You may fire when ready.—Wilhuff Tarkin giving the order to destroy Alderaan, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The Destruction of Alderaan, also known as the Battle of Alderaan, occurred in 0 BBY at the order of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, and resulted in the complete annihilation of Alderaan and its inhabitants.
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., Star Wars (radio)
From the very beginning of its design, it was intended that the 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 a planet.
An unexpected battleEdit
A small fleet of Star Destroyers had escorted the Death Star to Alderaan. Tarkin, who was in charge of the Death Star, now 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.
Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station's destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan.
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.
Tarkin, if ever there was a shred of humanity in you or these twisted creatures of yours, it's dead now. You're at war with life itself. You are enemies of the universe… your Empire is doomed.—Leia Organa to Wilhuff Tarkin, shortly after the destruction of Alderaan., Star Wars (radio)
The destruction of Alderaan caused the deaths of approximately 1,999,940,000 sentients who were on the planet at the time, sending shock waves through the Force, weakening those who were able to feel them. Senator Bail Prestor Organa was the most famous casualty of this genocidal act. A colony of Caamasi was also wiped out. Ironically, they were refugees from the destruction of their own home planet in 19 BBY.
Aftermath of the blastEdit
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, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (novel)
The destruction of Alderaan failed in its psychological goal. Wiping out a peaceful, idyllic paradise caused great consternation, even in the Core Worlds. The failure of the Empire to conceive an appropriate cover story further angered many citizens. The Empire did attempt to pin the destruction of Alderaan on the Rebel Alliance; however, few believed them.
The planet's destruction made thousands of Alderaanians who'd been off-world 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 officer while negotiating a truce with one section of the Empire on the planet Bakura.) However, sentients across the galaxy realized that if the Empire would kill them even if they submitted, they had nothing to lose by rebelling. Rather than cower before Palpatine, whole systems would soon revolt. The fall of the Galactic Empire had begun.
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, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
After the destruction of the Death Star, many systems not under military Imperial control either declared neutrality or joined the Alliance to Restore the Republic.
Behind the scenesEdit
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. 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.
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.
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