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Star Wars Prequels Entertainment

The Battle of Hoth: Vader the Invader 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the attack-them-with-giant-metal-camels dept.
JustOK writes "Darth Vader did a lot of bad things and did a lot of things badly; the Battle of Hoth was of both types. The Empire's attempt to capture Echo Base, while successful, was still a horrible failure. Sure, the Empire overran the ground defenses and captured the base, but most of the Rebels escaped. Luke, Leia and Han all got away. The Rebels had a poorly-laid-out ground defense, and a planetary shield that can't keep an invader out while complicating their own escape. This article at Wired takes us through all the missteps in the battle."
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The Battle of Hoth: Vader the Invader

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  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:21PM (#42888829)
    "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."

    nuff said

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:48PM (#42889139)

      I don't know why they call it Hoth, they should call it "Coldth"

    • by retchdog (1319261) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:56PM (#42889245) Journal

      very true. people can armchair quarterback real historical battles, let alone fictional ones in a setting where magic exists.

      this is why i find the endor holocaust [theforce.net] a little more interesting.

      • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:14PM (#42889475)

        No animal larger than a few kilograms and incapable of long sheltered hibernation could survive the Endorian calamity. The air might even have been poisoned and deoxygenated for a few years until simple plant life could return to growth. If so then it is possible that all animal life perished. In any case any ewok on the surface who was not equipped with impressive high-technology survival gear and a nuclear shelter must have died.

        For those unfortunate beings not painlessly obliterated by the impact concussions, the initial night of celebration would linger on and on with days of darkness. A chill would fall, the waters would turn to ice and the vegetation would wilt into death or dormancy, depending on species. Provided that radioactivity was insignificant and the air remained modestly breathable (a very generous assumption) the doomed ewoks might survive for days or weeks huddling around bonfires, until they starved.

        Every read that about a hundred times and every time I read it just makes me so happy.

        The only other thing better than this is this wonderful piece of liberal baiting from the WS

        http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/248ipzbt.asp?nopager=1 [weeklystandard.com]

        Lucas wants the Empire to stand for evil, so he tells us that the Emperor and Darth Vader have gone over to the Dark Side and dresses them in black.

        But look closer. When Palpatine is still a senator, he says, "The Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good." At one point he laments that "the bureaucrats are in charge now."

        Palpatine believes that the political order must be manipulated to produce peace and stability. When he mutters, "There is no civility, there is only politics," we see that at heart, he's an esoteric Straussian.

        Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator--but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet. It's a dictatorship people can do business with. They collect taxes and patrol the skies. They try to stop organized crime (in the form of the smuggling rings run by the Hutts). The Empire has virtually no effect on the daily life of the average, law-abiding citizen.

        Also, unlike the divine-right Jedi, the Empire is a meritocracy. The Empire runs academies throughout the galaxy (Han Solo begins his career at an Imperial academy), and those who show promise are promoted, often rapidly. In "The Empire Strikes Back" Captain Piett is quickly promoted to admiral when his predecessor "falls down on the job."

        And while it's a small point, the Empire's manners and decorum speak well of it. When Darth Vader is forced to employ bounty hunters to track down Han Solo, he refuses to address them by name. Even Boba Fett, the greatest of all trackers, is referred to icily as "bounty hunter." And yet Fett understands the protocol. When he captures Solo, he calls him "Captain Solo." (Whether this is in deference to Han's former rank in the Imperial starfleet, or simply because Han owns and pilots his own ship, we don't know. I suspect it's the former.)

        But the most compelling evidence that the Empire isn't evil comes in "The Empire Strikes Back" when Darth Vader is battling Luke Skywalker. After an exhausting fight, Vader is poised to finish Luke off, but he stays his hand. He tries to convert Luke to the Dark Side with this simple plea: "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you. . . . Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy." It is here we find the real controlling impulse for the Dark Side and the Empire. The Empire doesn't want slaves or destruction or "evil." It wants order.

        None of which is to say that the Empire isn't sometimes brutal. In Episode IV, Imperial stormtroopers kill Luke's aunt and uncle and Grand Moff Tarkin

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:35PM (#42889729) Homepage Journal

      "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."

      nuff said

      It was a kids movie. Lucas even said so. This is like dissecting a Gumby show.

      • The Gumby episode with the out-of-control robots was surprisingly perceptive given it's intended audience.
      • by Sigg3.net (886486)

        Yup. In the VHS edition of episodes 4-6 George Lucas said the first was yellow, the second white and the third green.

        I think that explains a lot. (Incidentally, also the reason I ff'd past his introductions the first five years I watched those VHSs.)

    • "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."

      nuff said

      But hindsight is 20/20, and Helmuth von Moltke lived a long time after the battle of Hoth.

  • The shield it's job quite well enough - the base wasn't glassed from orbit.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Indeed. The orbital defenses were just that - defenses against things in orbit.

      The guns and troops on the ground, the bunker itself - that's all there to protect against a planetside assault. It accomplished that task - the shields and ion cannon prevented the Imperials from slagging the area, and the ground force stalled the invasion long enough to evacuate.

      Vader was on the ground, presumably, to capture Luke. Keep in mind that Luke was his son, and he knew about it - as we see in Cloud City. He wanted a c

      • "Vader was on the ground, presumably, to capture Luke. Keep in mind that Luke was his son, and he knew about it - as we see in Cloud City. He wanted a chance to convert Luke for his own purposes (overthrowing the Emperor and taking control) which may not have been possible had Luke been captured by ground troops."

        hence keep the reliegous nut with his own ego, and personal agenda away from command
      • by v1 (525388)

        He wanted a chance to convert Luke for his own purposes (overthrowing the Emperor and taking control) which may not have been possible had Luke been captured by ground troops.

        I believe his motivation would be more of thinking he was the only one capable of catching a budding jedi. He'd much rather capture him than risk him escaping, or worse yet, be killed by an orbital bombardment.

        Though one wonders why when he spots the Flacon taking off, why he doesn't radio the fleet above him, to capture the escaping

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly this.
      The shield prevented orbital bombardment, which is an automatic loss condition given the rebels cannot repel the empire fleet at Hoth. (I'd guess not enough time to recall their entire fleet from other locations)

      Their strategy at Hoth looked to be simply to buy enough time against a ground invasion so their ships could leave the atmosphere and jump to hyperspace. (Presumably this is easy enough to do while being covered by the ion canon)

      The Rebels seemed to know all this in advance, had planned

      • by Jack9 (11421)

        > They didn't even seems surprised when the empire eventually did find them.

        Until the destruction of the first Death Star, there was not a single instance of the rebellion repelling an Imperial Assault. They were always found out eventually.

    • and commando units, had Ozzel come out of light speed undetected. But seriously, paratroopers ahead of the main assault force.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:23PM (#42888855) Journal
    But, I really don't have all day to do this so just to cover a few of the points: If the energy shields could only stop energy and not physical materials from entering, then the rebel shield makes sense. The Star Destroyers are too massive to get below the shield without crashing to the planet and yet all of their weapons are ion or energy based. So you have to transport in ground troops and walk them in. If you believe in the future that energy is cheap and mass is expensive, then the energy shields make more sense. You might have physical bombs on a fighter like a Y-wing with proton torpedoes but a Star Destroyer that might need to be out for years would never need to reload if they have cheap energy to power their systems.

    Also, the article asks why Vader didn't bomb out the base. One explanation is that he senses Luke is inside and it's his duty to turn Luke over to the Emperor. Another explanation is that they're dug in too far and they don't have the bunker busting utilities on the ATATs and ATSTs.

    He flies into an asteroid belt — which somehow the Imperial Fleet had failed to account for when planning its hasty “blockade” — and the Falcon has defied the odds.

    I would have guessed that since the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid belt are so low (as threepio notes) that the blockade used that as a natural barrier like you would a mountain or sea in an earthly battle. When they flew into it, nobody was expecting them to opt to be blown up in an asteroid belt and they reluctantly gave chase.

    Yeah, I know, I'm the life at parties and this is all done tongue in cheek but I could probably come up with apologetic responses. I'm actually really glad that Lucas didn't decide to have meaningless strategic dialogue of Tom Clancy proportions so that we could all follow why every little thing was happening. I've read fantasy books by authors with military backgrounds and the battles get tedious -- though very informative.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I love detailed discussions of hypothetical scenarios, but Star Wars is really way too soft of SciFi for it to do anything other than maintain suspension of disbelief.
      Trying to apply reality to it quickly results in an obvious mess.

    • If the energy shields could only stop energy and not physical materials from entering, then the rebel shield makes sense. The Star Destroyers are too massive to get below the shield without crashing to the planet and yet all of their weapons are ion or energy based. So you have to transport in ground troops and walk them in.

      The shields the Gungans used in the prequels seemed like that. It could stop weapon fire from outside, but the droids could just walk inside of it without any trouble.

      • by elfprince13 (1521333) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:50PM (#42889159) Homepage
        The Star Wars universe makes a clear distinction between ray shields and particle shields. This is also the case with the shielding over exhaust port on the Death Star.
        • by Kidbro (80868)

          Honest question (from a not so die hard, but still a Star Wars fan) - what's the shield that blocks the path between first Darth Maul and Qui Gon Jinn and then later Obi Wan prior to the last part of the duel which kills both Qui Gon and Maul in Episode I? I guess it's a particle shield, given that it stops the Jedi themselves for a while, but if I recall correctly it also blocks the light saber when someone (can't remember who) briefly strikes at it to test it. I would have assumed a light saber was "energ

          • Those were Laser gates [wikia.com].
          • by jeremyp (130771)

            what's the shield that blocks the path between first Darth Maul and Qui Gon Jinn and then later Obi Wan

            It's called a "Plot Device". The Star Wars films and other films are full of them.

            It gets quite amusing watching people try to rationalise stuff when the only real logic is to allow the writer to manipulate the narrative the way he wants.

            Allegedly J. Michael Straczynski was once asked by an obsessive fan how fast a certain spaceship (in Babylon 5?) could travel and the answer he gave was "at the speed of plot". You may also have noticed that things like transporters and communicators in Star Trek are exac

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Vader didn't want to eliminate this particular Rebel Base, he wanted to deal with the whole alliance, and the Emperor had a plan for that, his fully operational Death Star which was a honeypot meant to suck in the Rebels yet again, but this time with surprise on their side.

      And most of those authors with military backgrounds just sound like pompous asses in my experience. Armchair generals declaring their own vacuous superiority instead.

    • If the energy shields could only stop energy and not physical materials from entering, then the rebel shield makes sense.

      There is, in fact, some precedent for that in the first movie's Death Star's exhaust port being "ray shielded." The countermeasure to ray shielding was to use a physical torpedo.

    • If the Rebel shields couldn't stop matter entering (and the Imperials didn't even have a crowbar [wikipedia.org]) - then how does it prevent the Rebel ships from leaving? A shield that won't stop a kinetic bombardment or even an invasion, but still blocks your own retreat, is worse than useless.

      • then how does it prevent the Rebel ships from leaving

        It's an energy dampening field - it would kill the anti-gravity field the ships use for atmospheric navigation, and they have no aerodynamic glide capability so they'd fall like stones.

        I just made that up to show that there's always going to be an excuse to move the plot along in a fantasy.

      • If you have virtually unlimited energy, and the capability to fire that energy in a highly concentrated 'blast' then targeting computers take care of the rest. De-orbiting large objects doesn't allow for much maneuvering.

        You didn't see the cannons designed to defend against physical bombardment because physical bombardment wasn't used and therefore wasn't shown in the film.

        "Sir, what about physical bombardment?"
        "Idiot, didn't you read the situation report? The probe identified that the base is equipped wi

        • by Namarrgon (105036)

          Seems to me, if they had systems capable of shooting down crowbars falling from space, they could probably shoot down landing ships too, which would be a lot larger and slower.

          Dropping a kinetic weapon from orbit is a lot faster than landing a ship. It would take only 2.5 minutes to fall 100km at 1G (regardless of mass and assuming an efficient aerodynamic profile of course). That's probably too fast to evacuate, and a tonne travelling at 1.4km/s contains significant energy. From 1000km, it'd still only tak

          • I realize this reply is a bit late, but here goes.

            Anything firing LOS from a fixed position (echo base) is going to have a range limited by the curvature of the planet. You could land anything you wanted beyond LOS and approach by land (ie, that's what it looks like they did.)

            With regard to time, I'm not talking about the time it takes to get something from 200km to 0, I'm talking about the time it takes to get something from wherever the hell they are sourcing the mass from. While objects small enough to

            • by Namarrgon (105036)

              LoS only applies to energy weapons, but we know the Rebels have proton torpedos. I'm sure they've invented homing technology too. OK, you could fly an invasion down outside LoS range, but you'd have to enter atmosphere from hundreds of kilometers away (given an earth-like radius), and fly no closer than 30km or so. Those AT-ATs were not exactly fast-moving - 10km/hr tops, so it'd take a few hours to advance.

              Self-guided kinetic weapons are easy too, and crowbars/poles with steerable fins don't destabilise ea

    • by jjohnson (62583)

      Well done! Now do the Enterprise E against an Imperial Star destroyer.

      • Well done! Now do the Enterprise E against an Imperial Star destroyer.

        No contest - the Old Republic had way more energy than the Federation. They had a fully galactic Republic/Empire, whereas warp engines take decades to travel across a galaxy. The Rebels rendezvoused at a point far outside their own galaxy to stay hidden at the end of ESB. Which makes sense - the Federation is about 250 years more advanced than we are, while the Old Republic was stable for over a thousand generations.

        Add to that the Emp

    • by Belial6 (794905)

      If you believe in the future that energy is cheap and mass is expensive

      Past. Star Wars happened a Long, Long Time Ago.

  • US=Empire
    North Koreans=Rebels
    South Korea=Echo Base
    Harry S. Truman=Darth Vader

    • US=Empire North Koreans=Rebels South Korea=Echo Base Harry S. Truman=Darth Vader

      Except that a popular but absolutely mediocre general like Douglas MacArthur pulled the trick of a lifetime with the Inchon landing, neatly regaining control of the capital city/ transport node, cutting away supplies to the north Korean thrust, and giving the enemy the unpalatable choice between an hasty but long retreat or trying to basically fight a three front war against an enemy which could make good use of a reasonable ability to deny ground movement.
      they could have tried to leave a screen south,

      • by DrVomact (726065)

        Except that a popular but absolutely mediocre general like Douglas MacArthur pulled the trick of a lifetime with the Inchon landing...

        That wasn't exactly a mediocre move, was it? Some people point out that he relied on some previous staff work, but staffs exist to plan for every possible contingency, and MacArthur found this solution and implemented it. I must grant, however, that even a mediocre general may display an occasional flash of brilliance. In addition, his success also contained the seed of eventual failure. Once the Inchon Landing succeeded and MacArthur kept on rolling, the Chinese saw a general coming toward their borders at

        • I have to concur... but nothing takes out of my mind that somebody would have smoked the move if the Spruance - Fletcher team had been there. Let's face it, that landing was not in character.
          • by Talderas (1212466)

            Landings like that had been conducted in WW2 in the Mediterranean during Sicily by Patton when he made his drive from Palermo to Messina. So there's definite preexisting work that had been done regarding using amphibious landings to cut off enemy forces. In Patton's case, the landings were done with smaller detachments that couldn't hold long and required the main body to punch through and join up rather than drop a corps behind enemy lines to relieve a defense.

            • They were also made in the Central Pacific, to very good effect, while MacArthur leapfrogged in a predictable way from island to island north of Australia. To be fair, landmass dictated the strategy: the nuisance value of a Japanese garrison in a speck of land in central pacific was practically nil, while leaving for example the whole of Rabaul unscathed would have posed problems and risks best left to the enemy.

              I am familiar with the Sicily campaign, and it was not the high note of Patton's career: a si
              • by Talderas (1212466)

                I'm not sure I would compare bypassing islands in the pacific that were cut off from Japanese reinforcements on the same degree as using a maneuver to cut off or otherwise place pressure on the enemy's force. In the Pacific, if I remember correctly, skipping those islands was a trivial matter since we had naval and air dominance by that time. So there was no point wasting troops on islands that had little to no strategic values, like the Philippines.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    traceroute -m 100 216.81.59.173

  • by DCheesi (150068) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:49PM (#42889141) Homepage

    I think what the author is missing is that Vader may have wanted to take the base intact, probably to recover information on remaining resistance cells elsewhere. Nuking the base from orbit was never his plan.

    He actually succeeded in prompting an evacuation of the base; his only failure was in assuming that the star destroyers could handle the mop-up operation and prevent ships from escaping the system. Either he didn't anticipate the presence of the ion cannon, or he gravely overestimated his forces' competency in that regard (personally the fact that one ion cannon so easily facilitated their escape always seemed like a bit of a stretch).

    In any case it seems like the rebels always planned to use the ion cannon to cover their escape path, so the issue of the shield creating a "chokepoint" was probably moot.

    • I think what the author is missing is that Vader may have wanted to take the base intact, probably to recover information on remaining resistance cells elsewhere. Nuking the base from orbit was never his plan.

      Not to mention that scattering the Rebels complicates their operations, logistics, communications, etc... (In a real war, that's a non trivial win.) If the goal is to deny the Rebels the use of the base as the author claims - it doesn't matter if the base is turned into a smoking crater or the Empero

    • In any case it seems like the rebels always planned to use the ion cannon to cover their escape path, so the issue of the shield creating a "chokepoint" was probably moot.

      From what I remember of the dialogue, the rebels fired the ion cannon, and let the fighters and transports pass, by turning off the whole shield for a fraction of a second. The ion cannon is mounted in a ball turret, which seems to be able to cover 1/3rd of the sky. Hence, the shield is not a choke point. An entire 1/3rd of the sky is available for escape vectors.

      • Basically this: The ion cannon prevented the ability for the blockade to be in a position to directly target the weak spot in the shield, and just far enough away to give a fast transport enough time to zip through.

        People who get upset at that have never watched a football game where an offensive lineman opens a hole just long enough for a runner to slip past the defenders. It's not much of a hole, but it's enough if you are quick.

  • by JWW (79176) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:50PM (#42889163)

    It's well known that Admiral Ozzel came out of hyperpsace too close to the system and cost them the element of surprise. He's as clumsy as he is stupid....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:55PM (#42889235)
    Stuff that mattered in 1980...
  • Haven't most of these points been argued to death before, like why everyone attacks the AT-ATs from in front?

    Why not flank them and attack from behind or from the sides? The trip cables don't care which part of the body they start from, and you're less likely to be shot with cannons that only shoot in the front quadrant...

  • by ceswiedler (165311) <chris@swiedler.org> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:08PM (#42889417)

    The real point of this is how a good story doesn't need to be consistent or even especially believable, if it's told well. The characters in Empire are vivid, the story is strong, and the direction is fantastic. The goal isn't to write a plot so airtight it can't be nitpicked apart, it's to get the audience so caught up that they don't bother with any nitpicking.

    That said, this article picked some very entertaining nits.

  • I don't always analyze the battle strategies of fictional characters but when i do, It's usually the characters from Star Wars, or Jurassic Park.
  • Ignorant Journalist (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:02PM (#42890001)
    Even an incompetent reporter should know that a planetary shield protects against orbital bombardment from capital ships and is not a kinetic barrier to ship movement. It's exactly this lack of diligence in reporting that we were protected from by the previous regime, and I for one, miss the grav-trains running on time.
  • by sg3000 (87992) <sg_public@mMONETac.com minus painter> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:38PM (#42890977)

    I think the author is missing the point about Vader's motives. The article said:

    For reasons that never get explained — and can’t be justified militarily — Vader joins the Stormtrooper assault on the base. So much for his major weapon against the Rebels, and the primary reason for ordering the Walkers to invade and destroy the generator. Once Vader opts to bring down the shield and lead the invasion, he’s lost the battle.

    The author assumes that Vader actually cared about winning whatever military objectives the Empire had. I don't think he did. In Episode V, Vader wanted only one thing: to get Luke Skywalker. I imagine that after the Death Star was destroyed and there was a big ceremony highlighting to everyone in the Rebel Alliance that Luke was the hero, word got to the Empire (and Vader) that someone named Skywalker was involved. Vader may have claimed that the name had no meaning for him, but it certainly did. So that's why he went down to the base. He didn't trust the stormtroopers to be able to capture Luke; he was going to do it himself.

    In Episode IV, Vader seemed to be nominally to be a team player (at least he stopped choking that guy in the conference room) and willing to take orders. By the time Episode V rolled around, Vader was off the leash. All he wanted was to get Luke to turn him into his Sith Apprentice and everything else (stormtroopers, admirals, star destroyers, what have you) was just fodder. So although I enjoyed the article, I don't think Vader's tactics weren't because of poor planning or insight. If every Rebel escaped and every Imperial died, it wouldn't matter to him if he captured Luke.

    It other words: it's not that I'm a bad driver. It's that I needed to get to the airport to make my flight and that now-dented car was a rental.

  • by Livius (318358) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:52PM (#42891085)

    Let's not forget...

    Hiding the base on Hoth was Luke Skywalker's one major leadership decision.

    The base was discovered and attacked before even becoming fully operational. Although the rebels themselves escaped, there would have been a massive loss of costly and difficult to replace military hardware.

    Skywalker did at least have the sense not to show his face again except for personal rescue attempts in The Empire Strikes Back and then not to even attempt to participate in the actual rebellion until after the strategic decisions had already been finalized in The Return of the Jedi.

  • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:12PM (#42891251)

    The Rebels had a poorly-laid-out ground defense, and a planetary shield that can't keep an invader out while complicating their own escape.

    But they didn't really have a planetary shield. It was merely a shield over Echo Base. With highly limited resources and a shoestring budget, it was better than nothing. Don't forget, this was not a well funded, professional army, it was a ragtag group of rebels on the run.

  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex AT ... trograde DOT com> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @12:33AM (#42892309)

    It was damn cold. The good guys got away, as expected.

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