© 2015 Disney
The origins of the Rebel Alliance dated back to the Clone Wars, when the Jedi helped create resistance units on Separatist-held worlds. Ironically, Anakin Skywalker proposed this plan to the Jedi Council and helped create one such militia, training resistance fighters on Onderon. The Onderon cell, led by Steela and Saw Gerrera, fought against the Separatist puppet Sanjay Rash and his droid armies, eventually overthrowing Rash and restoring King Ramsis Dendup to his throne. Some of these resistance movements would continue their activities after the victorious Republic became the Empire, though it would be years before such cells coalesced into an organized Rebellion with centralized leadership.
The Rebellion’s origins could also be traced to clandestine meetings of Senators that began in the final days of the Republic. Senators such as Mon Mothma, Bail Organa and Padmé Amidala gathered secretly on Coruscant, concerned about the wartime powers accumulated by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Publicly, these Senators backed efforts to shame Palpatine into giving up his emergency powers. Privately, they began preparations for a time when resistance might have to progress beyond political arguments in the Senate, but it would prove to be a long and extremely difficult process to unite those opposed to the Empire under a single banner. Mothma and Organa would become key rebel leaders, a mantle also taken up by Bail’s adopted daughter Leia.
As the Empire tightened its grip on the galaxy, resistance movements sprang up on a number of worlds. Most were strictly local movements, determined to free an individual planet or star system from Imperial rule. Such movements risked running afoul of the Empire’s intelligence agents, Inquisitors and enforcers, who dealt ruthlessly with any sign of larger-scale resistance. One crew of rebels, led by the Twi’lek pilot Hera Syndulla, sprang up on the Outer Rim world of Lothal. Syndulla’s band -- whose ranks also included former Padawan Kanan Jarrus, the Force-sensitive orphan Ezra Bridger, Mandalorian demolitions expert Sabine Wren, Lasat warrior Garazeb “Zeb” Orrellos, and the droid Chopper -- worked to disrupt Imperial operations on Lothal and other Outer Rim worlds, receiving support from operatives such as the mysterious Fulcrum. In time, under the leadership of Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, such local groups combined their efforts into a full-blown Alliance dedicated to overthrowing Palpatine and restoring the Republic.
After narrowly escaping Imperial capture, the Ghost crew delivered Mon Mothma to a precise meeting point away from the eyes of the Empire: Dantooine. There, she formally announced her resignation from the Senate and put out a call for others to join in her in the fight against the Empire. As more and more rebel cells arrived, the Rebel Alliance was born.
As the Rebellion grew more organized and gained support in the Imperial Senate, the Empire sought to crush resistance by completing construction of the Death Star, an armored battle station with enough firepower to destroy an entire planet. Rebel spies stole the Death Star plans and delivered them to Princess Leia Organa, an Imperial Senator and a member of the Alliance. Darth Vader captured Leia’s starship above Tatooine, but the princess had hidden the plans in the memory banks of R2-D2.
Determined to crush the Rebellion, Grand Moff Tarkin demonstrated the Death Star’s power by incinerating Bail Organa’s homeworld of Alderaan. He allowed Leia to escape, trailing her to the principal Rebel base on the moon Yavin 4. The Rebels countered with a desperate plan, sending squadrons of starfighters up against the battle station. Before the Death Star could destroy Yavin 4, Luke Skywalker used the Force to guide a proton torpedo into an exhaust port leading to the battle station’s main reactor. The destruction of the Death Star saved the Alliance -- and the fires of resistance began to spread among the Empire’s worlds.
The Empire struck back with an overwhelming display of military might, brutally cracking down on dissent and sending its warships across the galaxy in search of the Rebels’ new principal base. After an Imperial probe droid discovered Echo Base on the ice planet Hoth, the Alliance’s General Rieekan ordered an immediate evacuation. Rieekan’s quick decision saved many lives and prevented a disaster, but the Rebels still suffered a terrible defeat. Battered but unbowed, the Alliance regrouped at a prearranged rendezvous point, forming a deep-space convoy of warships in an effort to stay ahead of Imperial hunters.
Under the direction of Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar, the Rebel fleet gathered at Sullust for an all-out attack on the second Death Star, under construction above the Forest Moon of Endor. The Alliance had learned that Emperor Palpatine was personally overseeing this new project, and risked a confrontation in hopes of ending the war with a quick strike. Mothma and Ackbar didn’t know Palpatine had leaked the information about the battle station and his presence aboard it. His trap very nearly succeeded: the Rebels couldn’t match the firepower of the Imperial fleet, let alone a Death Star that turned out to be fully operational. But a strike team led by Leia and Han Solo destroyed the shield generator protecting the Death Star, allowing Lando Calrissian and Wedge Antilles to fly into the superstructure and blow up the station’s main reactor.
Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker managed to awaken the good slumbering in Darth Vader. Vader killed Palpatine, an act of sacrifice that left the Empire leaderless and ended Sith rule of the galaxy.