- "My lord, the fleet has moved out of lightspeed. Com-scan has detected an energy field protecting an area of the sixth planet of the Hoth system. The field is strong enough to deflect any bombardment."
"The Rebels are alerted to our presence. Admiral Ozzel came out of lightspeed too close to the system."
"He...He felt surprise was wiser—"
"He is as clumsy as he is stupid. General, prepare your troops for a surface attack."
"Yes, my Lord."
- ―General Maximillian Veers and Darth Vader
The Battle of Hoth, also known as the attack on Hoth, the assault on Echo Base, or the attack on Echo Base, was a major battle fought in 3 ABY and was considered a major victory for the Galactic Empire and the single worst battlefield defeat suffered by the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War. The battle was an Imperial invasion led by Darth Vader, aimed at destroying the Rebel Alliance's Echo Base hidden on the remote ice world Hoth and capturing Luke Skywalker. The base's location was discovered when a Viper probe droid, deployed by Darth Vader's Death Squadron randomly landed on Hoth, convincing the Rebels to begin an evacuation of Hoth.
The Imperial attack force consisted of primarily AT-AT walkers, commanded by General Maximilian Veers. His army was tasked with destroying Echo Base's main power generator to allow orbital bombardment of the planet and for Darth Vader to arrive and lead ground forces into the base. Spearheading the defense of the generator were the T-47 airspeeders of Rogue Squadron, commanded by Luke Skywalker, the pilot renowned for destroying the first Death Star. However, the snowspeeders did not have the necessary firepower to bring down the walkers, so Skywalker suggested an alternative tactic to trip the walkers with the tow cables issued to every snowspeeder.
Despite the efforts by Rogue Squadron, the power generator was eventually destroyed by Veers' main AT-AT. The remaining base personnel proceeded to evacuate, as the 501st Legion, led by Darth Vader, entered the base. The overwhelming Imperial invasion forced the Rebellion to scatter their fleet across the galaxy, leading to a multitude of scattered skirmishes across the galaxy for over six months before the Empire's sudden and crushing defeat at the Battle of Endor.
Following the Rebel Alliance's major victory at Yavin, the Rebellion abandoned its base on Yavin 4 and began searching the galaxy for new possible bases of operation, considering worlds such as Daxan Beta and Insk. They also attempted to set up base at Crait. In the subsequent three and a half years of conflict, General Jan Dodonna ordered a mission to find a base for the High Command. During that mission, an Rebel Alliance Special Forces soldier named Purpruff traveled to the planet of Hoth in the Anoat sector and filed a report on it. Subsequently, the Corps of Engineers constructed the base over the course of two standard years, hoping to claim it as their new base of operations while avoiding the watchful eyes of the Empire. The base was inhabited for less than a month before the battle took place.
Following the defeat of the Empire three and a half years earlier at the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance suffered from relentless Imperial attacks during the Mid Rim Retreat. Rumors of a Rebel base, circulated throughout the Rebellion, though only a few in the Alliance actually knew concrete details of its existence. Rebel troopers at Echo Base, far-distanced from the disastrous Rebel tactical situation in the Mid and Outer Rim Territories, actually had access to better equipment and training than Rebel soldiers throughout the rest of the galaxy.
Shortly before the battle, a strategy conference was held at the base after the arrival of several transports arrived, which were rumored to carry Princess Leia Organa, General Carlist Rieekan, Commander Chiffonage, a Bothan spy, and several other members of Alliance Command. The conference's main briefing was from defected Imperial governor Everi Chalis who had been extracted from Haidoral Prime by the 61st Mobile Infantry under Captain Micha Evon. Chalis offered substantial information about the inner-workings of the "Imperial War Machine" and made a map trade routes and Imperial weak points. The meeting ended shortly before the battle, which meant that Leia and the other attendees were forced to run the Imperial blockade in order to leave the system.
As part of Project Swarm, the Empire sent Viper probe droids to search for hidden Rebel bases throughout the galaxy. One such droid, the probe XJ9-CS14, was deployed from the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Avenger and eventually located the Rebel base. On the ground, Commander Luke Skywalker spotted the probe droid crash while on a reconnaissance mission on his tauntaun—indigenous snow-lizards utilized by Alliance personnel as mounts—and believing it to be a meteorite, went closer to investigate. On his way, Skywalker was attacked by a native wampa and dragged off into a cave before he could get a closer look. Han Solo eventually went off to rescue Skywalker during a harsh snowstorm, in spite of the concern from his comrades.
Later, Solo and Chewbacca were tasked with investigating the lead that Skywalker came across, leading to their discovery of the existence of the probe droid. Upon being spotted by it, Han attempted to destroy it, only to have droid activate its self-destruct mechanism. Receiving new intelligence from the probe, the crew of the Executor-class Star Dreadnought Executor initially dismissed the findings. In spite of Admiral Kendal Ozzel's concern that pictures of the Rebel shield generator merely belonged to smugglers, Darth Vader instructed the Imperial Death Squadron to invade the planet. With their location revealed, the wrath of the Empire would soon be unleashed upon the Rebellion.
Plan Kay One Zero
Upon dissemination of Han Solo's report on the probe, base commander General Rieekan correctly concluded that the mysterious probe had been sent from the Empire. Rieekan ordered the immediate evacuation of Echo Base, using code K-one-zero. Rieekan then ordered Rebel technicians to raise the base's shields to maximum power in order to minimize damage from orbital bombardment. By dumping energy directly into the planet's interior, the Rebel's planet-based shield allowed protection from bombardments that would normally overwhelm ship shields.
Simultaneously, Princess Leia Organa instructed Rebel pilots within Hangar 7 to escape in groups in order to avoid the Imperial blockade. The Rebel plan was to have all ships meet at a pre-specified rendezvous point. Immediately, the rebel base fluttered with activity, and boarding began on thirty GR-75 medium transports, which had assembled at the base's north entrance. Noncombat personnel were loaded first, while the tauntauns utilized by the rebels were set loose onto the frozen plains. A noisy alarm immediately indicated the Empire's arrival, while a subspace alert was sent out to the transports of new recruits heading for the world to avoid the system. The journalist Corwi Selgrothe was one of the non-combatants in the base; when the Empire arrived, she initially attempted to record Organa's actions before being led to a transport ship by the soldier L'cayo Llem.
When Darth Vader's fleet arrived in the Hoth system, he quickly discovered that the Rebels were fully aware of the ambush that he had planned, which was not helped by Ozzel's Star Destroyer appearing out of lightspeed too close to the system. Vader promptly Force-choked Ozzel to death for poorly handling the situation and immediately promoted Captain Firmus Piett to admiral, leaving him in charge of the invasion.
- "What's going on?"
"Command says snowspeeders have engaged the walkers. No damage yet, but they're slowing down. The bad news, sir, is that the Empire's sent recon forces fanning out. Troops are heading this way."
"Get ready, then."
- ―Hazram Namir and a female rebel soldier
Planet-side, decorated General Maximilian Veers was placed in command of the ground assault, and led the contingent of AT-ATs and AT-STs under the unilateral command of Blizzard Force. Blizzard Force's AT-ATs, led by Veers's Blizzard 1, were specifically designed to function in cold environments like that on Hoth. Veers informed Lord Vader that he could land once Veers had destroyed the generator.
Wary that Rebel starfighters would swarm the Executor's Incom Y-85 Titan dropships, Veers called upon Death Squadron's more versatile Gozanti-class cruisers, which could carry only two AT-ATs at a time, unlike the Titan's four. The barges and troop carriers of Blizzard Force, escorted by TIE fighters, converged at the Moorsh Moraine glacial feature, well north of the heavily fortified mountain base. Unable to unleash an orbital bombardment on the base due to the shield, which utilized projector modules scattered throughout Rebel territory, Veers was ordered to destroy the central power generator, which would knock out any of its subsidiary projector modules. Veers also received orders to capture rather than kill surviving Rebel forces from his assault.
In an attempt to impress Vader, Blizzard Four attempted to cross a direct but treacherous route into the Kerane Valley, only to lose three walkers to crevices in the eastern ice flow. Blizzard Four's AT-AT group then retreated to a more manageable westerly route. The main group of AT-ATs soon emerged from the fog atop the North Ridge.
The Imperial Gozanti-class cruisers were first spotted by 61st Mobile Infantry soldier Roja at Perimeter Outpost Delta. Another soldier, Beak, deduced that they were carrying walkers, so his commanding officer, First Sergeant Hazram Namir, prompted him to report it in to Echo Base. While in space the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Tyrant was disabled by Echo Base's ion cannon, allowing the first GR-75 medium transport Quantum Storm and its fighter escort to safely escape. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be long until the Imperial forces on the ground would be reported in by Outpost Beta, confirming Beak's suspicions. Outpost Beta was subsequently the first sentry post destroyed with half a dozen laser blasts from Imperial AT-ST walkers. Blizzard Force then defeated the Rebel scouts at Echo Station 3-T-8, allowing them to continue their march towards Echo Base.
Rebel ground forces attempted to hold the line against the Imperial walkers in recently dug trenches dotted with numerous DF.9 turrets and the concentrated blasts of 1.4 FD P-Tower laser cannons, but were met with little success due to the near-impervious armor that was utilized by the AT-ATs. In one trench, Imperial fire went over Private Emon Kref, finding its impact at a rebel turret. When its metal shards fell upon the heads of Kref and his squad, it reminded the troops how weak their efforts were compared to the AT-ATs. Alliance sergeant Trey Callum urged his troops to continue fighting and focus all of their fire on the walkers. The troops did so, though to no effect. A wave of snowtroopers also attacked the squad, though it was defeated. The proximity mines planted by Outpost Beta personnel failed to damage the advancing AT-ST walkers, so the official order for the rebel ground troops was to protect the shield generator. Its destruction would allow Imperial forces to easily destroy Echo base.
Defense of Outpost Delta
Outpost Delta soon fell under attack by a force of several snowtroopers on two floating gunnery platforms and an AT-ST walker due to their flanking position on the western edge of the Imperial advance. Despite heavy resistance and the destruction of a gunnery platform, the walker was not distracted by blaster fire from ground troops in the trenches and proceeded to destroy several rebel artillery emplacements before being brought down by a female rebel soldier. With the outpost no longer a threat, the remaining Imperial ground support fell back to join the main assault on Echo Base, forcing the survivors of the encounter to proceed back to base on a abandoned Imperial wheeled combat transport.
- "Most of the transports made it out, but that shield's going down any second. Last from the command center was to fall back and finish evac—all troops, all positions."
"What do you mean, last word?"
"Walker took a few shots at the base. We think command got hit."
- ―A colonel updates Hazram Namir
With T-47 airspeeders flying out of Echo Base's hangar to meet the approaching army, they soon realized that the AT-AT's armor was impervious to their blasters, while a single shot from an AT-AT destroyed one of the rebel airspeeders. Despite this, pilots Thane Kyrell and Yendor managed to badly damage a walker's leg by shooting at its joints, ultimately detaching its foot and disabling the behemoth.
Shortly afterwards, Rogue Squadron, led by Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, were able to utilize T-47 airspeeders to slow the Imperial advance. Initially, the Rogues attempted to use Attack Pattern Delta against the walkers, but found that their cannons were ineffective. Realizing that they needed to change tactics, Antilles and his gunner Wes Janson followed Skywalker's suggestion and used their T-47's tow cables to topple an AT-AT before blowing it to smithereens in its weakened state. However, Skywalker's own snowspeeder was blasted by an AT-AT, killing his co-pilot Dak Ralter. Skywalker initially kept his speeder in the air, but it eventually crashed and was subsequently crushed underfoot by a walker. Skywalker was able to attach himself to the nearby AT-AT with his hoist cable, allowing him to use his lightsaber to cut through the walker's armor. The general threw a thermal detonator in the hole he'd cut, and another AT-AT was brought to a screeching halt. The rebels' moderate success against the AT-ATs led General Veers to grudgingly admit that his opponents were smart and to regret the number of casualties that Blizzard Force was taking.
Despite their valiant efforts, the Rebels were unable to hold the Imperials back. Simultaneously, Blizzards 6, 9, and 8 fired on retreating remnants of hangar defense trenches. With many of the Rebel defense turrets destroyed, the Rebel troops were forced to retreat back to Echo Base. With the Empire now deploying ground troops in an effort to force the Rebellion out of their last line of defense, survivors of Outpost Delta smashed through the Imperial front into friendly territory only to discover that Rebel command's last order was one of total evacuation. With confusion in the field owing to a sudden communications blackout from Echo Base, which some attributed to a walker firing at it, the demoralized rebel forces hastily made way for their escape. First Sergeant Namir, Roja, and Beak made for the command, which had been hit by AT-AT fire, in search of Captain Evon.
Upon reaching firing range of Echo Base's shield generator, Veers informed Vader than it was safe for him to land and ordered the troops within his walkers to disembark. Just before firing on the generator, the AT-AT targeted earlier by Luke Skywalker exploded. Though Veers was temporarily distracted, his walker managed to annihilate the generator, leaving Echo Base vulnerable to orbital bombardment and allowing Lord Vader's Lambda-class T-4a shuttle to land on Hoth. Joined by a team of snowtroopers, Vader, who was thinking back on his first battle against Skywalker at Yavin, departed the shuttle after it landed between two of the AT-AT walkers. As the troops began to engage with the enemy, Vader ordered his commander to push past the defending rebel soldiers and locate an entry to Echo Base's commander center. The destruction of the base's shields caused chaos on the ground, as huge numbers of rebel troops retreated, knowing that they no longer had any chance of winning. Many were shot before making it back to the base. As the retreat continued, one of the rebel snowspeeders crashed into Blizzard 1's cockpit, destroying the walker and severely injuring Veers.
Infiltration of Echo Base
- "Imperial troops have entered the base! Imperial troops have ent—"
- ―A rebel soldier reporting Imperial forces entering the base
Darth Vader's forces smashed into the Echo Base by punching a hole in the mountain's eastern face. With the snowtroopers now pouring into Echo Base, Leia instructed all remaining personnel in the base to evacuate immediately. Many of the survivors were able to escape in the transports unharmed, despite numerous TIE/LN starfighters now entering the planet's atmosphere. With the interior of the base now in chaos, remaining rebels hastily made their way to their respective starships while firefights between Imperial and rebel forces erupted in the corridors, echoing across the crumbling base. Owing to occasional wampas infiltrating Echo Base, several snowtroopers were slain after entering a room where vicious native wampas were kept, ignoring a sign clearly marked warning in the process. First Sergeant Namir, Roja, and Beak made it to command to find their Captain, Micha Evon unconscious and Everi Chalis who had refused to leave him for dead. Namir scouted the corridors to find a route to the hangar and returned to lead them back to a shuttle. Roja and Beak picked up Evon and they advanced down the corridors.
Vader first encountered First Sergeant Namir and the others in a corridor. They open fired and Vader swiftly leapt in front of Beak, dispatching him with his lightsaber. Roja then threw a grenade as Vader, which was deflected by the Sith and knocked out Namir. Chalis, thinking Vader had come for her, surrendered before being asked where Skywalker was by the Sith Lord. Vader was then informed by a snowtrooper of the newly discovered location of the Millennium Falcon and he threw Chalis into the wall. Namir woke to witness the moment and find Roja and Evon dead. Alliance friend and smuggler Han Solo and Chewbacca had previously planned to leave Hoth shortly before the Empire attacked in order to pay off their debt to Jabba the Hutt, they ultimately found themselves stranded with Princess Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 once the bombardment began. With troopers arriving in the hangar where the Millennium Falcon was kept, the Falcon was not able to start up immediately due to damage it had sustained earlier, but nonetheless held off approaching snowtroopers by utilizing the ship's weapons systems. Just as Vader arrived, the Falcon managed to escape to hangar and subsequently, the Hoth system.
"No. No signs of Rebels."
"All right, let's keep moving."
"Yeah, at least walking will help keep us a bit warmer."
- ―Imperial snowtrooper chatter while flushing out rebel stragglers in Echo Base
Rebel forces primarily evacuated Echo Base utilizing the south entrances on the Clabburn Range, from where they headed east to the Rebel transport evacuation site behind the South Ridge. While the troopers were escaping, Sergeant Maxim rode his tauntaun mount Reebak to subdue an E-web team threatening a GR-75. The sergeant then demanded they evacuate the tauntaun as well.
Despite most of the remnants of the Rebellion's troops on Hoth managing to escape, the Alliance Fleet and Alliance High Command would be temporarily scattered, leaving many of the leaders of the Rebel Alliance separated from their forces and without orders. Luke Skywalker was able to make his way back to Echo Base before the Empire destroyed it and took off in an X-Wing, escorting the GR-75 medium transport Dutyfree with the aid of Wedge Antilles off the planet. Luke then chose not to go to the rendezvous point in order to find Jedi Master Yoda per Obi-Wan's request. Meanwhile, Solo and his group were unable to go to lightspeed due to engine trouble, and were forced to flee from the Imperial fleet by other means. With First Sergeant Namir and Everi Chalis having barely survived their previous encounter with Vader, the two managed to escape in a rebel transport by sending false codes to a Star Destroyer in orbit owing to Chalis's former Imperial employment. Before the Destroyer could confirm their suspicions, the two blasted off into hyperspace, unknowing of the role they would play in future events. Selgrothe's transport also escaped the blockade, despite being shot at by Imperial forces.
The last transport to escape was the GR-75 medium transport Bright Hope, and was escorted by Wedge, Tarrin, and Wes Janson. Of the 30 GR-75 transports utilized by the Rebels, 17 were destroyed. Rebel pilot Adon Fox made it off Hoth escorting one of the transports in an X-wing. However, the transport carrying his wife was destroyed when attempting to escape Hoth. Biologist Kell Tolkani was unwilling to leave the mysteries of Hoth behind and stayed on the planet. In his message to his family, he assured them that the Empire and wampas would be unable to find him and asked for someone to be sent for him after the war was over.
- "You have heard of Hoth, I assume?"
"Snowball the Rebels were hiding on, right?"
"Before the Imperials struck a year ago, yes. Now the battleground is littered with wreckage."
- ―Shortpaw and a Smuggler
Shortly after leaving Hoth Han Solo and company were still aboard the Millennium still trying to invade Vader's forces. Solo used the ship's uncanny maneuverability and his piloting skills to elude an Imperial Star Destroyer chasing them, and two more emerging from hyperspace. Solo's maneuvers in the Falcon caused the two Star Destroyers approaching and the one pursuing to nearly collide with each other. The Falcon then attempted to make the jump into lightspeed, but was stopped short by an equipment malfunction; forced to take drastic measures to avoid capture, Solo made the decision to pilot the Falcon into a nearby asteroid field in an attempt to lose the Imperial pursuers. However, his repairs were cut short as he had unknowingly landed inside a space slug. Escaping just in time as the beast's huge mouth was closing, the Falcon was discovered by the Star Destroyer Avenger. They attempted to jump to lightspeed but once again, the hyperdrive was not fully repaired. Solo then had Chewbacca change course and fly directly at Avenger's bridge in an apparent suicidal attack run. The ship disappeared from sight and became undetectable to Avenger. It had not gone far: Solo had attached the Falcon to a blind spot on the conning tower of the Star Destroyer. Adhering to standard Imperial procedure, the Star Destroyers of Death Squadron ejected all scrap and garbage before entering hyperspace. Solo then signaled Chewbacca to release the ship's landing claws, allowing the Falcon to "float away with the rest of the garbage." Boba Fett, however, saw through this ruse, and waited behind in the Slave I, following the Falcon as it left the system.
The battle was a costly blow to the Rebel Alliance, scattering the surviving forces and lowering overall morale to the cause. For the weeks following the Battle of Hoth, Alliance High Command would remain scattered and various rebel elements left fragmented across the Outer Rim, while Imperial battle groups from the Core Worlds would be dispatched to pursue the scattered rebel fleet. Despite the communications breakdown, the Rebels would continue to persist in their effort to battle against the Empire in spite of this crushing defeat. Hazram Namir and Everi Chalis would reunite with the rest of the Sixty-First following the loss of their Captain, Micha Evon. Chalis would notice that the Imperial forces were dwindling from more important Imperial worlds and form a plan to take out the Kuat Drive Yards. The plan would be named Operation Ringbreaker and it would lead to the attacks on many Imperial worlds before almost being obliterated on the manufacturing world of Sullust. The plan mission would never be completed. Although Solo would eventually be taken prisoner by Boba Fett, Skywalker, Organa, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca would eventually reunite with the Rebel fleet, joined by a newfound ally, Lando Calrissian.
Imperial tacticians would study the rebel's ability to escape with so few casualties yet inflict so many, while the Rebels were forced to abandon tons of material and snowspeeders following their hasty retreat from Echo Base. While rebel weapons were at par with the Empire's, poor body armor for foot soldiers plagued the rebel forces despite troopers at Echo Base possessing better equipment than many rebel forces during the Mid Rim Retreat. Future Civil War historians would point out that if not for the painful rout at Hoth, the Alliance might never had risked everything at Endor a year later, where they inflicted a crippling blow on the Empire from which it never recovered.
The rebellion would ultimately establish a new base on the even remoter world of 5251977, while the Galactic Civil War would continue to rage across the galaxy. It would not be until six months later that the Alliance would not only destroy the DS-2 Death Star II Mobile Battle Station and with it the Imperial head of state after the highly successful Battle of Endor, but also kill his right hand man, Lord Vader, ultimately ushering in the formation of the New Republic in its continuing effort to restore freedom to the galaxy.
Behind the scenes
The Battle of Hoth first appeared in the 1980 film Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. The battle was also featured in the Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures short Darth Vader vs. Hoth Rebels - Crushing the Rebellion, though these shorts are not supposed to be seen as literal canon fact. Within the short, Darth Vader, having traveled to Echo Base upon the shield generators destruction seeking his son, Luke Skywalker, marched throughout the base to see personally to the rebels defeat. Leading the Imperial ground assault forces to the gates of Echo Base, he used the Force to tear them down. Several rebel troopers, having formed a defensive barrier with crates, opened fire on the Imperials. Vader easily deflected their blasts with his lightsaber and cut down several rebels. Snowtroopers proceeded to mount an E-Web heavy repeating blaster cannon and annihilate more defenders. Other snowtroopers attacked and killed rebel troopers with grenades. As the stockade burned, Vader surveyed the destruction while snowtroopers fanned out across the base.
The Battle of Hoth is featured in the 2017 video game, Star Wars Battlefront II, as one of the Galactic Assault battle scenarios. In it, Imperial Colonel Brenna and her brigade fight against Rebel Major Shin and his forces. After General Veers destroys the Rebels' power generator, Brenna begins landing her troops and launches an assault against Echo Base's east and west hangars in order to stop the Rebel transports from taking off. In Phase One, the Imperial players are required to protect two AT-AT as they advance on the base's hangars. Phase Two requires the Imperials to take command posts in said hangars. Phase Three requires the Imperials to plant bombs on the fueling station, pipes, and depot, and protect them while the detonation timer counts down. Throughout the game, the Rebel players are tasked with defending the objectives and stopping the Imperials.
- Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "Crossing Paths" (Indirect mention only)
- LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales – "Flight of the Falcon" (In flashback(s))
- LEGO Star Wars: The Resistance Rises – "Attack of the Conscience" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Notes and references