The Battle of Yavin: The worst military strategy in ‘Star Wars’ history

The Battle of Yavin, otherwise known as the rebel assault on the first Death Star, or even simpler, the big space battle at the end of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, is one of the most famous battle scenes in cinema. It’s briskly paced and intense. The stakes could not be higher. It’s also one of the most poorly planned and executed military strategies in the history of warfare.

Had the rebels planned their attack properly, or even executed their initial plan with a sense of urgency, the entire attack could have probably been over in under three minutes. Instead, due to a godawful strategy and even worse execution, the rebels had no business succeeding. It is only through sheer luck, magic, and the obligatory plot point that allows for the good guys to win that they end up not all just being blown right out of the sky.

NOTE: This is a critique of the rebel attack as seen in the movie. I do not care if it is explained in further detail in a novel, comic book, or video game.

LOL, sure, like any of that shit happened. OK, let’s do this.

It all goes wrong pretty much from the start. Before the rebels ever get into their ships they should be doomed. This is because they have an absolutely terrible plan. Here it is, in case you can’t remember.

The entire plan revolves around the fact that the Death Star’s defenses were never meant to combat small fighters and the rebels happen to have found a weakness that can be exploited by them. Great. That part makes perfect sense. Then things go off the rails when Beardy McTerriblePlan tells everyone they have to go through the trench in order to reach the exhaust port.

Why?

Just because the exhaust port is at the end of the trench, that doesn’t mean you have to use the trench to get there. You have spaceships! And the exhaust port is facing upward! You even show it facing upward in your little diagram. Why not just fly straight down towards it? Flying through the trench makes everything more difficult. You have no room to maneuver and, more importantly, rather than hitting the port with a straight shot, you now have to angle the proton torpedoes to go straight and then curve down. That’s so much more difficult!

Also, you know how everyone groans when he says “the shaft is ray shielded, so you’ll have to use proton torpedoes.”? Why is everyone groaning? How would you even hit that thing with a laser if you’re approaching it from the side? USE YOUR HEADS!

But fine, whatever. This is the shitty plan they’re going with. Things still probably would have been fine had they executed it even mildly well. The whole thing was a disaster though. Look at this.

The rebels had one advantage in this fight: That whole Death Star not really designed to defend against the type of ships they’re using thing. Rather than use that to hit the Death Star quickly before the Empire can figure out what’s happening, the rebels just fly around doing fuck all until the Empire figures out they just need to throw some of their own fighters at the problem. Why did the X-wings even bother trying to draw the fire of the turbo lasers that they have already established are not a threat?

Why are the rebels wasting time with laser shots to the surface at all? What possible strategic advantage could that give them? Sure, Luke manages to take out one single laser turret; but, again, those weren’t a threat in the first place. So who cares? The only rebel that gets taken down by a laser turret is our dearly departed friend Jek Porkins, and that only happened because he fucked up his own ship trying to blow up a different laser turret. Stop it! Stop shooting things for no reason. You’re wasting time!

You deserved so much better.

So now the rebels are engaged in a dog fight with an enemy that clearly has more manpower and better equipment to work with. It’s almost like this is the exact thing they wanted to avoid. If only they had just gone straight for that exhaust port rather than flying around and doing nothing useful for the last few minutes.

Eventually the Y-Wings start their trench run. Let’s see how that goes.

Oh. They died in 30 seconds. Did the rebels not account for what they would do if the Empire scrambled their own fighters? Obviously not, because rather than come up with plan B, the rebels literally do the same exact thing a second time, and with the exact same results. Hey, remember when Gold Leader was all “They. Came. From. Behind!” Yeah, he was warning you so you could do something about it.

Maybe hold some fighters back so they can cover you, rather than just telling them to stay out of range, which is totally a thing that happens!

Beardy. Come on. What are you doing? Who put you in charge? Why not have them hang out where they can be useful and actually come in behind Vader and company? Nope, just get out of range where you can serve literally no purpose other than waiting for this group to die. Which they will. Because you’re all idiots.

By the way, now that this is the second attempt at this trench run, why has nobody tried a somersault like in Star Fox 64 to get behind Vader’s fighter? You don’t HAVE to keep flying in a straight line. You can try to defend yourselves.

So Red leader is dead, and now it’s Luke’s turn to start his run. Will they try anything different? Yes! Sort of. Luke’s master plan is “We’re going in full throttle. That ought to keep those fighters off our back.” Luke definitely gets points for at least trying to change up the strategy, but this situation probably needed a little more creativity than just “go faster.”

Biggs actually has the best idea of anyone in this entire attack when says “we’ll stay back far enough to cover you.” That’s a brilliant idea that someone should have thought of way earlier. The problem is they totally don’t do that. Vader still just comes up right behind them and kills them. Also, going faster didn’t really help.

Yeah, see, it turns out the other spaceships can go faster too. Who knew?

Anyway, we all know what happens next. Han Solo deus ex machinas this whole thing, and Luke uses his space wizardry to blow up the Death Star. So it all sort of worked out. There were just 25 or so rebel deaths and billions of credits worth of destroyed spaceships that could have easily been avoided.

But of course we knew the rebels were dumb because they didn't give Chewie a medal even though he's the one who saved everyone anyway.