Today, July 4, is Independence Day in America. A national holiday, this day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the separation of the thirteen American colonies and the monarch of Britain. To celebrate this day of independence, I thought I would discuss another story of independence that is near and dear to my heart, the defeat of the Galactic Empire at the hands of the Rebel Alliance.
In order to understand the significance and magnitude of this victory, we first need to explore the origins of the Rebellion. Twenty-two years prior to the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the first Death Star, the Galactic Senate of the Republic granted emergency powers to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. This allowed the, then unknown, Sith Lord to raise the Grand Army of the Republic and wage the Clone Wars against the Republic. During this time Palpatine was able to gain complete control of the galaxy as well as soil the image of the Jedi in the eyes of the public. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, numerous notable senators including Bail Organa and Mon Mothma were conversing, beginning to form an alliance amongst members of the Senate to stop more changes to the Constitution and to combat centralized power. This can be seen in this deleted scene from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
A short time after, another meeting was had amongst the group, with Senator Padmé Amidala proposing the inclusion of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker in their discussions, however the group disagreed, prompting Padmé to remain quiet about her affairs with the alliance and ultimately never sharing those details with her husband prior to her death and his transformation into Darth Vader. Here is that clip:
In the early years after the birth of the Empire, many small resistance cells began operating against the Empire. Meanwhile, Bail Organa and Mon Mothma actively began searching for surviving Jedi as well as investigating these cells in order to bring them into their growing movement. One of the first cells Organa investigated was on Raada, where former-Jedi padawan Ahsoka Tano had been fighting against active Imperial occupation on the system. Organa successfully recruited Tano and she began work as the leader of rebel intelligence under the codename “Fulcrum.” That title would later be used by Alexsandr Kallus and Cassian Andor. Other groups, such as Phoenix Cell led by Commander Jun Sato and Messassi Cell led by General Jan Dodanna had entire fleets, with the latter working directly out of the Great Temple on Yavin IV. Some groups, such as the Partisans led by Saw Gerrera, were too violent for the now dubbed “Alliance.” This caused a rift between leaders, ultimately resulting in the Empire viewing the entire Rebellion in a negative light and eventually causing a separation of association between the central Alliance and the Partisans. All the while, throughout the first fifteen years of the Alliance, none of the cells interacted directly. Each cell was given tasks and targets by Tano acting as Fulcrum. During the last five years leading up to the Battle of Yavin, a new cell grew powerful on Lothal. This group consisted of former-Jedi Kanan Jarrus, his apprentice Ezra Bridger, Captain Hera Syndulla of Ryloth, a Mandalorian warrior named Sabine Wren, a Lasat solider named Garazeb Orrelios, and their astromech droid Chopper. The group was ultimately responsible for the liberation of Lothal and the defeat of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Hera Syndulla and her ship the Ghost later participated in the Battle of Scarif and the Battle of Endor.
About two years prior the Battle of Yavin, the Alliance united above Dantooine where leader Mon Mothma resigned from the Imperial Senate and denounced the Empire, calling upon other Rebel cells to unite above the planet. After many cells answered the call, the Alliance to Restore the Republic was officially formed. Throughout the next two years, the Rebel Alliance suffered many defeats at the hands of the Empire, including a devastating ambush above Atollon. The Alliance would continue its guerrilla warfare tactics until days before the destruction of the first Death Star at the Battle of Scarif.
The Battle of Scarif was the first major victory for the Rebel Alliance and the beginning of the conflict known as the Galactic Civil War. During the conflict, as depicted in the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Rebel strike teams led by Sergeant Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor landed on the surface of Scarif and successfully captured the plans for the Death Star and delivered them to Rebel forces above the planet at the cost of their entire team’s lives. These plans were later used by Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan to send a strike team of the Rebellion’s best pilots to destroy the planet-killer. One pilot, Luke Skywalker, was able to fire a proton torpedo down an exhaust port placed by Galen Erso to destroy the Death Star.
In the years following the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion was constantly on the run from a reunified Empire. The group fought numerous battles and jumped from system to system until ultimately settling on the ice planet of Hoth.
After briefly settling on Hoth, the Alliance was once again discovered by the Empire. The Imperial Death Squadron, the personal armada of Darth Vader, was deployed and decimated Echo Base. The Rebellion, once again in retreat, rendezvoused and moved forward without Captain Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite and captured by Jabba the Hutt. Very little was known about Rebellion activity during the three years between the Battles of Hoth and Endor, but there was known activity on Sullust where it was liberated thanks to the work of Twilight Company.
Sometime after this, the Bothan spy network discovered the existence and plans of a second Death Star. This prompted a two-part mission by the Rebel Alliance to destroy the Empire once and for all. The first part, led by the recently-rescued General Han Solo, took a strike team to the forest moon of Endor to disable a shield generator. The second part, led by Admiral Ackbar, was a full-on starfighter assault on the second Death Star. Notable Rebellion members that participated in both parts of the battle included Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Chewbacca, Wedge Antilles, and Lando Calrissian. Upon the completion of this battle, the second Death Star was destroyed alongside the super Star Destroyer Executor as well as the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader. The Empire, now crippled, had finally begun to fallen. A day of celebration took place across the galaxy as the Empire fell and the New Republic began to rise.
In a year after the Battle of Endor, the final remnants of the Empire joined final forces above the desert planet of Jakku against the forces of the New Republic. The Empire was finally defeated, with the battle officially ending the Galactic Civil War.
The story of the Rebellion is one of resilience and strength in a time when all seemed dim. As much of the galaxy fell under the boot of the Empire and willfully gave up their power, one group did not allow themselves to waver from their task: return peace, order, and justice to the galaxy. Similarly, the American colonies demanded to be free from their British overrule and fight a war for independence. Today, we celebrate not only our forefathers, we also celebrate the epic story of the Rebellion.