CompanionEdit
After the Battle of Yavin, Rebel Alliance sources released a Death Star Technical Companion, consisting of Imperial documents edited and added to by Alliance personnel. Amongst its contents, this dossier contained a series of illustrations purporting to show officers of various ranks aboard the battlestation.
Some of these images were recognizable depictions of specific officers aboard the Death Star, and the combinations of rank and insignia depicted form an implicit hierarchy; but these illustrations are not without their problems. Firstly, they are black-and-white, so rank-square colors are not shown; also, and more importantly, the insignia shown do not correspond in every detail with surviving footage from the Death Star. Some combinations can be shown to be at variance with the primary material; others are simply not seen there at all.
Several other elements of the material in this dossier are now regarded with wide skepticism as to their accuracy, so these inconsistencies may simply be a matter of error. Nevertheless, it is possible to reconcile the material with the primary footage, and absence of evidence is not in itself evidence of absence. While these images must, therefore, be treated with caution, it may be that the non-matching insignia were indeed in use aboard the battlestation, and simply do not appear in the limited quantity of surviving footage.
The following survey is presented as an analysis of this evidence, with particular regard to the question of how it might be reconciled with the primary footage. There is at present no certain way to know whether any of this additional material is accurate or not: we can merely note the nature of the evidence itself, and consider its potential for harmonization with the information from in the footage, discussed above.
The hierarchy of ranks shown here is essentially the same as that in the Imperial Sourcebook, discussed above, but the badges are for the most part different.
|Grand Moff (Tarkin)|
At the top of the hierarchy, Grand Moff Tarkin's insignia is correct within the limitations of the black-and-white format, as is that given for Admiral Motti. In contrast with the primary footage, however, General Tagge is shown here with just two standard code cylinders, but this combination, which we would expect to denote a slightly lower level of authority, may simply indicate his insignia at an earlier stage in the project.
The illustrations would also imply that tab color alone was sufficient to distinguish between a Colonel and a General, if both ranks used a badge six tabs wide, with two normal code cylinders. This also corresponds to Captain Khurgee's insignia, which would fit if he was a naval Captain, equivalent in rank to a Colonel. True, Khurgee's badge is very different than the standard badge of a naval Captain, attested throughout the history of the New Order from 19 BBY until well after the Battle of Endor; but the widespread prevalence of the classic Captain's badge does not mean that it was worn by all Captains in the Navy, in all parts of the Empire at all times. It may be significant that Khurgee, while a Captain by rank, was not serving as the captain of a capital ship.
The rank insignia shown here for lower-ranking personnel are more problematic, as nothing quite like them is recorded in any other source. Since the ranks shown rise through Major to Colonel, they would seem to represent Army-style insignia, but unlike the insignia in the Imperial Sourcebook, there is no evidence that the insignia of company officers were shared by the Navy. The badge shown here for a Captain matches neither the standard insignia of a Navy Captain nor that of Captain Khurgee, and perhaps more seriously, the badge shown for a Lieutenant is not that worn by the various black-uniformed Lieutenants aboard the Death Star; instead, this corresponds to the insignia assigned here to a Commander.
However, given the lack of surviving footage depicting lower-ranking line officers aboard the Death Star, it is still possible to reconcile these insignia with those seen in the footage. If we were to accept the Death Star Technical Companion's connection of six-square plaques with the ranks of Colonel and upward, then we could infer that all the personnel seen in the Death Star footage, except those in black uniforms, were of relatively high rank; the Death Star Technical Companion itself would then provide us with a series of otherwise unrecorded insignia for lower-ranking Army personnel aboard the battlestation. The differences in the insignia of black-uniformed officers could be explained by supposing that they all used Navy-style ranks, except perhaps "Commander" Daine Jir, whose insignia is correct for an Army commander according to this system, and who appears to have been a stormtrooper officer.
However, several speculative interpretations of the significance of color and code cylinder combinations are possible even if we adopt these constraints, and we must also bear in mind the secondary status of the Technical Companion, and the possibility that Khurgee held the lower Army-style rank of Captain. Ultimately, it may never be possible to define the exact significance of the rank insignia used aboard the Death Star with any certainty; what can be said, however, is that the insignia recorded here almost never appear subsequent to the Battle of Yavin.
Even before the destruction of the Death Star, the problematic evidence from the Ralltiir garrison may indicate that rank insignia were in a state of flux, and as has already been mentioned above, the Imperial Sourcebook implies that Tarkin's defeat prompted a major revision and reorganization of Imperial rank insignia.
Insignia and ranks from the Battle of Hoth onwardsEdit
Rank insignia shown in surviving footage from the Battle of Hoth in 3 ABY and the Battle of Endor in 4 ABY are substantially different from those seen at the time of the Battle of Yavin. While the basic insignia were still colored squares on the tunic breast and code cylinders in shoulder pockets, most plaques now normally consisted of superimposed rows of red and blue squares, with equal numbers in each. These insignia correspond precisely in overall grammar, and very closely in specific usage, to the "interim" insignia in the table of c. 1-3 ABY, discussed above.
Battle of HothEdit
As commander of Death Squadron, Admiral Kendal Ozzel wore an insignia with six red pips over six blue ones, with two code cylinders in his left-hand shoulder pocket, and one on the right. Following Ozzel's execution by Vader during the opening stages of the Battle of Hoth, Firmus Piett was promoted to replace him, and quickly adopted the same insignia. Apart from the addition of a second code cylinder at the left shoulder, this insignia corresponds to that which the Imperial Sourcebook tabulation defines for an Admiral; the difference may indicate a minor distinction of grade between flag ranks.
The rank-badge of General Maximilian Veers' service uniform had four red pips over four blue, with a single code cylinder in the left-hand pocket; this corresponds with the insignia of a General as shown in the Imperial Sourcebook tabulation: while it is not clear that his rank plaque is as wide as those worn by the Admirals, it is certainly wider than those of Navy Captains. His battle armor chest plate however, which he wears during the assault on Hoth, is equipped with a more standard looking rank insignia. This one is not wider than necessary, and does not appear to have any unnecessary spacing between the colored squares.
An insignia with three red pips over three blue, with a single code cylinder at the left shoulder, would appear to have been the insignia of most Navy Captains, being worn by Firmus Piett of the Executor, Lorth Needa of the Avenger, and Captain Xamuel Lennox of the Tyrant. This insignia was also worn by a crew-pit supervisor aboard Executor, named in other sources as Lieutenant-Commander Ardan, and by an officer on Bespin, who other sources identify as Commander Desanne.
An insignia with two red squares over two blue ones, again with a single code cylinder at the left shoulder, was widely worn by junior officers during the Hoth Campaign. It was the insignia of Lieutenants Suba, Venka and Cecius aboard Executor, Lieutenant Cabbel on the Tyrant, and Captain Bewil and Lieutenant Sheckil on Bespin. Without visible rank cylinders, the same plaque was carried by an officer in snowtrooper armor in the cockpit of General Veers' AT-AT on Hoth.
Most of the insignia seen at the Battle of Hoth and during the Bespin occupation thus correspond to what the rank tabulation would lead us to expect: the problematic insignia are those of Ardan, Desanne, and Bewil. It should be noted that the presumed ranks of these three men derive from secondary records, and they could simply be in error, or else their names may have been matched to pictures of other men; but we cannot simply assume that this was the case: there is little that would lead us to distrust the evidence, beyond the fact that their rank-badges do not match their ranks according to necessarily somewhat hypothetical reconstruction of the insignia scheme–although it can be noted that some images transpose Ardan's insignia to the wrong shoulder.
The issues surrounding Ardan's rank are somewhat complex: this officer's stated rank of "Lieutenant Commander" is otherwise very rare in surviving records of the Imperial military, and raises the wider question of the precise structure and development of Imperial Navy ranks. During the last years of the Old Republic, the ranks above Lieutenant ran through Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, and probably Commodore. At some stage, however, the Imperial Navy revised its terminology so that a Commander outranked a Captain. Direct evidence for lower ranks is lacking, but the title and insignia of Captain were born by the commanders of even the smallest Imperial capital ships, while men with the rank and badge of Lieutenant could be the executive officers of ships as large as Star Destroyers, and there is very little clear evidence for other junior ranks within the line hierarchy of the Navy.
Several possible options are available to explain Ardan's rank. It is not impossible that the rank of Lieutenant Commander remained in use in the Imperial service as late as the Battle of Hoth, or it may be that the second-level source that provides Ardan's rank has styled him with an equivalent title that was not in fact current in the Imperial fleet at that time. Alternatively, Ardan may have held his commission in a section of the military that did not use standard Army or Navy titles, a speculation that gains some weight because the two other known Imperial officers who shared the same rank were both members of the security apparatus (although one of them used a Lieutenant's insignia).
As to Ardan's rank badge, the one known image of him occurs in sequence prior to the execution of Admiral Ozzel and the promotion of Captain Piett, which suggests that Ardan was junior to Captain Piett, but shared the same insignia, a fact that sets him apart from most other bridge officers aboard Star Destroyers at this time. However, given that some footage has been used out of sequence–most clearly, a brief shot of the starboard crew pit on the bridge of the Star Destroyer Avenger has been cut into a sequence on the bridge of the Executor–it cannot be ruled out that this shot is also misplaced in the record; in other words, Ardan may wear a Captain's insignia because he was the officer promoted to Captain when Piett became Admiral.
In some respects, the situation with Desanne and Bewil is simpler: they are titled "Commander" and "Captain" when going by their rank badges, we might expect them to be a Captain and a Lieutenant respectively. They could, of course, owe their titles to being the commander of a detachment and captain of a small ship like a shuttlecraft (as "Captain" is also an honorific, and is used when referring to the commanderof any ship, no matter how small), or by comparison with Ardan, Desanne might be a navy officer ranking between him and the Star Destroyer captains and bearing the same insignia as all of them. Another alternative is that one or both of these men might represent an anomalous arm of the military where Captains use a badge two squares wide like Lieutenants, and a badge three squares wide was only assigned to the higher rank of Commander. As will be shown below, there is slight evidence that just such an anomaly may have been found among TIE pilots.
Problematic Insignia at EndorEdit
Footage recorded during the construction and destruction of the second Death Star at Endor unsurprisingly shows a number of Imperial officers. But while most wearing insignia that can be explained by reference to the sources and parameters already discussed, some prominent commanders wear what seem to be highly anomalous rank-badges.
The classic Captain's insignia was worn by Commander Gherant, who appears to have been Piett's senior subordinate on the bridge of the Executor, and by a number of officers aboard the Death Star. The insignia that usually indicates Lieutenants is not so widely seen in the Endor records, but it was worn by at least one officer in a hangar-bay side detail on the Death Star.
For the first time in extant footage, the Endor records also show a badge bearing three red pips over three blue, with one code cylinder at either shoulder. This was the insignia of the "Commander", Igar, who handed over Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader on the Sanctuary Moon shortly before the Battle of Endor, concurring with the implication of the Imperial Sourcebook tabulation that it would be appropriate for a mid-level Army field officer.
However, two badges widely seen in the Endor footage are highly problematic: Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod of Moddell sector wore the same insignia as the Endor Commander, while Firmus Piett had reverted to the insignia he wore previously as Captain of the Executor, and the same insignia are also borne by an officer identified as Admiral Chiraneau. It is possible that these badges indicate that a radical–but otherwise essentially unrecorded–revision of rank insignia had taken place, but all can also be rationalized according to established principles. For instance, Jerjerrod may have attained the rank of Commander during a military career, and preferred to wear the insignia he had thus earned. Piett's field promotion may not have been confirmed, or else due to the high number of senior officers present at the battle, he may have reverted temporarily to the post of Captain of Executor, and adopted a Captain's insignia accordingly: he is certainly not addressed as "Admiral" in the audio track of the surviving footage. Chiraneau, similarly, may have similarly reverted to a Captain's insignia due to the situation, or else he may have received his flag promotion immediately before the battle, subsequent to the footage showing him with a Captain's badge; alternatively, he might have been one of those officers who held a title such as Systems Admiral or Fleet Admiral, but did not hold a substantive flag rank. It is also possible that due to the fact that Piett failed to capture the Millennium Falcon that he was demoted back to the rank of captain, although it does not explain why the others have rank problems.
Blackshirt personnel, conspicuously absent at Hoth, reappear at Endor, but while some of these men may have been officers, none now carry any rank insignia whatsoever; unlike line officers, they still carry metal boxes on their belts, now in pairs on either hip.
Conclusions and QuestionsEdit
Additional to the evidence discussed above, Imperial rank insignia are described or illustrated in a variety of additional sources. The following sections represent an attempt to catalog and analyze all known insignia variants, being organized broadly by rank.
Senior officers within the military of the Galactic Empire can be divided into three broad groups: Moffs, the regional governors of sectors; Admirals commanding significant battlegroups and fleets in the Navy; and Generals, the high-ranking officers of the Imperial Army. Additional to these, there are some anomalous high-ranking officers, and some whose branch of the military is not known.
Over the course of Imperial history, Moffs and Grand Moffs are shown with a confusing variety of insignia. Mention has already been made of the badges of the original Moffs in 19 BBY, of Grand Moff Tarkin in 0 BBY and of Moff Jerjerrod in 4 ABY. A gray-wash drawing of Moff Harlov Jarnek of Tandon sector, predating the Battle of Endor, shows two rows of six pips and at least three code cylinders, although the colors are not indicated. At around the same time, the insignia of Moff Abran Balfour of Parmic sector included two rows of six pips, with the upper row consisting of darker squares (probably red above blue), and three if not four code cylinders. The same insignia was worn by Moff Vilim Disra of Braxant sector as late as 19 ABY.
Leonia Tavira, who seized power as Moff on Ettiau following her husband's death after Endor, is shown wearing a number of different insignia in surviving images. On balance, it seems likely that she wore the insignia of a Grand Moff, with four code cylinders, which is how she normally appears an illustrated record of the liberation of Ettiau from Imperial rule. In one brief sequence, her normal insignia swap with a badge carrying only five blue squares above three red and two gold, as borne by the Empire's first Moffs twenty-five years earlier, but this is perhaps most likely to reflect artistic shorthand than any real discrepancy. Perhaps of somewhat more interest is a painted portrait, which portrays her with six blue pips above six red, and no rank cylinders.
Moff Par Lankin, governor of the Imperial redoubt in Lambda sector, similarly seems to have worn the insignia of a Grand Moff in the years after the Battle of Endor, whether rightfully or not. A surviving sketch shows him with two code cylinders on the right shoulder (from which we can infer two on the left), and a rank plaque where the first three squares of the lower row were shaded darker than the row above, and the remainder lighter.
Although the rank badges of the first Moffs were only five pips wide, images dating from the later years of the Empire rarely show less than two rows of six squares. The footage of Jerjerrod at Endor is of course a notable exception, and mention should also be made of a sketch of Grand Moff Lynch Hauser in 0 ABY, which shows him with two code cylinders at either shoulder and two rows of five pips. This image, it should be noted, is dated rather earlier than many surviving representations; but the small scale of the image, in which the pips appear only as dots, may have mitigated against accurate portrayal of this Grand Moff's insignia–as seems also to have been the case with Tavira's five-pip badge, discussed above.
Finally, mention can be made of Moff Harsh of Otunia. Shortly after the Battle of Endor, this Moff wore a non-standard tunic with what appears to have been a row of red above a row of gold on the plaque; the number of pips in each row is unclear however, as is the significance of the Moff's uniform, which may have been that of some paramilitary organization or privately-raised force.
On more than one occasion, the rank of Admiral in the Imperial Navy has been explicitly associated with a badge showing six red squares above six blue–the insignia implied by both the Imperial Sourcebook table, and the Hoth footage. The number of code cylinders varies, however, and occasionally Admirals are shown with less than six pips across the plaque.
As noted above, the Sourcebook table shows one code cylinder in either pocket, an insignia recorded as having been worn by Admiral Jeratai during his tenure on the Imperial Ruling Council. Ozzel and Piett boasted an extra cylinder at the left shoulder, while Leonia Tavira, subsequent to her loss of Ettiau, affected an Admiral's badge with two code cylinders in either pocket. Then there are the Admirals with less pips than the norm. During his mission to Axxila and his interview with Ysanne Isard before his departure for Ciutric IV, Admiral Delak Krennel wore an insignia of only four red squares above four blue, but after his arrival on Ciutric, he wore five red squares over five blue. Admiral Trommer, the father of TIE Pilot Ranulf Trommer, similarly wore an insignia with five red squares above five blue, while a grayscale image of Rear-Admiral Michael Unther shows him with four squares of one color above four squares of another.
From Unther's combination of rank and insignia, it can be hypothesized that a rank plaque four squares wide indicates a Rear-Admiral, five a Vice-Admiral, and six a full Admiral. The number of code cylinders may indicate seniority within each rank-grade, but it is also possible that they denote the level of force that an officer commanded, with one cylinder being worn by an Admiral commanding a local squadron, two by a Systems Admiral, three by a Fleet Admiral, and four by a High Admiral. Such a separation of rank and posting is essentially speculative, but it could also explain how Michael Unther could had served as the "Admiral" of a full Sector Fleet (presumably Fleet Admiral or High Admiral) even before his promotion to Rear-Admiral.
A case that differs from those mentioned above is that of Admiral Amise Griff, who affected an insignia of two rows of six red squares each and two code cylinders. It is unknown what this particular badge signified.
Finally, two additional insignia observed in the later years of the Empire should be mentioned, both associated with Admiral Daala. It is known that through her assignment to the Maw Installation until at least 11 ABY, Admiral Daala wore the normal Admiral's insignia, six red squares over six blue; but portraits also survive showing her with two different and distinctive badges. In one picture, for which no context can be offered, she wears the same insignia that Grand Moff Tarkin had once worn: six blue squares above three red and three gold, perhaps appropriate to the High Admiral of an Oversector, although Daala is nowhere said to have held or claimed such a rank.
A second portrait gives Daala six blue pips above four red and two gold, a badge not previously recorded, but which is also seen in a portrait of Admiral Pellaeon, worn by him with two code cylinders, one in either pocket. Given that Daala handed over her rank badge to Pellaeon following her failed attack on Yavin 4 and the loss of the Knight Hammer, it is likely that this was the insignia that she and then he wore in command of the forces of the former Warlords. How official this badge was, or what precise rank it may have symbolized, is unknown, although it is not inconceivable that it was the formal insignia of the Imperial Navy's Supreme Commander.
By and large, Generals are shown wearing four red squares above four blue; as discussed above, they seem to have carried their insignia on rather broader plaques than those of Colonels and Majors, who carried the same basic arrangement of squares. This is true even of Generals serving on the Imperial Ruling Council, although a small number of exceptions are known.
Shortly after seizing power on Coruscant in 4 ABY as the leader of the Tribunal, General Paltr Carvin swapped his standard General's insignia for a rank plaque six squares wide, with the usual red-over-blue pattern. Two other Generals are shown with a red-over-blue rank tab five squares wide. The first of these is General Mak, seen aboard the Star Destroyer Crucible in 0 ABY; the second is General Rom Mohc, head of the Dark Trooper project. During the assault on Talay, he wore the normal General's badge, with four pips across the plaque, but very soon afterward, he bore an expanded insignia; at both stages, however, he wore four code cylinders.
It seems that in most circumstances, Generals wore a rank insignia only four pips wide, even in very senior positions, although a varying numbers of code cylinders are recorded–Mohc's cylinders have already been discussed, and, for instance, General Redd Wessel wore a code cylinder at either shoulder. It may be that under normal circumstances, the highest attainable General rank was the equivalent of Rear-Admiral–and further evidence on starfighter ranks that may corroborate this conjecture will be discussed below; but some important Generals, such as Mohc, Mak and Carvin, bore badges five or six pips wide. Given that Mak may have been a Moff, while Carvin was the head of the Imperial government, it is possible that these badges were borne by virtue of the specific postings that their wearers held, and lapsed with the end of those particular commissions.
In passing, we can also note that General Mohc retained four code cylinders while his rank badge changed; this may add further weight to the hypothesis that the number of code cylinders and the significance of the rank plaque were not directly linked.
Other senior officersEdit
A number of senior officers are known who are not styled as "General" or "Admiral" in surviving sources, but who may have held senior ranks; conversely, it appears that within some Sector Groups, officers could be accorded titles like "Systems Admiral" and "Fleet Admiral" while holding lower substantive ranks.
First, we can consider two officers who bore a rank plaque with four red insignia above four blue while commanding individual ships: the Captain of the Grand Vizier's yacht in 4 ABY and Commander Vivant of the Star Destroyer Steadfast in 11 ABY. Given that both these officers reported directly to the men who were regents of the Empire at those dates, Sate Pestage and Lord Carnor Jax respectively, it is conceivable that they held senior ranks, with "Commander" and "Captain" simply being used as generic titles–although other explanations are of course possible: for example, both men could conceivably have been Colonels in Starfighter Command.
Additionally, we must consider the officers within the hierarchies of Moffs' Sector Groups who bore the titles of Admiral, Systems Admiral (or "Commodore"), Fleet Admiral and High Admirals. These would seem to have been separate from the substantive flag ranks of Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Admiral and Grand Admiral, and it is known that in at least one instance, the commanding Admiral of an Imperial Sector Fleet was subsequently promoted to Rear Admiral, while no Admirals are known to have served in either Tapani sector or Elrood sector: the implication is that senior Sector Group officers, perhaps even nominal "Fleet Admirals" could hold lower substantive ranks such as Captain and Commander.
The second-line evidence supplies a more or less consistent hierarchy of ranks and insignia for more junior officers serving in the Imperial Navy, consisting of senior Commanders, ships' Captains, and junior officers normally holding the rank of Lieutenant. The main question to be resolved is whether the insignia indicated substantive ranks, or relative positions within a command hierarchy.
Ait Convarion, the blackshirt commanding officer of the Star Destroyer Corrupter, is described as wearing three red squares above three blue on the plaque, with two code cylinders: it is stated explicitly that this insignia identified him as a Commander, holding a rank senior to a "mere Captain". While Convarion wore a black uniform indicating some sort of elite status, several other men with the same title and insignia were clearly line officers in the Navy, including Pter Thanas, the senior officer of the small Imperial squadron based at Bakura, and Kratas, the commanding officer of Admiral Daala's flagship, and apparently the senior subordinate officer within her squadron. Eight months after Yavin, we find Commander Demmings, with the correct insignia for his rank, serving briefly as Imperial liaison to Tiss'sharl in succession to Moff Giiedt, and then as commander of Lord Vader's Star Destroyer Reprisal, with Captain Sankaran as his executive officer.
Some confusion results from the fact that other usages of "Commander" were also current during the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War. In other arms of the Imperial military, the same title and insignia seem to have indicated a somewhat lower rank, while a Commander in the fleets of the Old Republic and New Republic ranked below Captain, not above; and to make matters more confusing, "Commander" could also be a generic title for any officer with command responsibilities.
As already mentioned, the standard insignia for a Captain in the Imperial Navy consisted of a rank-plaque with three red tabs above three blue, and one code cylinder in the left-hand pocket. This standard insignia was born by the commanding officers of vessels ranging in size from the Executor to the small freighter Nuna's Twins.
Of course, just as "Commander" could be a generic title as well as a rank, so "Captain" could be applied to the commander of any ship; but there are very few examples of men addressed as Captain and serving as ships' captains who did not wear the classic Captain's insignia. Ait Convarion, already mentioned, could be addressed as "Captain" while holding the more senior status of Commander, by virtue of his command of Corrupter, but almost the only other exception to this rule is Captain Gilad Pellaeon of the Chimaera, who appears to have also worn a second code cylinder in his right pocket. This may indicate that Pellaeon also bore the same more senior rank, but preferred to be styled "Captain", or else it might reflect some parallel position of extra responsibility as the commanding officer of Grand Admiral Thrawn's flagship.
Finally, mention should be made of Marl Semtin, who was generally addressed as "Captain", but who seems to have carried four rank cylinders, and whose badge tabs are depicted in varying ways in different representations. He is shown in a portrait with a Captain's plaque, three red pips over three blue, but another illustration depicts him with four red pips over four blue, although the combination of penciller and inker responsible for this latter image are notable for the inconsistency in their depiction of rank insignia, for instance in representations of Ysanne Isard, Leonia Tavira and Turr Phennir, discussed elsewhere in this article.
Semtin was clearly the commanding officer of a Star Destroyer, and thus entitled to be addressed as "Captain", but it is possible that the depictions of his insignia are simply inaccurate, and even if we do place some weight on the visual evidence, several interpretations of his rank are possible: his four code cylinders hint that he may have held a relatively senior commander, perhaps even Moff, within a relatively small local Sector Group, and while he may have held no higher substantive rank than Captain or Commander, we cannot exclude the possibility that he was really a Rear Admiral, General or Colonel, as speculated above for Commander Vivant and the Captain of the Grand Vizier's yacht.
Most junior Navy officers wore a badge with two red squares above two blue, which as we have seen, is widely identified as the insignia of a Lieutenant. Normally, this was worn with one code cylinder, and this combination, with the title of Lieutenant, could be borne by even the executive officers of Star Destroyers, like Jav Remlyn, who served as First Officer of the Eradicator, commanded by Captain Thulian Merast in Kathol sector under Moff Kentor Sarne.
Some illustrations are also extant showing deck officers wearing a badge two pips wide with more than one code cylinder: in particular, in 0 ABY, pencil-and-ink depictions of junior officers aboard the Star Destroyer Reprisal shown them wearing badges of this sort with two or in one case apparently even four code cylinders. However, if these served as a means of denoting gradations of rank among Navy line officers, the later instances of even executive officers aboard comparable ships with just one code cylinder suggest that they did not remain in use for long. Alternatively, these could be generalizing depictions of rank insignia that should not be taken too literally, or else the additional cylinders could serve to distinguish the different Army-style ranks used by specialists such as Fighter Operations and Gunnery officers.
Also in 0 ABY, there is evidence that some Lieutenants could wear a badge of two red and two blue tabs without any code cylinders: this was the insignia adopted by Luke Skywalker and Deena Shan when disguised as Imperial officers aboard the captured freighter Nuna's Twins. Unlike Lieutenants' insignia using more than one cylinder, this would not be directly incompatible with the later evidence, but there seems to be no specific evidence that it was retained, either.
Finally, mention must be made of an insignia with just one red square above one blue. This is worn by a black-uniformed console operator on the bridge of Reprisal, in the same image as the Lieutenant who seems to have four code cylinders, and it recurs in several other pictures by the same artist, also representing scenes in 0 ABY. If these depictions are accurate, these insignia may have been a short-lived experiment, or else they were perhaps those of warrant officers or petty officers. Either way, a wide range of code-cylinders combinations is recorded with these insignia, presumably distinguishing different rank grades: the man aboard Reprisal has three, while of two men seen in the hangar bay of the Star Destroyer Crucible, one has a cylinder in either pocket, and the other is shown with two on the left, presumably matched with at least one on the right. The same insignia, this time with no code cylinders, was also borne at around the same time by a uniformed female officer presenting a public newsfeed report.
By and large, three levels of authority can be discerned in the sources for Navy officers below flag ranks: Commanders wore three red pips over three blue on the rank plaque, and two code cylinder; Captains had the same rank plaque and only one code cylinder; and Lieutenants had two red pips over two blue, and again usually one code cylinder or none at all. It is possible that more code cylinders were at one stage used to denote senior grades of Lieutenant, but if so, this seems to have been abandoned relatively rapidly. In the months after the Battle of Yavin, a few men and women are also shown with an insignia of just one red pip above one blue, perhaps warrant officers and/or petty officers, although little is known for sure about these personnel, or how long these insignia were retained.
The most typical anomalies were Captains with too many code cylinders, but these can be explained in terms of a combination of two factors: the courtesy use of "Captain" for any officer assigned to command a particular ship, and the possibility that in some circumstances, officers could be placed in a position of higher authority, denoted by additional code cylinders, without a formal promotion.
One thing that is unclear is whether the three titles of Commander, Captain and Lieutenant were the only ones used in the formal rank hierarchy of the Imperial Navy. In the naval forces of the Old Republic, Rebel Alliance and New Republic, several ranks were interposed between Lieutenant and Captain, and it is known that the Empire made a distinction between the rank of Captain of the Line, the typical rank of a Star Destroyer's commanding officer, and the position of Captain of a capital ship, which could be borne by officers of lower ranks than this; but except aboard the mighty Executor, it seems that Captain's insignia were used to denote the commanding officer, with all subordinate officers being styled and badged as Lieutenants.
Considering that the responsibilities of a Star Destroyer's executive officers were much greater in many respects than those of the commander of a customs frigate, it is possible that the titles and insignia of Commander, Captain and Lieutenant were at least in part indicative of position rather than specific rank, and were thus separate from any hierarchical system of substantive ranks operated by the Imperial Navy; but of such a putative system of grades, almost nothing is known for sure. It is important to bear in mind that at different times in the Empire's history, the criteria entitling an officer to wear Captain's insignia may have changed, and the rank titles may have also changed over time: systems using various grades of Captain and Lieutenant may have alternated with revivals the Captain - Commander - Lieutenant Commander - Lieutenant rank-structure that had been used in the Clone Wars.
Some confusion has entailed from the fact that Starfighter Command ranks do not correspond to the familiar military and naval patterns used, for instance by the Old Republic and Galactic Alliance. The fullest list of grades available is as follows:
- Grand Admiral
- Vice Admiral
- Rear Admiral
- Flight Lieutenant
- Flight Officer
In fact, up to the rank of General, this series of ranks corresponds very closely to the standard Army system already alluded to; the switch to Navy ranks above General can be explained by the difference between the insignia patterns of Generals and Admirals, discussed above: whereas almost all Army Generals wore an insignia equivalent to Rear Admirals, fighter pilots in the Navy could presumably be promoted upward into the line hierarchy as Vice Admirals, Admirals and even Grand Admirals.
Apart from this oddity, which seems to in fact stem from a fidelity to Army practice, the only discrepancy between fighter and Army ranks in this tabulation is the replacement of "First Lieutenant" and "Second Lieutenant" by "Flight Lieutenant" and "Flight Officer"–although even this was not so marked a change as it appears, as officers holding the rank of Flight Officer could be regularly addressed as Lieutenants. Similarly, it seems that the Captain and Commander ranks at least could be referred to more fully as "Flight Captain" and "Flight Commander".
One further oddity is the rank of Air Marshal, borne by two legendary Imperial fighter pilots later known as renowned Academy instructors, Von Asch and Cargeloch. Cargeloch, who was also the commander of the TIE wing guarding the Imperial Palace, is specifically said to have earned his rank as Air Marshal by destroying a hostile metropolis with only a single flight of TIE Bombers. Several possibilities are open to explain this rank: it could derive from an alternative system of fighter pilot ranks used at a different stage in the Empire's history; it might be an honorific title of high seniority, broadly comparable to High Admiral and Surface Marshal; or it could perhaps indicate a position between Colonel and Major General, corresponding to an Army High Colonel.
Given the parallels in rank, it might be supposed that the Insignia of Starfighter Command officers conformed in broad terms to those used by other arms of the Imperial military, but in practice almost all the known evidence for the rank insignia of Imperial fighter pilots relates to the career of Baron Fel during his service with the 37th and 181st Imperial Fighter Wings, and will be discussed below. Almost the only known exceptions are senior fighter operations officer Commander Dorin Millavec and his subordinate Resjin Resjic, aboard the Star Destroyer Crucible in 0 ABY. While Millavec bears the insignia of a Commander, Resjic appears to have a third code cylinder at the left shoulder: in no other instance does the number of code cylinders decrease with rank. It is possible to rationalize this discrepancy: Millavec might be a Navy Commander, and Resjic could be a Commander in the Starfighter Corps, several grades lower in comparable rank but particularly senior within his grade; but in this instance, it is perhaps more likely that Resjic's insignia, at least, are simply in error.
Officers of the 37th and 181st WingsEdit
As a junior officer out of Carida, Soontir Fel was appointed to the Sixth Squadron of the 37th Imperial Fighter Wing: Fel's own insignia at this stage in his career are unknown, but Captain Lun Tessra, commanding the 6/37th, wore two red squares over two blue on his plaque, with a single code cylinder at the right shoulder. Images of Fel's own subsequent promotion to Captain show him being presented with either a new rank plaque, or perhaps a code cylinder–although no code cylinders are subsequently observed on his uniform. His promotion was issued by a more senior officer with the insignia of a Commander, perhaps or the commanding officer of the Dreadnaught Cruiser Abrogator, aboard which Fel was stationed, or of the two-squadron element of the 37th that was most likely assigned to her.
Subsequently to a second tour with the 6/37th, Fel was transferred to the line Navy, and appointed Captain of the Dreadnaught Pride of the Senate; then, rather than receiving the Star Destroyer command anticipated by some of his subordinates, he was transferred as an instructor to the Naval Academy Prefsbelt IV. His insignia during his command of the Pride of the Senate are unknown, but at the Academy, earlier depictions show him still wearing two red pips over two blue; subsequently, by 0 ABY, he has three red over three blue.
Latterly, Fel was assigned back to front-line combat with the 181st Fighter Wing, as commander of the 2/181st squadron: still with the rank of Captain, and still with an insignia displaying three red squares over three blue, with no visible code cylinders. He was subsequently, in 0 ABY, promoted to Major, and henceforth wore the expected insignia: four red over four blue, and a single code cylinder in the left-hand pocket.
Turr Phennir, as a Captain serving under Fel, bore two red squares over two blue, with no cylinders shown. However, at the promotion ceremony where he was raised to the rank of Commander, Phennir wore the expected insignia of that rank, while inexplicably, Fel, now Colonel and commander of the 181st, is illustrated wearing what seems to be the insignia of a Navy Captain.
It is not clear exactly what to make of all this material, but it is perhaps significant that Captains in both units seem to have often borne two red squares over two blue, at least sometimes worn with a code cylinder in the right-hand pocket; this was, of course, the insignia worn by the problematic Captain Bewil on Bespin, discussed above.
At this point, mention must be made of illustrations depicting the pacification forces on Ralltiir three weeks before the Battle of Yavin, which show personnel with insignia that are different from those seen in the footage from the Death Star, and which, for the most part, are not seen again in any subsequent images. The leader of the pacification, Lord Tion, is depicted in a standard line officer's uniform with four red tabs above four blue on the rank plaque, with one code cylinder at either shoulder, but most officers shown in these illustrations wear badges in which colored tabs repeat at irregular intervals across multiple rows—a pattern that here must be deliberate, but is almost unparalleled elsewhere. Moreover, most rank badges are shown in the double-level format, otherwise rarely seen before Yavin.
An aide to Lord Tion, addressed as "Commander", is depicted with a plaque three tabs wide, with one blue, one gold and one red in the top row, one gold, one blue and one gold below, again with one code cylinder at either shoulder, while a junior officer seated at a monitoring console in the base control-room has a single strip of three tabs, of indeterminate color, and apparently with no code cylinders.
When Darth Vader subsequently dispatched a Sentinel-class landing craft from the Ralltiir garrison to Kattada in pursuit of Princess Leia, Commander Karg, apparently the mission leader, wore two blue pips and one and red above one blue, one gold and one red, with a code-cylinder at either shoulder. Lieutenant Spilik, an officer who had not attended the Imperial Academy but who may have had more active-duty experience, wore an insignia four tabs wide, with three blue and one red above one gold, one red and two gold, again with two cylinders. A third Imperial in tunic and breeches seems to be shown with two cylinders but no rank insignia, while the junior officer who eventually surrendered the survivors of the unit had three red tabs above two blue and one gold, with no visible code cylinders.
Given the contrast of these insignia with all other evidence, and the dearth of additional information for the period predating Yavin, it is hard to know what to make of these badges. Given the unusual nature of the insignia shown, there is a possibility that insignia have been miscolored, or even depicted erroneously. Only the insignia of the console operator at the Ralltiir headquarters corresponds in any way with the single strips of tabs shown in the Yavin footage and the Death Star Technical Companion, and this is particularly strange because the Devastator, aboard which Nahdonnis Praji and Daine Jir were serving, would have been Lord Tion's own command ship in this timeframe.
In terms of the standard post-Yavin system, however, Tion's insignia can be interpreted as indicating a rank of Colonel or General, and if we discard the coloring, then both his aide and Karg have the insignia of Commanders, while the junior officer on Kattada could be a Captain; Lieutenant Spilik's insignia and rank are more problematic, but he is perhaps most plausibly interpreted as a senior Lieutenant of the Imperial Navy, commanding the transport while Karg led the mission's primary military component. Even if the badges can be rationalized, however, that does not mean that the "corrected" insignia are necessarily accurate for the timeframe in which the events illustrated actually occurred; but on the other hand, is not impossible that these badges represent the almost unknown variety of insignia in use before Yavin.
The insignia of the black-uniformed officers seen commanding stormtroopers at around the time of the Battle of Yavin have been discussed above. Over the months immediately after Yavin, however, extensive documentation survives concerning officers from the stormtrooper units with which Janek Sunber served. Stormtrooper officers now seem to have usually worn khaki–in contrast to the Army gray of General Ziering in Sunber's first assignment to the garrison on Maridun, and the Imperial Intelligence officers on Kalist VI, who still wore black.
|Lieutenant Sunber (2nd badge)|
|Lieutenants Sunber, Clynn, etc.|
In his assignment on Maridun, Lieutenant Sunber wore two red squares over two blue, although he lacked any code cylinders; Captain Gage wore three red squares over three blue with a single code cylinder on the left, while Commander Frickett had a second code cylinder on the right. Subsequently, on receiving a field promotion to Captain, Sunber himself adopted the same insignia as Gage, and while he understandably did not add a second code cylinder when the dying General Ziering named him Commander during the heat of battle, he did wear two code cylinders for the hearing on Carida at which he attempted unsuccessfully to have his field promotion confirmed. With the exception of Lieutenant Sunber's lack of a code cylinder, these are precisely the insignia tabulated in The Imperial Sourcebook, discussed above. The same insignia for Commander would later be worn by a Stormtrooper officer serving with the Endor garrison in 4 ABY.
In the garrison on Kalist VI, to which Sunber's platoon was assigned following heavy losses in the campaign on Jabiim, all officers, including General Noils seem to have worn khaki; in Sunber's new company, most or all of the Lieutenants apparently lacked code cylinders, as did company commander Captain Kale Roshuir. In contrast to Ziering, who had carried four code cylinders, even Noils wore only one.
On a subsequent campaign, Sunber, still serving as a Lieutenant with a stormtrooper unit, wore two code cylinders with his badge, one at either shoulder; a single image suggests that he may subsequently have reverted to one cylinder at the left-hand shoulder on his next assignment, but it is not clear how much weight we can put on this one, somewhat stylized representation.
It could be hypothesized that a Lieutenant's plaque without a code cylinder was the insignia of a Second Lieutenant, and that First Lieutenants wore a cylinder, with a second cylinder indicating some sort of additional command brevet or seniority; alternatively, given the lack of any clear evidence for Lieutenants with a single code cylinder, and Captain Roshuir's apparent lack of any cylinders with his badge, it may be that the use of code cylinders among lower-ranking stormtrooper officers were at least partially an indicator of specific command privileges, rather than exact rank, with a separate meaning from the main rank badge indicating rank. Either way, however, it is likely that Commanders always displayed two cylinders.
When wearing armor, Stormtrooper officers rarely wore any type of outward insignia, apparently relying instead on built-in IFF signals and HUDs in their helmets for identification. A system of colored shoulder pads was used in some contexts, and although the exact significance of these is unknown, some references suggest that a black pauldron indicated a commissioned officer.
Occasional examples are, however, known of stormtrooper personnel in non-standard armor with rank plaques, perhaps worn for the benefit of non-stormtrooper personnel serving alongside them. A Blizzard Force officer in the cockpit of General Veers' AT-AT at the Battle of Hoth wore two red squares over two blue, with no visible code cylinders, and the same insignia was used shortly after Endor by SpecNav commander Sixtus Quin. Quin's second in command Septaas is normally shown with the same insignia, although on his first appearance, he displays one red pip over one blue; but it is not clear how much weight can be placed on this depiction, considering that the illustration is from an (otherwise excellent) pencil and ink team whose depiction of rank insignia is often inconsistent.
The Grand Admirals wore distinctive white uniforms, sometimes with no further code cylinders or rank insignia whatsoever. When Grand Admirals did wear insignia, they usually displayed three blue and three gold squares over three blue and three red, without code cylinders, but with bullion epaulets on the shoulders.
However, on at least one occasion, a more ornate version of the white uniform is recorded. When Grand Admiral Thrawn returned briefly to Coruscant in 4 ABY, his uniform bore a number of additional gold details: as well as epaulets and a rank plaque, this version of the Grand Admiral's uniform was distinguished by gold detailing on the collar and cuffs, and a row of gold buttons up the right-hand side of the tunic front; it is unclear if a matching row of buttons appeared on the left.
It is not certain, however, what these distinctions imply: this may simply be a further variant of the Grand Admiral's uniform, but it may also be significant that Thrawn at some point earned the additional title of Warlord. In, contrast references to Thrawn in this timeframe as a Vice Admiral are unlikely to be relevant to the differences in uniform detail: these seem instead to reflect the fact that his promotion to Grand Admiral was at that point secret from the general public.
Intelligence and Security servicesEdit
By 0 ABY, members of both Imperial Intelligence and the Imperial Security Bureau wore white tunics with black caps and breeches, although it is unclear when this distinctive uniform was introduced, or whether it was retained subsequently.
Colonel Wullf Yularen, the senior ISB operative aboard the Death Star, wore a rank insignia of three red tabs followed by three blue tabs, with no code cylinders, and he was the only senior officer except Tarkin to lack cartridge-boxes on his belt.
Yularen's Imperial Intelligence colleague, Officer Evax, wore three blue tabs followed by three red on his tunic plaque, and likewise had no code cylinders, but he did wear belt-boxes. It is impossible to be sure of the two officers' relative ranks, but Yularen's place in command-level briefings, and his lack of belt-boxes, suggests that he may have been the senior of the two men.
It is not known how widespread the white tunic or these rank insignia were. Eight months after the Battle of Yavin, however, a Captain and Lieutenant from Imperial Intelligence assigned to the base on Kalist VI wore black uniforms with rank insignia corresponding to those of their Army and Navy counterparts–three red squares over three blue for the Captain, two over two for the Lieutenant. Code cylinders are not visible in the surviving illustrations. The Imperial Security Bureau may have also switched to black uniforms at this time, although the only direct evidence appears to be the uniform of Corporal Vandolay, a junior ISB agent aboard the Executor; what can be said with more confidence is that, although the generic term "agent" was commonplace, ISB employed Army-style non-commissioned and officer ranks up to General.
Throughout the history of the Empire, the Director of Intelligence often wore a highly distinctive uniform, indicative of senior status in the command hierarchy. At the end of the Clone Wars–both before and after the Declaration of a New Order–Director Armand Isard wore an ornate officer's dress uniform, with a double-breasted tunic that fastened up the left-hand side rather than the right: a row of rectangular fittings running up the seam appear to have been clasps or buttons, but the lapel, rather than continuing up to the shoulder, cut back inwards across the sternum to the middle of the collar. A single row of six rank tabs appeared in the usual place on the left breast, but due to the design of the tunic, this sat above the lapel fastening.
It is unknown what color Armand Isard's tunic or insignia were, but after she succeeded her father in post, Ysanne Isard would wear a red officer's uniform, sometimes with the insignia of an Admiral, sometimes with no insignia in the manner of a Grand Admiral.
Lastly, mention must be made of the rank of Lieutenant Commander, which was apparently borne by some officers within the security apparatus, although their exact place within the hierarchy is unclear: Alliance spy Pike Angeles masqueraded as Nim of Imperial Intelligence, while Janna Tammok was head of security for the Imperial Consul General on Bothawui, wearing a line officer's uniform with a Lieutenant's insignia.
Imperial enlisted personnel are very rarely shown in surviving evidence with any type of insignia, but ordinary soldiers and technicians seem to have been often distinguished from supervising NCOs and Warrant Officers by their differing types of uniforms. Mention has already been made of personnel with a narrow rank plaque carrying one red square above one blue, and the possibility that these insignia indicated warrant or petty officer ranks; if this was so, then rank grade may have been indicated by use of increasing numbers of code cylinders, as with commissioned officers.
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ Swedish Navy Official Website (In Swedish)
- ↑ Archive of the official Norwegian military forum - Forsvarets forum
- ↑ Danish Navy Official Website (In Danish)
- ↑ Finnish Defence Forces Official Website (in Finnish)
- ↑ Wikipedia’s article on the Polish Armed Forces
- ↑ Wikipedia’s article showing the naval officer insignias of Romania
- ↑ Dictionary.com’s article on Commander
- ↑ Dictionary.com’s article on Commodore