- "Those aren't just stormtroopers. They're from the Five-Oh-First Legion. Darth Vader's personal legion."
- ―Everi Chalis
The 501st Legion, initially the 501st Clone Battalion, and later nicknamed "Vader's Fist" and redesignated as the 501st Imperial Legion, was an elite stormtrooper legion under the command of the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader during the Imperial Era. The legion predated the Galactic Empire, its origins dating back to the era of the Clone Wars when the 501st was an elite military battalion of clone troopers in the Grand Army of the Republic. Under the leadership of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Commander Ahsoka Tano, and Clone Commander CT-7567 "Rex," the 501st fought against the Separatist Droid Army of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Throughout the conflict, the soldiers of the 501st were known for their courage, unconventional tactics, and loyalty to the Galactic Republic.
The 501st saw action on multiple battlefronts across the galaxy, becoming part of several historic engagements such as the Battle of Christophsis, the Second Battle of Geonosis, and the Battle of Umbara. During the campaign on Umbara, Skywalker was recalled to the Republic capital of Coruscant, leaving General Pong Krell to assume command of the legion in the interim. Unbeknownst to the clones who served him, Krell turned to the dark side of the Force, and having foreseen the rise of a New Order, he worked in secret to undermine the Republic. The 501st mutinied against Krell when his betrayal was revealed. They sustained multiple casualties while confronting their commanding officer, but ultimately succeeded in capturing Krell, who was executed while in military custody.
An incident within the 501st nearly exposed a Sith conspiracy against the Jedi Order. During the Battle of Ringo Vinda, CT-5385 "Tup" betrayed and killed General Tiplar, resulting in an investigation that revealed a hidden behavioral modification biochip within the brain of every clone trooper. An Advanced Recon Commando, CT-5555 "Fives," investigated further into the matter, and learned that the chips were designed to force the clones to kill their Jedi allies. Alarmed by this discovery, he revealed his findings to Skywalker and Rex, but was unable to convince either of them before his death by the clone shock troopers of the Coruscant Guard.
In the last days of the Clone Wars, Skywalker divided the 501st by creating the 332nd Division and dispatching it, including the 332nd Company, to Mandalore. Led by Commander Rex and former Commander Tano, the division defeated the Mandalorian super commandos and captured their leader, the former Sith apprentice Maul. During the journey to Coruscant, however, the Great Jedi Purge commenced when Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine—the Sith Lord Darth Sidious—declared that Order 66 was in effect, turning the clone troopers against their Jedi officers. Although the 501st failed to terminate Tano, the other half of the legion stormed the Jedi Temple and killed its inhabitants, including Padawans and Jedi younglings, under the leadership of the newly christened Sith Lord Darth Vader. Rex deserted the 501st after defending Tano against his own troops, including CT-5597 "Jesse," all of whom died attempting to carry out Order 66. On Coruscant, the 501st was defeated by Jedi Masters Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi who infiltrated the Temple while Sidious declared himself Emperor of the Galactic Empire.
The 501st was absorbed into the Imperial Military, becoming a legion of the Stormtrooper Corps which transitioned to the use of human recruits after the Empire suspended the cloning operation on Kamino. Although the First Legion replaced the 501st as Vader's personal legion, the 501st also served under the Dark Lord's command, even being personally led by him during events like the capture of Princess Leia Organa. At the height of the Galactic Civil War, the 501st participated in the Battle of Hoth where the Empire sought to destroy the Alliance to Restore the Republic.
- 1 Description
- 2 History
- 2.1 Clone Wars
- 2.2 Imperial Era
- 3 Behind the scenes
- 4 Appearances
- 5 Sources
- 6 Notes and references
- "Master Krell, this is Rex, my first in command. You won't find a finer or more loyal trooper anywhere."
- ―Anakin Skywalker, to Pong Krell
The 501st Legion, originally operating as an elite group known as the 501st Clone Battalion, was a Republic Military battalion and later legion of elite clone troopers under the command of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker and Jedi Commander Ahsoka Tano. The legion was briefly and tentatively led by Jedi General Pong Krell in one instance that Skywalker was absent. Clone Captain CT-7567 "Rex" served as Skywalker's first-in-command, and was eventually promoted to the military rank of Clone Commander when the 501st Legion split into two groups.
Clone Commander CC-1119 "Appo," previously a Clone Sergeant within the legion, was promoted to Clone Commander and placed in command of the other half of the 501st forces after Commander Rex vanished. Clone Captain CT-0292 "Vaughn" served within the legion, as did Clone Lieutenant CT-5597 "Jesse," Clone Lieutenant "Hawk," Clone Sergeant CT-0000/1010 "Fox," and another clone sergeant.
- "I'll divide the 501st, make a new division under Ahsoka's command."
"Unfortunately, Ahsoka is no longer a part of the Grand Army of the Republic."
"We'll promote Rex to Commander and have him lead the new division. Ahsoka can go with him as an adviser."
- ―Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Although originally a battalion that served as an elite group of troopers, the 501st was reorganized as a legion. As such, the 501st consisted of various subunits. When the unit was divided into two groups at the end of its service to the Galactic Republic, one group was the 332nd Division. It additionally contained three brigades, which contained Carnivore Battalion and Execute Battalion, each containing a standard 576 troopers. Many companies made up the legion, including the 332nd Company and Torrent Company.
Platoons in the legion included a platoon within the 332nd Company, another platoon under the direct command of Captain Rex, as well as another platoon that operated in cold-weather operations and included four squads, including first squad. Other squads within the legion included a squad directly led by Rex, and a squad led by Skywalker. Other units in the legion included Skywalker's team, Calm Tree, Snow Wolves, and Wildfire. Additionally, the 501st had its own starship group.
Culture and training
- "A few of General Skywalker's plans seemed reckless too, but they worked."
"Yeah, but General Skywalker is usually leading his men up in the front, not bringing up the rear like General Krell."
- ―CT-7567 "Rex" and CT-5555 "Fives"
Renowned for their bravery and unconventional tactics, the 501st participated in historic conflicts from the Battle of Christophsis to the Siege of Mandalore and often served alongside Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi's 212th Attack Battalion. The 501st won numerous battles, usually against seemingly impossible odds. Many, including Kenobi, hypothesized that Skywalker's unorthodox approach influenced the members of his unit. They were unflinchingly fierce in combat, and did not demonstrate mercy. The 501st were initially trained with basic combat tactics, but were not trained for Separatist forces at the onset of their service.
Equipment and vehicles
- "Generation One armor always holds up."
- ―CT-7567 "Rex," on his clone trooper armor
The 501st Legion used All Terrain Tactical Enforcers, All Terrain Reconnaissance Transports, and other vehicles. The 501st Legion utilized the Phase I clone trooper armor during the early period of the Clone Wars, from the First Battle of 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.
By the time of the Battle of Arantara, 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 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 of the Republic, 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 Advanced Recon Commandos and even common soldiers retained their own unique designs that differed from the rest of the 501st.
- "You're exactly the kind of men I need in the 501st."
- ―CT-7567 "Rex," to CT-1409 "Echo" and CT-5555 "Fives"
As a legion of the Grand Army of the Republic, the 501st Legion consisted of various specializations of clone troopers. Beside the standard clone trooper, the 501st deployed clone trooper pilots via its starship and ground vehicle groups, as well as clone gunners, and various clone trooper officers with a ranging degree of customized armor and equipment. The 501st had a range of specialized clone troopers that served in operational capacities, including the Clone Comms Technician who were responsible for proper communication, and Clone Engineers who were tasked with confirming that Republic vehicles were operational.
Elite special forces clone trooper variants were also attached to the elite 501st Legion, including several Advanced Recon Commandos for special operations, many Advanced Recon Force Scout Troopers for reconnaissance and light vehicle support, and clone commandos. The 501st was also outfitted with other types of specialized troopers for different combat scenarios, including many clone jetpack troopers for aerial combat, clone sharpshooters for sniping and marksman action, heavy weapons clone troopers for heavy infantry support, clone medics for medical aid and assistance, and clone cold assault troopers for cold weather operations.
Command and organization
Under service to the Galactic Empire, the 501st Legion was led by Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader, previously the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, as his personal legion of troops. Officers who served the legion included General Maximilian Veers, Brigadier General Nevar, Colonel Starck, Commander Daine Jir, Commander Praji, Commander TD-110, Commander TD-4445, Commander TK-9091, commanding officer TK-4601, Captain TS-4068, another captain, and Sergeant Kreel.
The legion could be divided down to squads, which could be further divided into fireteams. Task Force 99, a Special Commando Advanced Recon Trooper squad, was attached to the elite 501st, which at the time continued answering to the highest levels of Imperial High Command.
With the end of the Republic Era, the 501st transitioned from clone troopers to stormtroopers and continued to utilize several variant units, including the elite Storm Commandos and cold weather assault stormtroopers. With the Republic's transformation into the Empire, the Kaminoan cloning production was shut down and the Imperial Military replaced clones with human conscripts. Such changes applied to the 501st as well. By 0 BBY, human Soldiers such as TK-7624, TK-8332, and Commander TK-9091 served in the 501st.
Equipment and vehicles
After the 501st was absorbed by the Imperial Military, becoming a division of the Stormtrooper Corps, its members were equipped with stormtrooper armor along with the E-11 blaster rifle as their primary weapon. The legion also made use of terrain-based equipment utilized by cold weather assault stormtroopers during the mission on Hoth.
Foundation and Geonosis
- "My name is Rex. Captain. 501st Clone Battalion."
- ―CT-7567 "Rex," remembering his service
At the beginning of the pan-galactic Clone Wars in 22 BBY, the Galactic Republic mobilized an army of clone troopers to fight the armies of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, ending a millennium of peace. These soldiers, who were cloned from the genetic source material of the human template Jango Fett, formed the backbone of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was divided into various corps, battalions, regiments, platoons, and other units.
One such unit within the Grand Army of the Republic was the 501st Clone Battalion, which began as an elite group of clone troopers and participated in the first action that sparked the Clone Wars, the First Battle of Geonosis. Although they were not yet assigned to the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, as he was in pursuit of Separatist Head of State Count Dooku, the 501st was brought from its homeworld of Kamino to Geonosis by Grand Master Yoda, and battled the Separatist forces. Despite being well trained in basic combat tactics, members of the 501st had no special training to combat Separatist forces, though fortunately for the Republic troops, the Separatists were fighting a rear-guard action in defense of their transports which were trying to escape into space.
Despite the circumstances, 501st Clone Battalion troopers fought against the latest droid forces, included B2-series super battle droids that were so fresh from the production line that they were not painted. Led by Clone Captain CT-7567 "Rex," he and his clone troopers fought well at Geonosis, which earned them veteran status within the Grand Army. Veterans of the battle earned critical frontline experience, which were passed down to rookie troopers meant to replace the casualties incurred by the unit. Additionally in the aftermath, the 501st was reorganized into the 501st Legion, founded by Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, and placed under the command of Anakin Skywalker.
With Skywalker's promotion to Jedi Knight and receiving the military rank of Jedi General, Skywalker led the legion with Captain Rex serving as his first-in-command. The 501st Legion was deployed to numerous battlefronts as war swept across the galaxy, and more Jedi began serving the Republic Military. During the war, Skywalker and the 501st attacked a number of droid factories.
Early missions and Hisseen
One of the unit's earlier missions was the Battle of Arantara, during which 501st Clone Captain Rex was incapacitated. Once Rex had woken up, General Skywalker spoke to him and taught him that a true leader always led from the front. Another early mission was a mission to Benglor in order to investigate Separatist activity on the planet. After discovering traces of Separatist battle droids, members of the 501st were attacked by an indigenous creature, resulting in the death of 501st clone trooper "Bellow."
Subsequently, the 501st Legion participated in a siege of Hisseen alongside the 7th Sky Corps under the command of Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi and Clone Marshal Commander CC-2224 "Cody," and the 104th Battalion led by Jedi General Plo Koon and Clone Commander CC-3636 "Wolffe." After securing a foothold on the planet Hisseen, clone troopers from the three units protected the Hisseenians against waves of battle droids, until the three Jedi arrived and defeated the surviving droid forces. The Jedi were soon forced to leave their troops to defend the ground while they moved to engage Separatist leader Count Dooku and his apprentice Asajj Ventress. At that time, more droid forces bore down on the clone troopers, and members of the 104th and 7th were dispatched to rescue members of the Hisseenian parliament while the 501st held the frontline.
Shortly after rescuing the parliamentary members, the Captain Rex contacted Commander Cody requesting reinforcements, as the droid attack intensified. As the 501st troopers sustained higher casualties and were being overrun, Commanders Cody and Wolffe returned with their units to support the troopers. After several explosions, the clone units were disoriented and captured by the droid forces, who had overrun the Republic position, but were rescued when the Jedi Generals returned. With Separatist forces in retreat from Hisseen, Republic forces, including the 501st Legion, were recalled to the Republic capital world of Coruscant.
Battle of Christophsis
- "What's our plan of attack, sir?"
- ―CT-7567 "Rex" and Anakin Skywalker
Skywalker and Rex led the 501st's Torrent Company in the campaign to retake the planet of 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 droid army but ultimately prevailed in the Battle of Teth with the support of General Obi-Wan Kenobi and the 212th.
The 501st Legion participated in the Battle of Mimban alongside the 224th Division's Mud Jumpers. The 501st and 224th fought against a large force of Separatist droid forces, and following the death of Jedi General Laan Tik and receiving heavy fire, Captain Rex ordered the Republic forces to retreat to their military outpost. There, Captain Rex and his subordinates reviewed and discussed the situation, with Captain Rex deciding to pull his forces out while he destroyed the Separatist deflector shield generator alone. Junior Representative Jar Jar Binks, who accompanied Republic troops, used General Tik's lightsaber to aid Captain Rex after Rex was injured and defeated. The two then fought ahead to the shield generator.
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 Kamino
- "Echo, Fives, you're both officially being made ARC troopers."
- ―CC-2224 "Cody," to CT-1409 "Echo" and CT-5555 "Fives"
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 Commander 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 the Republic 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.
Battles of Felucia and Horain
Following the Battle of Lola Sayu, the 501st Legion was dispatched to Felucia once again alongside the 104th Battalion and several clone tank divisions. After this time, the implementation of Phase II clone trooper armor to replace the standard Phase I took place, with the 501st Legion adopting the armor throughout its ranks. The 501st's Torrent Company was then eventually dispatched to Horain to combat the Separatist garrison stationed there and participated in the Battle of Horain. During the battle, Captain Rex and members of Torrent Company encountered a group of Horian children in a crater, and after helping them escape, Rex became separated from the rest of his men, and was pinned down by a large contingent of Separatist forces. After attempting to contact General Skywalker, Captain Rex was saved by General Kenobi. In the following skirmish, Separatist droid B1-0516 received damage to its central processing unit and began aiding Rex and Kenobi. After the droid was captured, Rex and Kenobi rescued the droid from the Separatist headquarters, and manage to escape to the Republic Evacuation Point, where Skywalker and the rest of Torrent Company where.
Battle of Umbara
- "Remember, General Krell, the entire invasion depends on your battalion."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, to Pong Krell
The 501st was along with 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 Chancellor 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 revealed after he tricked the 501st and the 212th into fighting each other, causing clones on both sides to kill each other by mistake. Under the leadership of Captain Rex, the battalions mutinied against Krell, but the fallen Jedi slaughtered many clones. However, he was ultimately captured while attempting to escape. In response to his actions, Krell was summarily executed by his most loyal soldier, CT-6922 "Dogma," who was subsequently taken into Republic custody for killing an officer, but Rex sent Dogma a reassuring nod when he was taken away. Afterward, Fives informed the Clone Captain that Umbara had finally been conquered, but Rex no longer knew what the point of the war was and wondered what would happen to them when it ended.
- "Well, there's a sinister plot in the works against the Jedi! I have proof of it, I can prove that everything I know is true beyond the shadow of a doubt!"
"Show me the evidence!"
"The evidence is in here, it's all in here, every one of us, every clone!"
- ―CT-5555 "Fives" and Anakin Skywalker
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 to Rex and Skywalker, but Fives was killed by Commander CC-1010 "Fox" of the Coruscant Guard before he could prove his claims. He died in Rex's arms, telling his superior officer that he had only wanted to do his duty and that his nightmares were finally over.
The 501st Legion participated in the Outer Rim Sieges, including the Battle of Anaxes. It also participated in the Battle of Yerbana, and split into two forces in order to participate in the Battle of Coruscant and the Siege of Mandalore. Elements of the 501st Legion participated alongside the 41st Elite Corps and the Wookiee Army's Kachirho Wookiee Militia in the Battle of Kashyyyk in order to defend Kachirho City and prevent further landings by Separatist forces in their attempt to capture the vital trade and communications hub.
- "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 "Appo," to Bail Organa
In 19 BBY, the 501st and 212th served in the Outer Rim Sieges, including the Battle of Yerbana. After this battle, Ahsoka Tano, who had left the Jedi Order after being framed in a Bombing of the Jedi Temple hangar, reunited with Skywalker and the legion, as she and Lady Bo-Katan Kryze of the Mandalore resistance had located the rogue Sith Lord Maul in the Mandalorian capital of Sundari. While Skywalker was ultimately willing to fulfill their wish for a joint Republic/resistance operation, he and General Kenobi learned that Separatist General Grievous had attacked Coruscant. Skywalker created a new division of the 501st, promoting Rex to be its commander, to be sent to Mandalore with Tano and the Mandalorians, while the rest of the legion would go with him and Kenobi to Coruscant. The Battle of Coruscant proved to be a Republic victory, with Skywalker even killing Separatist Head of State Count Dooku, and the Siege of Mandalore eventually resulted in the 501st and resistance's victory and Maul's capture.
Unfortunately for the Republic, the conspiracy that Fives discovered came to fruition with the mass execution of Order 66, forcing the Grand Army to betray their Jedi leaders across the galaxy. 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 Great Jedi Purge was Anakin Skywalker, now anointed in the dark side as the Sith Lord Darth Vader. On the Venator-class Star Destroyer Tribunal, Rex, his division of the 501st, and a force of Coruscant Guard clone shock troopers, received the order while traveling back to Coruscant with Maul in custody. While Tano was no longer part of the Jedi Order, she was targeted by the clones, but Rex managed to resist long enough to tell her to locate ARC trooper Fives. Rex then succumbed to his control chip and led the hunt for his friend. The Commander also ordered his troops to kill Maul, but Tano freed the rogue Sith to serve as a distraction.
On Coruscant, Sidious' new apprentice was tasked with leading the 501st Legion in a direct siege of the Jedi Temple, resulting in the deaths of its inhabitants while thousands of Jedi were killed by their troops across the galaxy. The 501st served under CC-1119 "Appo," who was originally a Clone Sergeant but was promoted on the issuing of Order 66, in addition to Vader. The commander was struck down 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.
Elsewhere while aboard the Tribunal, Tano looked into Fives and discovered the control chip conspiracy, so she and a team of astromech droids–R7-A7, RG-G1, and CH-33P–knocked out Rex, allowing them to bring him to a medical bay and remove his chip. With Rex freed from Order 66, he, Tano, and the droids made their way to the hangar to look for an escape ship, but the Star Destroyer was pulled out of hyperspace when Maul destroyed the hyperdrive, leading to the warship being caught in a moon's gravitational pull. When Rex, Tano, and the droids made it to bay 12, they discovered the clone troopers, now under the command of ARC Clone Lieutenant CT-5597 "Jesse," had predicted their actions. Pretending to have captured Tano, Rex tried to reason with Jesse, stating that she was no longer part of the Jedi Order and thus not a target. When the lieutenant recounted Rex's earlier command that they were under special order to kill Tano and all clones who refused to obey, Rex tried to get through to his friend one last time, but Jesse refused, instead stating Rex would be demoted and subject to execution alongside Tano.
However, Rex had managed to stall Jesse and the troopers, as the astromech droids were able to secretly release the hangar elevators. While this managed to separate most of the clones, Maul arrived in the hangar and stole the available Nu-class shuttle, forcing Rex and Tano to look below decks, which was where the majority of the clones had been dropped. While their three astromech droid companions had been killed by the time they found a BTL-B Y-wing starfighter/bomber, Tano and Rex escaped the doomed Star Destroyer aboard the bomber. Jesse, his 501st division, and any other clone troopers aboard the Venator were killed when it crashed into the moon, but Rex and Tano honored the Clone Lieutenant and other clones by burying them outside the ship's remains.
On the eve of Chancellor Palpatine's proclamation to the Galactic Senate, the 501st was confronted by two Jedi Masters, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Grand Master Yoda, upon their brief return to Coruscant. Despite their efforts, the clones failed to eliminate the Jedi, both of whom killed many troopers during their infiltration of the fallen Jedi Temple.
Soldiers of the Empire
- "Palpatine's clones did their part, but the rest… He killed. Even the younglings. The younglings. By the light."
- ―Ferren Barr, on the siege of the Jedi Temple
With the fall of the Jedi Order, Darth Sidious consolidated his power by declaring himself Emperor of the Galactic Empire. The clone troopers who survived the war were retained by the new regime, effectively becoming the first generation of Imperial stormtroopers at the start of the Emperor's reign. During the invasion of Mon Cala in the first year of the Empire's reign, fugitive Jedi Padawan Ferren Barr showed a Coruscant Security Force hologram recording of Vader's 501st Legion marching on the Jedi Temple on Coruscant at the start of the Jedi Purge to his disciples after learning that Vader and his Inquisitors were present on Mon Cala. Barr stated to his disciples that after the Purge, he studied how the Jedi were massacred so quickly, and continued to speak on Vader before evacuating his cave refuge.
Although the 501st continued to exist as a division of the Stormtrooper Corps, it was the First Legion became the personal stormtroopers of Darth Vader. Troopers of the First Legion were recruited from the ranks of the 501st, however. Additionally, Vader also served as the commander of the 501st, with Everi Chalis claiming that the 501st was Vader's personal legion. Even the "Vader's Fist" moniker was applied to the 501st. No matter the case, the 501st fought under the command of Vader against the Alliance to Restore the Republic during the Galactic Civil War.
Raid on the Tantive IV
- "She'll be all right. Inform Lord Vader we have a prisoner."
- ―TK-4601, on Leia Organa
In 0 BBY, shortly before the Battle of Yavin, the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Devastator followed the Alderaanian diplomatic cruiser Tantive IV to the desert planet Tatooine. A contingent of the 501st Legion boarded the cruiser, engaging Rebel troopers while the princess downloaded the Death Star plans into the astromech droid R2-D2. Despite sustaining several casualties in the initial assault, the 501st defeated the Rebels and swarmed through the corridors, searching for Organa.
With her secret mission compromised, Organa dispatched the R2 unit to Tatooine along with the protocol droid C-3PO via an escape pod. She remained on board her starship, hiding from the 501st until a squad of stormtroopers found her. Organa opened fire on the stormtroopers, fatally shooting TK-9091 in the process, but was stunned by TK-4601 as she attempted to flee. The 501st escorted Organa to Darth Vader, but the princess refused to cooperate and objected to the attack on her ship, citing her status as a member of the Imperial Senate.
Unleashing Task Force 99
The Ghost Moon
- "Who's ready to kill some Rebels?"
Following an assault on Sunspot Prison, the 501st's Task Force 99 were dispatched to investigate the prison and search for Kolar Ludd, an imprisoned member of Imperial Special Forces. After a brief search, Task Force 99 was given new orders to capture Rebel Alliance Admiral Verette, who was on his way to board the hijacked Imperial-class Star Destroyer Harbinger which was to be deployed against Imperial forces at the siege on Tureen VII. Task Force 99 intercepted the admiral's Taylander shuttle, which crashed onto the Ghost Moon. There in the abandoned city, Rebel forces managed to escape the shuttle and hide in a skyscraper, though they were eventually found by Task Force 99. After engaging Rebel forces and bringing the building down, Task Force 99 continued to engage the Rebels among the wreckage, and following a brief speeder chase, were forced into the sewers to avoid a Rebel-controlled modified Armored Assault Tank Mk I. Using explosives, Task Force 99 destroyed the road, causing the tank to fall into the sewer, where Admiral Verette was then captured.
Following the skirmish on the Ghost Moon, General Crix Madine forwarded an official document to General Pitt Onoran about the 501st's Task Force 99. In the communique, General Madine stated that he believed that the extermination of Rebel troopers were conducted by Imperial SCAR troopers, and attached a document detailing elite stormtrooper squads, and further information regarding the SCAR program and how Task Force 99 was attached to an elite legion who answered to the highest levels of Imperial High Command. The documents additionally recorded an analysis of the Primtara incident perpetrated by Task Force 99, as well as documents of its members. These documents were included in the rebel depository The Rebel Files.
- "You're gonna need more than a lightsaber and some other bucketheads to stop this ship, Kreel."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Several days after the Ghost Moon skirmish, Task Force 99 used the Taylander shuttle, with Verette's corpse tied to the front if its hull, as a distraction to gain entry into the ISD Harbinger. After entering the Harbinger, Task Force 99 sabotaged several systems, and jettisoned the bodies of a rebel maintenance crew after defeating them. Task Force 99 then split into three groups, with a three members neutralizing the bridge, another group of three, including Sergeant Kreel, securing the hallways to maintenance, and a lone member securing the engine room, where the Rebel droids R2-D2 and C-3PO were located. However, rebel forces fought back Task Force 99 at all locations, with Sergeant Kreel engaging Luke Skywalker in a lightsaber duel, while Princess Leia Organa and Captain Han Solo maintained control of the helm and Chewbacca aided the rebel droids.
Within the hour, the Harbinger arrived on Tureen VII and attacked the Imperial blockade, which was caught by surprise. During the duel with Skywalker, Kreel remarked that Task Force 99 would have destroyed the Harbinger if ordered to do so, but Darth Vader had other plans for the special forces group. With the battle intensifying, Vader arrived in his TIE Advanced x1. At that time, Task Force 99's members began losing control of the situation aboard the Star Destroyer, and were each summarily defeated. Kreel was then incapacitated by Skywalker while dueling and additionally reporting to Vader. With the Rebels destroying Imperial forces in orbit and on the surface, Task Force 99 proceeded to destroy the Harbinger as the Rebels escaped. Despite the failure of their mission, Task Force 99 managed to capture C-3PO, revealing it to Darth Vader who chastised them for their defeat.
Battles of Hoth and Endor
The 501st Legion fought against the Alliance at the Battle of Hoth in 3 ABY, three years after the destruction of the first Death Star at Yavin. When Vader's starfleet, the Imperial force known as Death Squadron, first arrived, they came out of hyperspace too close to Hoth to surprise the rebels. Afterwards, Vader sent General Maximilian Veers to lead the 501st All Terrain Armored Transport group Blizzard Force for a ground assault. Veers led the AT-ATs to destroy the rebel power generator, and the walkers decimated their lines of infantry. As he approached the generator, Veers ordered his troops to debark for ground assault. The generator was soon destroyed, and Vader and the 501st cold weather assault stormtroopers made their way into Echo Base. The remaining rebel personnel rushed to evacuate and abandoned Echo Base, officially making the battle an Imperial tactical victory.
Hours before the Battle of Endor, Darth Vader informed the Emperor that his son Luke Skywalker had descended to the surface of Endor. Forbidding him from openly seeking out Skywalker, the Emperor instead sent Vader to the Imperial base in charge of guarding the Death Star's shield generator, where his master predicted that his son would seek him out. Vader grew increasingly impatient as he waited at the base, and openly considered the idea of ordering the 501st Legion to lay waste to the forest in order to find his son. The 501st Legion then subsequently participated in the Battle of Endor, although the legion died there along with Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and the second Death Star.
Behind the scenes
"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 reference the organization in 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.