- "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 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 time of the Clone Wars when the 501st was an elite military division of clone troopers in the Grand Army of the Republic. Under the leadership of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, the 501st became known for their courage, unconventional tactics and loyalty to the Galactic Republic throughout the conflict against the Confederacy of Independent Systems. In addition to Skywalker, the 501st served under Jedi Commander Ahsoka Tano and Clone Captain CT-7567 "Rex."
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. Krell's secret fall to the dark side of the Force led him to betray the Republic and undermine the Grand Army from within. After realizing Krell's true nature, the 501st mutinied against their commanding officer and sustained casualties before capturing the former Jedi, who was executed while in military custody.
The Jedi Purge commenced in 19 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. Supreme Chancellor Sheev 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.
The 501st went on to serve the Galactic Empire after the Clone Wars. The 501st served with Vader during the capture of Princess Leia Organa. At the height of the Galactic Civil War, the 501st joined the Imperial assault on Hoth in an effort to wipe out the Alliance to Restore the Republic.
- "You're exactly the kind of men I need in the 501st."
- ―CT-7567, to CT-1409 and CT-5555
The 501st Legion was a military division of elite clone troopers under the command of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Commander Ahsoka Tano and Clone Captain CT-7567 "Rex." 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 General Obi-Wan Kenobi's 212th Attack Battalion. As a legion, the 501st consisted of sub-divisions such as Torrent Company.
The 501st consisted of standard troopers, although its ranks included various specialists such as Advanced Recon Commandos and Advanced Recon Force troopers. Clone cold assault troopers operated in cold-based terrains and were also part of the legion. After the Fall of the Republic, 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 Galactic Republic's transformation into the Galactic 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.
- "My name is Rex. Captain. 501st clone battalion."
- ―Rex remembering his service
At the beginning of the Clone Wars in 22 BBY, the Galactic Republic mobilized an army of clone troopers to fight the droid forces of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. 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 divisions of corps, battalions and platoons. One such regiment was the 501st Legion. Following the Battle of Geonosis, the 501st was deployed to battlefronts as war swept across the galaxy after a millennium of peace.
- "What's our plan of attack, sir?"
- ―CT-7567 and Anakin Skywalker
Assuming command of the clone army, the Jedi Order began directing the defense of the Republic against the Separatist battle droids since the earliest days of the Clone Wars. Following his promotion to the rank of Jedi Knight, General Anakin 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 droid army, but ultimately prevailed in the Battle of Teth with the support of General 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 Kamino
- "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 Umbara
- "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 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, "Dogma," who was subsequently taken into Republic custody for killing an officer, but Rex sent Dogma a reassuring nod when he was taken away. Afterwards, 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.
Conspiracy of Order 66
- "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. 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.
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 new regime, effectively becoming the first generation of Imperial stormtroopers at the start of the Emperor's reign. Although the 501st continued to exist as a division of the Stormtrooper Corps, it was the First Legion that became the personal stormtroopers of Darth Vader. Troopers of the First Legion were recruited from the ranks of the 501st, however.
The 501st fought against the Alliance to Restore the Republic during the Galactic Civil War. By then it was reputedly led by the Emperor's apprentice, with Everi Chalis claiming that the 501st was Vader's personal legion. Even the "Vader's Fist" moniker was applied to the 501st.
Raid on the Tantive IV
- "She'll be all right. Inform Lord Vader we have a prisoner."
- ―TK-4601, referring to 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.
Battle of Hoth
Battle of Endor
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.
- "Generation One armor always holds up."
- ―CT-7567, on his clone trooper armor
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. 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.
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.