- "Those aren't just stormtroopers. They're from the Five-Oh-First Legion. Darth Vader's personal legion."
- ―Everi Chalis
The 501st Legion, also known as the 501st Battalion or Vader's Fist, was an elite military unit in the Stormtrooper Corps of the Galactic Empire. Its origins, however, date back to the era of the Clone Wars when the 501st was part of the Grand Army of the Republic. Like other Republic military regiments, the 501st was composed by clone troopers—an army of soldiers bred on the planet Kamino to fight for the Galactic Republic. However, it was not part of any clone trooper corps; the 501st was a standalone infantry legion assigned to the command of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker. Throughout the Clone Wars, the 501st deployed across the galaxy to defend the Republic against the droid armies of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, and often served alongside Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi's 212th Attack Battalion on worlds such as Christophsis, Geonosis and Umbara.
During the Battle of Umbara, the 501st staged a mutiny against Jedi Master Pong Krell, who had been appointed to replace Skywalker as their commanding officer for the duration of the campaign. Krell, whose fall to the dark side of the Force led him to undermine the Republic's war effort by aiding the Umbaran Separatists, attempted to evade arrest but was ultimately captured by his troops. Krell's second-in-command, Clone Captain CT-7567 "Rex" resolved to execute the General for committing treason against the Republic, although the deed was ultimately carried out by trooper "Dogma," resulting in his own arrest in the aftermath of the battle.
The Sith conspiracy against the Jedi Order was nearly exposed by CT-5555 "Fives," an Advanced Recon Commando who served with the 501st since the early days of the conflict. Troubled by the loss of CT-5385 "Tup," Fives investigated his comrade's death and discovered a malfunctioning control chip in the clone's brain. Upon analyzing the clone hatcheries in Tipoca City, Fives realized that every clone of Jango Fett was engineered with the same chip in their head. Although he brought his findings to Coruscant, capital of the Republic, Fives became a wanted fugitive for attempting to assassinate Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, who revealed to the ARC trooper that the chips were designed to force the clones to betray and murder their Jedi leaders. Horrified by this revelation, Fives contacted his superiors in the 501st, hoping to prove the conspiracy against the Jedi. However, he was tracked and surrounded by a contingent of Coruscant Guard clone shock troopers led by Clone Commander CC-1010 "Fox," who fatally shot Fives while attempting to arrest him.
The Jedi Purge commenced in 19 BBY, three years after the Battle of Geonosis in 22 BBY, when the Grand Army of the Republic received instructions to execute Order 66—the secret protocol directing all clone troopers to liquidate the Jedi Order. Palpatine, who was, in fact, the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, deployed the 501st Legion to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, under the command of his new Sith apprentice Darth Vader. Marching on the Order's home, the 501st stormed the Temple and massacred its inhabitants, including Padawans and Jedi younglings.
The 501st continued to operate under Vader's command during the reign of the Galactic Empire, although by then he had established the First Legion as his personal stormtrooper legion. Nevertheless, the 501st gained the nickname "Vader's Fist" due to their continued affiliation with the Sith Lord. During the Galactic Civil War, approximately two decades after Emperor Palpatine's rise to power, the 501st fought against the Alliance to Restore the Republic at the Battle of Hoth in 3 ABY. At that point, the Empire had long since retired clones in favor of birth-born human recruits and conscripts.
- "My name is Rex. Captain. 501st clone battalion."
- ―CT-7567, remembering his service
The 501st Legion was a military division of infantry clone troopers—human clones grown from the genetic source material of the bounty hunter Jango Fett—that served the Galactic Republic in its final years. Serving as the personal battalion of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, the 501st was divided into several sub-divisions such as Torrent Company which, under the command of Clone Captain CT-7567 "Rex," fought against the Confederacy of Independent Systems during the First Battle of Geonosis in 22 BBY. Following the Republic's victory on Geonosis, the 501st deployed to various battlefronts across the galaxy as part of the newly-formed Grand Army of the Republic.
- "You're exactly the kind of men I need in the 501st."
- ―CT-7567, drafting CT-1409 and CT-5555 into the 501st Legion
Assuming command of the clone armies, the Jedi Order began directing the defense of the Republic against the Confederate droid forces since the days of the conflict. Following his promotion to the rank of Jedi Knight, General Skywalker and his first officer, Captain Rex, led the 501st's Torrent Company in the campaign to retake Christophsis. During the battle, the 501st was joined by Skywalker's new apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, who claimed the authority of Jedi Commander through her status as a Padawan in the Order. Upon defeating the Separatists with the help of the 212th Attack Battalion, the 501st was redirected to the planet Teth with orders to rescue Rotta, son of the Hutt crime lord Jabba Desilijic Tiure. They sustained heavy losses against the Separatist Droid Army, but ultimately prevailed in the Battle of Teth with the support of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and the 212th.
Skywalker's legion continued to serve the Republic over the course of the war, completing a variety of assignments and gaining new troopers—such as CT-1409 ("Echo") and CT-5555 ("Fives")—deemed worthy of serving in the ranks of the elite 501st. As Skywalker often worked alongside his mentor, Kenobi, the 501st also served with the 212th on several missions, including the voyage of Duchess Satine Kryze from Mandalore to Coruscant. The Death Watch, a terrorist organization opposed to Kryze's government, failed to assassinate the duchess before she could reach the galactic capital due to the combined efforts of the 501st and 212th. Later, a detachment of the 501st was sent to Naboo along with a squad of clone ordnance specialists where they ultimately prevented Doctor Nuvo Vindi's plan to attack the population through biological warfare.
Following the theft of a holocron from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, the 501st's Carnivore Battalion was sent on a mission to Devaron in order to retrieve the artifact from Cad Bane. In the ensuing battle between the Republic and Separatist forces, the battalion manned the All Terrain Tactical Enforcer, designated 773, alongside two other brigades. The bounty hunter was presumed to have died in the battle, but in fact survived by disguising himself with the clone armor of the 501st trooper Denal.
Battle of KaminoEdit
- "Echo, Fives, you're both officially being made ARC troopers."
- ―CC-2224, to CT-1409 and CT-5555
When the Separatists plotted to deal the Republic a crippling blow by destroying the cloning facilities of Kamino, the 501st and 212th rushed to the defense of their homeworld. The Battle of Kamino was a hard-fought victory for the Republic, due in part to the actions of the 501st. In particular, the troopers Echo and Fives were recognized for their service by Captain Rex, as well as CC-2224 ("Cody") of the 212th, and were both promoted to the elite status of ARC trooper in the aftermath of the battle. Afterward, Rex and the new ARC troopers of the 501st were sent with Skywalker and Kenobi to infiltrate the Citadel. Though succeeded in reacquiring the information pertaining to the Nexus Route from General Even Piell and his captain, Wilhuff Tarkin, the group lost Echo, who survived but was presumed dead, in addition to several other casualties.
Battle of UmbaraEdit
- "Remember, General Krell, the entire invasion depends on your battalion."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, to Pong Krell
The 501st was along the battalions that the Republic deployed to reconquer Umbara from the Separatist Alliance. During the campaign, Skywalker was recalled to Coruscant by the Jedi High Council at the request of Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, leaving the 501st under the command of Jedi General Pong Krell. Although he was a recognized war hero with a distinguished record of service, Krell became a Separatist spy after turning to the dark side of the Force. He deliberately sabotaged his own strategies to undermine the clones, whom he regarded with contempt and disgust.
Krell's betrayal was exposed after deceiving the 501st and 212th into fighting each other, causing clones on both sides to kill each other by mistake. Both battalions mutinied against his command, causing the fallen Jedi to slaughter many clones before he fell into captivity. In response to his actions, Krell was summarily executed by his most loyal soldier, "Dogma," who was subsequently taken into Republic custody for killing an officer.
Conspiracy of Order 66Edit
- "There's been a rebellion, sir. Don't worry. The situation is under control. I'm sorry, sir. It's time for you to leave."
- ―CC-1119, to Bail Organa
During the Battle of Ringo Vinda, the 501st was forced to retreat from the Separatists due to an unexpected development: CT-5385 "Tup" killed Jedi General Tiplar. Suffering from a malfunction in his inhibitor chip, the trooper became hostile towards the Jedi, which in turn led to a premature execution of Order 66—a clone protocol designed to turn the clone army against their Jedi officers in the event of a Jedi rebellion. This turn of events led to an investigation on Kamino, but later moved to Coruscant at Chancellor Palpatine's request. By then, ARC trooper Fives had partially uncovered the nature of the inhibitor chips and, believing they were a threat to the security of the Grand Army, requested their immediate removal from the brains of every clone trooper. However, the Chancellor revealed his knowledge of the chips and their true purpose to Fives, causing the clone to become a fugitive after attempting to assassinate Palpatine. The rogue clone made an effort to expose Palpatine's conspiracy, but was killed by Commander CC-1010 "Fox" of the Coruscant Guard before he could prove his claims.
In 19 BBY, approximately three standard years since the start of the Clone Wars, the conspiracy that Fives discovered came to fruition with the mass execution of Order 66, leading the Grand Army to betray their Jedi leaders. Palpatine, who had orchestrated the Clone Wars as Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith, utilized the clone army as the instrument of both the fall of the Jedi Order and the Sith's rise to absolute power. Aiding the Dark Lord in the initial phase of the Jedi Purge was Anakin Skywalker, now anointed in the dark side as the Sith Lord Darth Vader. Sidious' new apprentice was tasked with leading the 501st Legion in a direct attack on the Jedi Temple, resulting in the deaths of its inhabitants while thousands of Jedi were killed by their troops across the galaxy. By then, the 501st served under Clone Commander CC-1119 "Appo," who was originally a clone sergeant during the invasion of Umbara, in addition to Vader. The commander was severely injured by Padawan Zett Jukassa before the latter was killed by a squad of 501st troopers, an incident witnessed by Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan. Following their siege of the Jedi Temple, the 501st patrolled the grounds around the site.
In the aftermath of Order 66, Sidious consolidated his power as Emperor of the First Galactic Empire. The new regime retained the Grand Army as the first generation of Imperial stormtroopers with the 501st Legion remaining under Vader's personal command. Over the course of the Empire's reign, the 501st acquired the nickname "Vader's Fist" due to their association with the Emperor's chief enforcer. By the time of the Galactic Civil War, the legion was deployed against the forces of the Rebel Alliance.
Raid on the Tantive IVEdit
In 0 BBY, the Star Destroyer Devastator followed the Tantive IV, Leia Organa's ship to the planet Tatooine. The Devastator managed to disable the ship, and a taskforce of the 501st boarded the Tantive and stunned Organa, but failed to locate the plans, as an escape pod containing them had been jettisoned.
Battle of HothEdit
The 501st Legion utilized the Phase I clone trooper armor during the early period of the Clone Wars, from the first battle on Geonosis until the introduction of the Phase II model by the time of the Battle of Mon Cala. On certain occasions Rex and other members of the 501st made use of jetpacks for aerial transportation and greater mobility.
In general, the 501st maintained the appearance of the standard clone trooper as designed on Kamino. However, Captain Rex became part of a growing trend of clone officers who customized their uniforms with unique color-based designs and supplementary pieces of armor. By the time of the Battle of Christophsis, Rex wore his armor with blue markings, a command pauldron, and a kama. By the time of Christophsis Rex was not the only clone trooper in the legion with blue markings, as several others possessed them as well. A clone sergeant had blue markings well around this time. Over time more troopers of the 501st came to customize their own kit, also using blue as a complementary color to the standard white.
As the war continued, Phase II clone trooper armor became widespread within the ranks of the Grand Army, supplanting the Phase I model. When the 501st upgraded their armor, they adopted a common color scheme and markings that identified their unit affiliation. Nevertheless, some clones—such as Rex, the ARC troopers, and even common soldiers—retained their own unique designs that differed from the rest of the 501st.
Behind the scenesEdit
"501st Legion" is also the name of a fan costuming organization formed in 1997 by Albin Johnson and Tom Crews. The group originally intended to re-create accurate stormtrooper costumes but has expanded to include Sith Lords, bounty hunters and other villains from the film series, encompassing EU source material as well as canonical ones. The group goes under the nickname, "Vader's Fist", and was the inspiration for George Lucas to add the organization into official Star Wars canon. The group actively does charity and volunteer work for a number of organizations, and currently consists of over 10,000 members worldwide.