- "Red Leader, this is Gold Leader. We're starting our attack run."
- ―Jon Vander
Jon "Dutch" Vander was a male human ace pilot from Onderon who first served in the Galactic Empire's Imperial Navy before defecting to the rebellion. By 2 BBY, he served as the leader of Gold Squadron, a squadron made up of BTL Y-wing light bombers, with the rank of captain. In this role, he was instrumental in escorting the fugitive Senator Mon Mothma safely to Dantooine, where the Alliance to Restore the Republic would be formed. With the outbreak of the Galactic Civil War, Vander fought with his squadron in the battles of Scarif, where his leadership contributed to the destruction of the Shield Gate, and Yavin, by which time he had become a quadruple ace. Here, however, he would be killed while attempting a trench run on the Death Star battle station, shot down by the Sith Lord Darth Vader.
Hailing from the planet Onderon, Jon Vander was an Imperial pilot in the Imperial Navy. Onderon was a destabilized, war-torn world because of the militant insurgency of Saw Gerrera's Partisans; however, when Vander was ordered to bomb pro-rebel areas on his homeworld, he refused, instead defecting to the rebellion against the Empire.
Serving the Rebellion
- "Phoenix Leader, this is Gold Squadron. We catch you at a bad time?"
- ―Captain Jon Vander to Hera Syndulla
By 2 BBY, Vander had joined the nascent rebellion, becoming the flight leader of Gold Squadron, a part of the Massassi Group rebel cell which flew BTL-A4 Y-wing light bombers. They protected rebel convoys and attacked a few soft Imperial targets. At this time, Senator Mon Mothma, who was secretly involved in the rebellion, delivered a fiery speech on the HoloNet denouncing Galactic Emperor Sheev Palpatine for his role in the Ghorman Massacre.
As a result, Mothma was branded a traitor and forced to flee her homeworld of Chandrila. As part of Operation Handoff, Gold Squadron took on the duty of protecting the former Senator and escorting her ship, the Chandrila Mistress, to Dantooine, where they planned to rendezvous with other rebel cells. En route, they met up with elements of Phoenix Cell in the Lothal sector in order to refuel the Senator's transport. Vander and Gold Two, as well as Mothma's aide Erskin Semaj, docked with the Ghost and disembarked, meeting Phoenix Leader Hera Syndulla and her cell known as the Spectres.
Despite butting heads with Spectres Ezra Bridger, Garazeb Orrelios, and the astromech droid Chopper over the sensitive nature of the mission, Vander allowed Ezra to fly a Y-wing after Gold Two was wounded during an Imperial attack. Vander and Gold Squadron used their ion cannons to disable an Arquitens-class command cruiser before bombing it. Forming a defensive perimeter around the disabled Chandrila Mistress, the Gold Squadron pilots bought time for Mothma and her crew to evacuate to the Ghost, allowing the rebels to escape to hyperspace.
Captain Syndulla suggested an old smuggler's route through the Archeon Nebula to escape the Lothal sector undetected. However, this tactic was deduced by Grand Admiral Thrawn, and he deployed two Imperial I-class Star Destroyers to the Nebula, as well as a flight of two TIE/IN interceptors and an experimental TIE/d "Defender" Multi-Role Starfighter starfighter piloted by the ace pilot Commander Vult Skerris. Although the TIEs were able to shoot down Golds Three, Four, and Five, Vander and Bridger (in the two surviving rebel starfighters) cooperated to disable Skerris through their mounted ion cannons.
Vander, concerned the seasoned TIE ace would return, exited the Nebula with Bridger, only to find the Ghost being drawn into the tractor beam of one of the Imperial Star Destroyers. At Hera's command, Vander and Ezra fired their proton torpedoes into the Archeon Nebula, igniting the gas and triggering an inferno that engulfed the two Star Destroyers — allowing the rebels to to safely jump to Dantooine. He provided a post-mission report to Dodonna. Captain Vander, Gold Two and the other rebels were present when Mon Mothma gave an impassioned speech urging the galaxy to rise up in rebellion against the Empire. Shortly later, a rebel fleet emerged from hyperspace and the Alliance to Restore the Republic was formed.
Galactic Civil War
Battle of Scarif
- "Red Leader, this is Gold Leader: we're starting our attack run on the shield gate. Keep it tight and watch out for those towers."
- ―Vander announcing a bombing run on the shield gate
Eventually, Vander and his squadron would be stationed at the Alliance's secret Base One on Yavin 4, the fourth moon of Yavin, he flew Gold One, often with his astromech, R2-BHD. Vander and Gold Squadron, along with Blue, Green, and Red Squadrons, departed from the Rebel base to accompany Admiral Raddus in his support of the Rogue One team in their attempt to steal the technical readouts of the planet-destroying Death Star battle station. Assisting in the space battle as Raddus' fleet attacked the Shield Gate orbital station, Vander and Gold Squadron conducted several attack runs on the Shield Gate, utilizing proton bombs in an effort to weaken the shield. After sustaining casualties, they were redirected by Raddus against the flotilla of Star Destroyers.
Vander gave the order to take advantage of an opening in Imperial defenses, and he and four of his wing mates swooped into position to attack. The Gold Squadron pilots launched ion torpedoes at the Star Destroyer Persecutor, disabling it and allowing it to be rammed by a Sphyrna-class Hammerhead corvette, the Lightmaker. Colliding with the Star Destroyer Intimidator as well as the Shield Gate, this disabled the deflector shield and allowed the plans on the ground to be successfully transmitted from the Citadel Tower to the Profundity, and eventually, the Tantive IV. Vander survived the battle, and the actions of he and his squadron would prove beneficial in helping the Alliance to victory at Scarif, despite the high number of casualties.
Battle of Yavin
- "Loosen up!"
- ―Vander's last words before his death
Upon Vander's return to Yavin 4, he had reached the status of quadruple ace, with twenty-two confirmed kills and 19,997 logged flight hours. After the plans for the Death Star were returned by the Millennium Falcon, Alliance High Command was able to pinpoint Galen Erso's weakness in the plans, a small thermal exhaust port leading directly to the main reactor, and decided that their best chance to exploit it would be through small starfighters, using proton torpedoes to target the shaft. Vander attended General Jan Dodonna's pre-flight briefing as the Death Star approached to destroy the base. Visibly skeptical of their chances, he interrupted Dodonna by asking "Pardon me for asking, sir, but what good are snub-fighters going to be against that?" and then later gave Princess Leia a look of concern when Dodonna mentioned that the exhaust port was only two meters wide. Despite his reservations, he would again lead Gold Squadron's eight Y-wing force in the Battle of Yavin.
During the battle, three of Gold Squadron's Y-wings separated from the main force, making up the first group that would fly into the Death Star's meridian trench in an attempt to knock out the exhaust port and destroy the station. Vander was on point, followed by Davish "Pops" Krail (Gold Five) and fellow Onderonian Dex Tiree (Gold Two), who formed a buffer against enemy fighters. In the face of the station's turbolaser batteries, Vander ordered his group to switch their deflector shields to double-front; however, this would have the adverse effect of leaving them vulnerable from behind. As Tiree was locking his targeting computer, he was shot down by Darth Vader's TIE Advanced x1. This caused Vander to panic as he was unable to maneuver in the tight space; Krail tried to keep him calm but to no avail. A second later Vader fired into Vander's Y-wing. His Y-wing caught fire and eventually exploded, killing him instantly.
Personality and traits
Jon Vander was a human male with brown hair, brown eyes, and light skin. While piloting his Y-wing, Gold One, Vander wore a orange flight suit and a white K-22995 flight helmet. Vander was familiar with starfighter defensive tactics. He typically favored tight formations for his bomber groups, and prioritized piloting discipline. He was averse to excessive chatter in battle and preferred his Gold Squadron pilots to focus on the mission. Vander was also skilled at using his Y-wing's ion cannons, as evidenced by his takedown of Vult Skerris.
As Gold Leader, Jon Vander took care of his squadron mates. During a dangerous mission through the Archeon pass, Vander also became a mentor to the younger rebel pilot Ezra Bridger. Despite his earlier disagreement with the Spectres for their aggressive tactics and drawing the Empire's attention, he came to respect Phoenix Leader Hera Syndulla for her valor and creativity.
Though Jon Vander showed skepticism at times, most prevalent when questioning General Dodonna on the feasibility of the Death Star trench run, he also exhibited a calm and collected demeanor when he felt in control of the situation, as he did at Scarif and during the early stages of Yavin. To squadronmates, he gave the impression of being stern and emotionless during tense combat situations. He also demonstrated bravery in taking down a Star Destroyer and leading his squadron down the trench in face of heavy turbolaser fire. However, he also panicked when met with a rapidly intensifying and deteriorating situation, and this, as well as the tight formations he chose for his bombers at both Scarif and Yavin, proved to be his downfall.
Behind the scenes
Jon Vander was portrayed in 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope by Canadian actor Angus MacInnes; MacInnes later appeared as Vander in 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story through a combination of archival footage and newly recorded lines. Vander is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal in Star Wars Rebels.
There is considerable ambiguity over Jon Vander's nickname. The enunciation of Gold Five's line referring to his squadron mates Tiree and Dutch was unclear, and many fans perceived him to be saying "Hutch" instead of "Dutch." Different sources in Star Wars Legends used both "Hutch" and "Dutch," and this uncertainty has carried over into Star Wars Canon post-2014.[source?] This article assumes "Dutch" is the correct version of the nickname.
Vander's helmet prop — or one of a matching design — was later used by "Hobbie" in The Empire Strikes Back, and by Grizz Frix in Return of the Jedi as well as a different, unidentified pilot on Home One in the film.
- Star Wars: Starfighter Missions
- Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures – "Darth Vader vs. the Rebel Fleet - Fearsome Fighter Pilot" (Voice only)
- Star Wars Rebels – "Secret Cargo"
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story novelization (Voice only)
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story audiobook (Voice only)
- Star Wars: Rogue One: A Junior Novel (Mentioned only as Gold Leader)
- Star Wars: Rogue One: A Junior Novel audiobook (Mentioned only as Gold Leader)
- Star Wars: Rogue One: Secret Mission
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (First appearance)
- A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy
- A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy audiobook
- Star Wars: A New Hope junior novelization
- Star Wars: Heroes Path (Fighter only)
- Star Wars: The Original Trilogy – A Graphic Novel (Voice only)
- "Sparks"—From a Certain Point of View (as Gold Leader)
- "Duty Roster"—From a Certain Point of View (Mentioned only) (as Gold Leader)
- "Desert Son"—From a Certain Point of View (Voice only) (as Gold Leader)
- "Grounded"—From a Certain Point of View (Mentioned only)