- "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi senses Alderaan's destruction
The Destruction of Alderaan, also known as the Battle of Alderaan, occurred in 0 BBY at the order of Grand Moff Tarkin, in order to demonstrate the destructive firepower of the first Death Star. The incident resulted in the complete annihilation of Alderaan and the death of all its inhabitants.
Around 21 BBY, during the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, and Obi-Wan Kenobi were drawn to a mysterious world called Mortis. Three Force-wielders were contained there—the Son, who aligned himself with the dark side, the Daughter, who sided with the light side, and the Father, who maintained the balance between his two children.
In a bid to escape his confinement on Mortis, the Son attempted to seduce Skywalker to the dark side and gain his allegiance. He forced Skywalker to see a vision of his future, in which he saw many of the evil deeds he would have a hand in—as a Dark Lord of the Sith—including the destruction of Alderaan. In order to prevent these dark events from occurring, he briefly sided with the Son, intending to force peace upon the galaxy. After learning of his son's actions, the Father erased Skywalker's memory of the vision and foreknowledge that he had been granted.
- "With the Death Star completed, I must take vigorous action against the Rebels as soon as possible. The Emperor expects great things of this battle station, and of me."
- ―Wilhuff Tarkin to Darth Vader
In the absence of the Imperial Senate, Emperor Palpatine had established an environment where his subordinates were capable of unregulated military actions, including genocide, this initiated the Death star to arrive in the Alderaan system.
From the very beginning of its design process, it was intended that the first Death Star be capable of destroying entire planets, but most Imperial strategists were certain that the threat alone would be enough to keep most worlds in line.
Tarkin felt differently; as he saw it, the Rebels were growing bolder, and only a very public demonstration of the battle station's power—against a Rebel target—would succeed in giving them pause. His argument convinced Palpatine, and so the Emperor approved, in advance, the destruction of the so-called 'peaceful' world.
In addition, Alderaan was already considered a priority target for providing political or strategic aid to the Rebel Alliance.
An unexpected battle
A small fleet of Star Destroyers had escorted the Death Star to Alderaan. Tarkin, who was in charge of the Death Star, ordered a reconnaissance of the planet. The fleet scouted out the system, and came across a Rebel fleet. The two fleets exchanged fire, and as Mon Calamari Star Cruisers distracted the Imperial ships, assault frigates opened fire on the Star Destroyers.
Reinforcements of smaller Imperial ships, such as Acclamator-class assault ships, supported the fleet and destroyed most of the Rebel ships. Meanwhile, the Death Star had completed the charging of its main cannon.
To obtain information on disappearance of the Death Star plans and location of the Rebel base, Darth Vader had taken the captured Princess Leia Organa to the Death Star after she was taken prisoner during the Battle of Tatooine.
When she refused to yield the location of the Rebel base, or the whereabouts of the plans, despite being tortured, Tarkin threatened to destroy Alderaan in an attempt to force her to confess. Fearing that Tarkin would use the superweapon on Alderaan and other peaceful worlds, she offered the location of an abandoned Rebel base on Dantooine. Thinking that he and the Empire had won, Tarkin went ahead and ordered the destruction of Alderaan anyway, shocking the Princess.
Almost immediately upon the Death Star's arrival in orbit around Alderaan, panicked requests for evacuation ships were sent to Carlist Rieekan, who was in command of the covert Rebel operations in and around the Alderaan system. Rieekan, who was inspecting a new satellite transmission station in far orbit around Alderaan's sister world of Delaya, was concerned that an evacuation would serve as proof to the Empire that the Alliance was aware of the Death Star's existence. Furthermore, he believed that the Imperials would interpret the sudden departure of thousands of starships from Alderaan as confirmation of the planet's connections to the Rebel Alliance. Rieekan wrongly concluded that the appearance of the Death Star was merely a display of force.
When the powerful superlaser was fired at the planet, it met Alderaan's powerful planetary shield. However, the shield was unable to withstand the incredible power of the superlaser, and was destroyed within milliseconds. At full power, the hypermatter reactor had given a superluminal boost to the beam, which upon contact with the planet pushed a large portion of Alderaan's mass into hyperspace, destroying the planet in the process.
Out of Alderaan's two billion inhabitants, roughly 60,000 survived the destruction of the world because they were outside of its star system at the time. The death of so many sentients sent shock waves through the Force, weakening those who were able to feel them. Senator Bail Prestor Organa, his wife Breha Organa, and Jedi Knight Ylenic It'kla were some of the more noteworthy casualties of this genocidal act. Governor of Aldera Tor Aramatha was also on planet at the time. A colony of Caamasi was also wiped out. Ironically, they were refugees from the destruction of their own home planet in 19 BBY. Leia Organa suspected it was nighttime on the capital city of Aldera when the superlaser hit the surface, and she wondered if her adopted parents Bail and Breha were awake when the planet-killing cataclysm struck. More specifically, Leia Organa was later told that it had been a warm evening late in the spring when the Death Star appeared in the sky of Aldera.
The destruction had also been sensed by former Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who was himself in transport to Alderaan to supply Bail Organa with R2-D2 aboard the Millennium Falcon. The magnitude of the deaths also briefly caused him to become faint.
Another force-sensitive, Nova Stihl, who worked for the Empire, woke up screaming on the destruction of Alderaan.
Aftermath of the blast
- "The defense systems on Alderaan, despite the Senator's protestations to the contrary, were as strong as any in the Empire. I should conclude that our demonstration was as impressive as it was thorough."
- ―Darth Vader
The destruction of Alderaan failed in its psychological goal; wiping out a peaceful and idyllic paradise caused great consternation, especially in the Core Worlds; Atour Riten, the Death Star's librarian, who had been writing what he had intended to be a neutral record of the current war against the Rebellion, concluded, after the destruction of Alderaan, that such an action was one which made it impossible to be neutral in the conflict any further. In addition, one of the gunners assigned to the destruction of Alderaan, Master Chief Gunnery Officer Tenn Graneet, was wracked with intense guilt for his role in its destruction, viewing his own actions as being unforgivable. His guilt led to the Rebels' victory during the Battle of Yavin, when he stalled long enough for Luke Skywalker to fire proton torpedoes into the Death Star's thermal exhaust port during the Trench Run.
A remote relay satellite orbiting Delaya had recorded the destruction of Alderaan, and despite the immediate imposition of an Imperial blockade, a Rebel operative smuggled the tape out of the system. Nevertheless, Imperial geologists and investigators who supposedly examined the remains of Alderaan submitted early reports which implied that a series of superweapons had been under construction deep underground on the planet, and it was theorized that one or more of the hypothetical Alderaanian superweapons had misfired and ruptured the planet's crust. All reports were classified by the Imperial Navy. Emperor Palpatine briefly appeared at the Imperial Palace to publicly comment on the destruction of Alderaan, claiming to be distressed by the world's passing and inviting any surviving off-world Alderaanians to his own private resort world.
Although an official explanation for Alderaan's demise had yet to be provided by the time Imperial HoloVision reported on the planet's destruction in the week after the incident occurred, their headline stated that the world had been destroyed by one of its own superweapons. Holotapes of Alderaan's destruction, as well as transband communcations between Alderaan and Delaya regarding the appearance of the Death Star, were eventually distributed to NewsNets that were affiliated with the Rebel Alliance, and the 35:8:4 GrS inaugural broadcast of the Alderaan Expatriate Network asserted that all reports that Alderaan was responsible for its own destruction were false. Later that month, on 35:8:22 GrS, the Imperial Navy finally acknowledged the Death Star's role in Alderaan's destruction; Admiral Kemel Trowe claimed that the Empire had acquired irrefutable evidence that the world had been pursuing an aggressive biological warfare program that was apparently on the verge of a major breakthrough, and that the Emperor had ordered Alderaan's destruction in an effort to prevent the export of dangerous biowar product to off-world Rebel cells.
Soon, the destruction of Alderaan turned out to be a major embarrassment for the Empire, causing several high-ranking Imperials to portray Grand Moff Tarkin as a rogue agent who destroyed the planet without official authorization.
The planet's destruction caused thousands of Alderaanians, who had been off-world, to immediately join the Rebellion. Most Alderaanian members of the Imperial military promptly defected. A small minority who'd been in Imperial service, however, chose to stay on, blaming their own homeworld for its fate. Princess Leia would meet one such Alderaanian—the Imperial Navy officer Conn Doruggan—while negotiating the Bakura Truce with the Imperial governor Wilek Nereus on the planet Bakura in 5 ABY. The surviving Alderaanians founded the Alderaan Alliance as their new government.
Shortly after the destruction of Alderaan, the Death Star was destroyed during the Battle of Yavin, killing Tarkin and more than a million Imperials aboard the battlestation. After the destruction of the Death Star, a handful of systems not under direct Imperial military control either declared neutrality or joined the Alliance to Restore the Republic.
Alderaanians who were off-world at the time would later regularly go on pilgrimages known as the Return to the remains of Alderaan. The Return developed into a major cultural touchstone for Alderaanian survivors, with many describing it as a transcendent, life-changing moment. The procedure became fairly codified as more undertook it, resulting in the speech and ritual feeling somewhat impersonal to some Returnees. An industry developed around it catering to Alderaanians, and thieves frequently retrieved the gifts from the Graveyard then sold them on the galactic market, claiming that the gifts had "miraculously survived" the planet's destruction.
Some time after the destruction of their world, surviving Alderaanians founded a settlement on the planet Ejolus. Eight months after the Empire destroyed Alderaan, the colony was wiped out by the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Reprisal. It was revealed that the gunner Garil Dox caused the settlement's destruction without realizing that he killed his fellow Alderaanians. Despite this further setback, Alderaanians founded another colony on the planet that was named New Alderaan. After the fall of the Empire, New Alderaan would become a member world of the New Republic.
Behind the scenes
Although it has been debated, a shield effect is still present in the post-1997 version of Alderaan's destruction. In frames 4 and 5, the glow is concentrated in an area surrounding the point of impact, like shield interactions seen elsewhere in the films. Likewise, a similar shielding effect is seen in the premonition for Alderaan's explosion during the Mortis Arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The uniform glow also extends far out into space, beyond the limits of natural atmospheres. The original novelization of the film also has a reference to defense systems on Alderaan, which were as strong as any in the Empire, and helped make the demonstration even more impressive. Despite this, however, The Dark Empire Sourcebook claimed Alderaan lacked a planetary shield.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic offers a humorous twist on this event. Whereas Princess Leia attempted to spare Alderaan from the Death Star by lying that the Rebel Base was on Dantooine, the player can attempt to spare Dantooine from Darth Malak's fleet by claiming that the Jedi Enclave was located on Alderaan. As in A New Hope, the attempt will fail, as Malak had already discovered and destroyed the Jedi Enclave before that point in the game.
Ben Burtt originally considered leaving the explosion of Alderaan silent or to delay it for a few seconds after destruction. This delayed concept would later find its way in the creation of the sound-delayed seismic charges seen in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.
In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series episode "Ghosts of Mortis", Anakin Skywalker's visions of the future by the Son that included Alderaan's destruction as depicted in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.
- Fate of the Jedi: Conviction (Mentioned only)
- Fate of the Jedi: Conviction audiobook (Mentioned only)
- Tag & Bink Are Dead
- Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope (Mentioned only)
- Choose Your Own Star Wars Adventure: A New Hope (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (Appears in cutscene(s))
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Appears in cutscene(s))
Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron ½
- "Galaxywide NewsNets"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 3
- The New Essential Chronology
- "Galaxywide NewsNets"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 3 dates the dissolution of the Imperial Senate to 35:3:5, which is the same day as the deaths of Owen and Beru Lars, according to Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi establishes that Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi spend the night in the Tatooine city of Bestine following the Lars murders, before embarking upon the rescue of Princess Leia the next day, during which the destruction of Alderaan occurs, according to the Star Wars radio drama. Therefore, the destruction of Alderaan takes place on 35:3:6.
- Star Wars: Empire at War
- Star Wars (1977) 53
- Star Wars Journal: Captive to Evil
- I, Jedi
- Star Wars Annual 2011
- Star Wars: Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide
- Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back, Second Edition, p. 17
- Coruscant and the Core Worlds, p. 40
- Coruscant and the Core Worlds, p. 42
- Coruscant and the Core Worlds
- Vision of the Future
- Children of the Jedi
- "Galaxywide NewsNets"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 4, p. 61
- "Galaxywide NewsNets"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 3, p. 33
- "Galaxywide NewsNets"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 4, p. 64
- "Galaxywide NewsNets"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 4, p. 65