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Members of the 501st Legion

"It was I who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator. It is quite safe from your pitiful little band. An entire legion of my best troops awaits them."
―Emperor Palpatine, to Luke Skywalker[1]

A legion was a military unit. Typically, the term indicated a large-scale formation comparable to a division or battlegroup, consisting of several regiments and comprising about ten thousand fighting troops.

Republic and Empire[]

The Legion was not a standard element in the line Army forces of either the Galactic Republic or Galactic Empire, which identified comparable formations as divisions and battlegroups. It was, however, a key field formation for the white-armored clone troopers of the Grand Army of the Republic and their successors, the Stormtrooper Corps of the Galactic Empire.

A clone legion consisted of 9,216 troops, normally headed by a Jedi General and a Senior clone commander. A Grand Army of the Republic legion, with some 7,000 attached support personnel, was the standard complement of an Acclamator-class assault ship. Imperial stormtrooper legions were equal to the size of Imperial Army battlegroups, 8,192 troops, and are likely to have been led by officers of comparable rank to the High Colonels and Major Generals of the Imperial Army.

Emperor Palpatine stationed a legion of his best troops on Endor.

A stormtrooper legion's exact numbers are unknown, although the official field manual for the Imperial Military, the Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide, estimated that the total amount within a legion lay between 8,192 and 12,800 troops.[2][3] In addition, although legion was the largest possible unit of the Stormtrooper Corps, various legions from other sectors have been known to join in a major offensive with other legions belonging to the Sector Group where the offensive took place.[4]

Even though the Stormtrooper Corps was the only major Imperial Military branch to utilize legions, various Imperial Military units that included both the Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy could sometimes be compared to legions if the manpower and force strength was sufficient, especially if the unit in question was a joint task force for all three major branches of the Imperial Military utilized for a vital objective. This was especially evident during the Battle of Endor, where the Galactic Emperor Palpatine, when revealing to captive Rebel commander Luke Skywalker that the Rebel Alliance's Endor strike team was headed into a trap, referred to the unit guarding the Endor shield generator bunker, Tempest Force, as "an entire legion of [Palpatine's] best troops."[1]

Other legions[]

As a unit designation, the legion goes back millennia, to the earliest ages of Galactic warfare, and it seems to have been used by adherents of both Jedi and Sith traditions. The Legions of Lettow were the Jar'Kai-using warriors of Xendor, the earliest recorded Dark Jedi, while in the New Sith Wars the Third Legion of Light was one of the major component units of the Jedi Army of Light.

The Mandalorian Neo-Crusaders used legions during the Mandalorian Wars.

In the period of the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War, it was not only clone troopers and stormtroopers who were organized into legions. In particular, the term seems to have been widely used in the Trade Federation: it was said that the C-9979 landing craft which bore the Trade Federation's battle droids into action could carry "legions of troops," while the Neimoidian soldiers who guarded Neimoidia and the purse worlds were known as the Neimoidian Home Defense Legions.

Further Legions were found among the forces of governments at galactic, sector and planetary levels. The term was used occasionally by Rebel Alliance units, including the feared Alderaanian Death Legion. The Pembric Security Legion provided security on Pembric II, although in practice they worked hand-in-glove with the Bombaasa Cartel to exclude other factions from a de facto condominium between crimelord Crev Bombaasa and the planetary government.

Order of battle[]

Different Legions varied drastically in size and structure: some were armies charged with guarding entire sectors, while others were little more than local gangs. The term contained connotations of size and importance, however, and in the terminology of the Republic and Empire, a legion was a large force composed of several regiments.

The best-documented legion organization was that of the Grand Army of the Republic, in which a standard legion consisted of 9,216 soldiers, as mentioned above. These were divided among four regiments, each of four battalions of 576 men.

Under the Empire, the strength of a stormtrooper battalion had been raised to 820 men, suggesting some restructuring of the legion organization, although it remained a force of several regiments. Some sources suggest that a stormtrooper "division" was carried aboard each Star Destroyer, and it might be possible to equate this unit with the legion and in turn with the Imperial Star Destroyer's troop complement of 9,700 men, but no unequivocal support for this hypothesis exists. It is also possible that stormtrooper legions were closer in number to battlegroups in the Imperial Army, which had approximately 10,000 front-line troops in an overall strength of close to 15,000.

Under the Empire of the Hand, it appears that the 501st Legion had been reorganized, with the reduction of the standard company to forty men; it is unclear exactly what this indicates about the overall strength, but if the companies were all indicated by individual letters of the Aurebesh like Aurek Company, the overall strength may have been no more than 1,360 men.



Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
  2. Star Wars: Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide
  3. According to the formations and deployment section of the Stormtrooper Corps chapter, a squad was eight to ten stormtroopers. A platoon, likewise, was made up of four or five squads, while the remaining formations up to legion were all consistently at four. As such, squads and platoons with the minimum number of troops would have had 8,192 stormtroopers per legion, and those with the maximum number would likewise have had 12,800 stormtroopers per legion.
  4. Imperial Sourcebook, Second Edition
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