- "You're safe. When we heard about Alderaan, we feared the worst."
- ―Vanden Willard, welcoming Leia Organa to Yavin Base
- "When we heard about Alderaan, we were afraid that you were... lost along with your father."
- ―Vanden Willard
A native of Alderaan, Willard was an old friend of Bail Organa, and served as a spy for the Organa family. During his career, he served as commander of Delta Base on the remote moon New Kisge in the Suolriep sector.
Willard joined the Alliance forces at the Massassi base six months prior to the first Death Star's arrival. General Jan Dodonna assigned Willard, now an Alliance general, to command Yavin 4's planetary defenses. Willard was speaking with Bail Organa through a secure HoloNet channel when Alderaan was destroyed. Willard feared that Princess Leia Organa had perished, and was elated when she arrived at Yavin 4 with the plans for the Death Star. When the Death Star arrived in the Yavin system, Willard began devising an evacuation plan after assisting Dodonna with the development of an attack plan against the space station.
After the Alliance victory at Yavin, Willard coordinated the Battle of Shaylin 18, and then was assigned the command of Delta Base and of Suolriep sector. During this time, Willard was sent in missions with young tactics prodigy Risiev Credal. Alongside with Dodonna, Willard and Credal spent free time discussing the tactics used in Yavin. After Credal's disappearance and presumable desertion, Willard still could not believe him a traitor, but accepted the possibility.
During his service on Delta Base, Willard worked with the Task Force on Alliance Security, writing reports on threats to the Alliance. He wrote a report on assassin Callandri specifying her first attack on lieutenant Alton Lochner.
Willard retired for active military duty to train officers, captains, and pilots in the vagaries of military strategy, space combat, and tactical decision-making. He is remembered with particular bitterness by starfighter pilots who faced the Redemption scenario, a particularly difficult simulation designed by Willard.
As the New Republic formed, Willard worked with fellow strategic luminaries Dodonna, Adar Tallon, and Pashna Starkiller. The work of the "Gray Cadre" was essential in developing the strategic and tactical methods that would assist the New Republic in defeating enemies like the cloned Emperor Palpatine.
Behind the scenes
Willard was played by Irish actor Eddie Byrne in A New Hope. His voice was dubbed by Michael Bell. The character was named after screenwriter Willard Huyck, who, along with his wife Gloria Katz, helped George Lucas put some finishing touches on the revised fourth draft of the movie's script. While the CCG accurately identifies Willard (as played by Byrne), other sources, such as Star Wars: Rebellion and Star Wars: Rebellion: Prima's Official Strategy Guide, have confused Byrne's Willard with the mustachioed General Bob Hudsol.
- "The Princess Leia Diaries"—Star Wars Tales 11 (Appears in hologram)
- Empire 9
- Star Wars Journal: The Fight for Justice (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Journal: Captive to Evil
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope novel (First appearance)
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope junior novel
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope PhotoComic
- Contemporary Motivators: Star Wars
- Star Wars: A New Hope - The Special Edition 3
- Star Wars (1977) 5
- Star Wars Manga: A New Hope 4
- Star Wars: Rebellion
- Rebel Force: Renegade (Mentioned only)
- Rebel Force: Uprising
- Star Wars (1977) 26
- Star Wars Science Adventures: Emergency in Escape Pod Four (Mentioned only)
- Razor's Edge
- Razor's Edge audiobook
- Star Wars (1977) 48 (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars Journal: Hero for Hire (Indirect mention only)
- Star Wars Word Puzzles
- A Guide to the Star Wars Universe
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- Alliance Intelligence Reports
- The Essential Guide to Characters
- Star Wars Customizable Card Game – A New Hope Limited (Card: Commander Vanden Willard) (backup link)
- Rules of Engagement: The Rebel SpecForce Handbook
- Secrets of the Sisar Run
- Star Wars: Rebellion: Prima's Official Strategy Guide
- Star Wars Encyclopedia
- The New Essential Guide to Characters
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 7 (LEI 7, Princess Leia Organa)
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 67 (MIL 6, Escape of the Millennium Falcon)
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film
- "May The Facts Be With You: Part Two: #51-100"—Star Wars Insider 95
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- The Official Star Wars Fact File (2013) Part 1 (YAV1-4, The Battle of Yavin)