Order 66 remains one of the darkest incidents in Star Wars history. The protocol marked the beginning of the Great Jedi Purge that enabled the Sith to take total control of the galaxy.
Sith Lord Darth Sidious issued Order 66 to the Grand Army of the Republic. This directive painted the Jedi as traitors and forced clone troopers to kill them at any cost.
Most Star Wars fans acknowledge the tragedy that Order 66 signified to the Jedi Order without paying as much attention to the trauma inflicted on clones.
Most clone troopers lost all their emotional attachments, memories, and free will as they turned their weapons on the Jedi.
Those that resisted had to witness their Jedi comrades massacred by their peers before living in exile as traitors or being cut down by their fellow troopers. Few betrayals in the Star Wars saga hurt as much to watch.
The Great Jedi Purge set in motion by Order 66 lasted almost two decades.
Bottom Line Up Front
Order 66 is the codename for the clone protocol that began the Great Jedi Purge. Upon its activation, clone troopers considered all Jedi hostile, leading to the murder of almost all members of the Jedi Order and one of the darkest eras in Star Wars history.
Order 66 remained in effect until the fall of the Empire, and the Jedi Order never recovered from it.
Order 66 was a secret protocol that directed a clone trooper to target any Jedi in sight as a traitor, using a biochip to override the trooper’s moral compass and individual agency.
The Kaminoan cloning facilities installed such chips at the behest of fallen Jedi Master Dooku, posing as an envoy for the Galactic Republic.
The Sith had created Order 66 to use the Grand Army of the Republic to eliminate the Jedi Order, making it possible to do away with the Galactic Republic.
Count Dooku had fallen to the Dark Side of the Force and had become the apprentice of Darth Sidious. Sidious posed as Senator Palpatine of Naboo and used his political cover to orchestrate the revenge of the Sith over the Jedi.
Order 66 was just the final domino in the sequence planned by Darth Sidious. He had guided the Trade Federation into a collision course with the Republic before orchestrating the rise of the Confederacy of Independent Systems with the help of Dooku.
The Sith duo puppeteered a conflict to strongarm the Galactic Republic into urgently creating a massive military. The new Grand Army of the Republic officially incorporated the mysterious clone army made in Kamino.
After the clone army ground down the separatist forces, Palpatine triggered Order 66 and started the Great Jedi Purge. Most Jedi knights and Padawans perished at the hands of clone troopers. The survivors were far too few to do anything beyond hiding from the Empire.
Semantics: Order 66 or The Great Jedi Purge?
No good article on a significant historical event comes without discussing semantics and scope. This one is no different.
Many Star Wars historians around the galaxy consider the Great Jedi Purge to encompass the entire period in which the Galactic Empire persecuted members of the Jedi Order while calling Order 66 the specific command which Darth Sidious issued to turn the Grand Army of the Republic Against the Jedi.
Others maintain that Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge are interchangeable, as the protocol perpetuated the Jedi knights and their associates as traitors in the eyes of the Republic.
Given that most of the Imperial security apparatus still consisted of clone troopers for many years after the fall of the Republic, this view argues that Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge are one and the same, as it was the protocol that resulted in the persecution and death of anyone revealed to be a Jedi.
I am partial to the second view. Order 66 predated Chancellor Palpatine’s speech declaring the Jedi traitors and transforming the Republic into the First Galactic Empire.
Does the distinction matter at all? Yes, because how we define Order 66 also dictates when it ended.
In the first definition, where Order 66 refers only to the protocol in question, then Order 66 only officially ended when the Empire did. Clone troopers incorporated into the imperial military were never told to stand down.
The accelerated aging process inherent to clone troopers and military reforms spearheaded by Wilhuff Tarkin eventually ended the clone era of the galactic army. Order 66 remained active with the most surviving clone troopers. A select few remained active in second-line roles during the Galactic Civil War.
In this view, Order 66 only ended in practice when the last clones loyal to the Empire died, meaning no one remained alive to follow the directive.
If we consider Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge as one and the same, the timeline becomes clearer. The Great Jedi Purge ran from the years 19 to around 3 BBY.
Order 66 wiped out most of the Jedi Order within the first hours of its issuing. The nascent Galactic Empire spent its early days combing planets under its jurisdiction for bastions of resistance and Jedi fugitives with considerable success.
The Empire then moved its troops to occupation roles. Smaller specialized units to hunt down the surviving Jedi entered the scene.
One of the most efficient groups in this role was the Imperial Inquisitors. This group was led by renegade Jedi knights forged into the Dark Side and aided by the last generation of clones, the Purge Troopers.
Their Jedi past allowed the Inquisitors to systematically track down and ambush Jedi in hiding. The Purge Trooper specialized training and gear allowed them to match a Jedi wielding a lightsaber in combat.
Darth Sidious placed the Imperial Inquisition under Darth Vader, who delegated leadership roles to the Grand Inquisitor. The organization worked relentlessly until around 3 BBY.
Although Darth Vader knew of surviving Jedi, Emperor Palpatine, and Grand Moff Tarkin believed they were no longer a threat. The Empire quietly terminated the Inquisition program, while Vader focused on his other roles as imperial enforcer.
Born Sheev Palpatine, the son of a noble family in the Naboo capital of Theed. Darth Sidious was a patient and scheming Sith Lord that had used the connections from his home world to make his way into the heart of the Galactic Republic.
Darth Sidious could identify the deepest desires in people, picking out the things they would do anything for. He preyed on these emotions to control those around him.
During the Naboo trade crisis, Darth Sidious played the role of a pragmatic senator in Coruscant while also dictating the moves of the Trade Federation from the shadows.
Sidious then accepted Count Dooku, leader of the Galactic Separatism movement, as his apprentice. Darth Sidious eventually betrayed and replaced Dooku with Darth Vader.
Darth Tyranus spent most of his life as Dooku, a respected Jedi Master and nobleman from the Outer Rim world of Serenno. Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn and was a disciple of Master Yoda.
Dooku had grown disillusioned with the corrupt Galactic Republic and left the Jedi Order to take up royal duties in his home world. He later launched the galactic separatist movement and led the Confederacy of Independent Systems against the Republic.
Darth Tyranus took over the contract to build the Republican clone army after assassinating exiled Jedi Master and old friend Sifo-Dyas. Dooku provided the Kaminoans with the biochip containing the programming for Order 66.
Darth Sidious and Darth Tyranus had set the pieces to execute Order 66 and end the Jedi Order. Darth Vader was the one Sith Lord tasked with enforcing it. This was the beginning of a long-term dynamic where Sidious handled the political deeds of the Empire, and Vader carried out the dirty work.
Darth Sidious had manipulated him to the Dark Side of the Force over his wife, Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo.
When the Jedi Order uncovered the Sith plot to take over the Galactic Senate, Skywalker helped Darth Sidious kill Master Mace Windu. Once Darth Sidious issued Order 66, Darth Vader marched his troops into the Jedi Temple in Coruscant.
The Phantom Sith Menace
“What if I told you that the Republic was now under the control of a dark lord of the Sith?”
Count Dooku casually revealed the true nature of the Galactic Republic to captive Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in Geonosis. Dooku went as far as mentioning Darth Sidious by name.
Master Kenobi dismissed the claims. He believed that if anything as dangerous were to have transpired, the Jedi Council would have sensed it.
For most of the High Republic Era, the Jedi Order had assumed the Sith to be extinct. The Jedi Order had become the guardians of peace in the Galactic Republic.
The threats to galactic peace were few and far between. The Jedi Order acted as both the pen and the sword of the Galactic Republic.
Without the Sith, the Jedi Order believed there was no existential threat to the Galactic Republic, which made it overlook the political stagnation settling in Coruscant.
In reality, the Sith had been hiding in plain sight for years. Sheev Palpatine, a prominent politician from Naboo, had become a popular public figure in the Galactic Senate.
Behind the scenes, as Darth Sidious, he had carefully engineered a plan to end the Jedi Order. Darth Sidious knew that to unseat the Jedi peacekeepers, he must start a war.
Darth Sidious followed the Sith Rule of Two of Darth Bane. One Sith Lord worked to draw others to the Dark Side, and the other as a vessel. After completing his training, Sidious took up an apprentice of his own.
The new Sith apprentice was a Zabrak Nightbrother and son of Mother Talzin of Dathomir. Sidious shaped him into the violent and resentful Darth Maul. Staying true to the Rule of Two, Sidious murdered Darth Plagueis in his sleep upon his return from the cursed red planet.
Darth Sidious had no strong loyalties and continuously scouted for newer, more powerful allies. He began courting Count Dooku of Serenno, a respected political idealist who had recently left the Jedi Order.
Creating the Grand Army of the Republic
The debate on republican rearmament exploded after the Battle of Naboo. The Senate did not know that rogue Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had ordered the creation of the clone army in Kamino before that.
Dyas was a member of the Jedi Council who experienced a troubling vision of an upcoming devastating war. He revealed this to the Council, but instead of support, his insistence on creating an army cost him his seat.
Undeterred, Master Sifo-Dyas set out to defend the Galactic Republic alone. He secretly contacted cloners in the faraway water planet of Kamino and arranged to create a new clone army.
The details of how the Sith came to find out about the project are murky, but the most likely link is his old friend, Count Dooku. At the behest of Darth Sidious, the former Jedi Master hired the Pyke Syndicate to quietly kill Sifo-Dyas during a covert mission ordered by then-Chancellor Finis Valorum.
By the time of the Naboo blockade and the defeat of Darth Maul by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku had become Darth Tyranus, the lone apprentice of Darth Sidious. He took over negotiations with the Kaminoans about the clone army and presented them with the behavioral biochip containing Order 66.
Sifo-Dyas had mentioned the need for a protocol to help troopers defend themselves against Jedi knights gone rogue. The version presented by Dooku would make clones mercilessly attack any Jedi in sight. The Sith Lord also introduced the Kaminoans to bounty hunter Jango Fett as the template for cloning.
The cloning business in Kamino lay outside of Republican jurisdiction, allowing Darth Sidious and Darth Tyranus to fund the project with their personal wealth.
The creation of the Grand Army of the Republic ran undetected for almost a decade while the Sith plan played out. The Galactic Senate and the Jedi Order became embroiled in a taxation dispute that eventually escalated into a widespread galactic separatism movement spearheaded by Count Dooku.
The Jedi High Council only discovered the clone army during its investigation of the assassination attempts of Padmé Amidala. Neither the Jedi Council nor the Senate knew of the biochip.
The Galactic Senate granted emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine, who swiftly incorporated the clones as the Grand Army of the Republic. The clones followed their Jedi leaders into brutal battles across the galaxy against the separatists.
Many Jedi knights had been troubled by visions of their demise at the hands of soldiers under their control, even before the creation of the Grand Army of the Republic. Some kept these visions to themselves, but others tried to warn the Jedi High Council.
One member of to do so was Master Eno Cordova, a respected Jedi scholar, and archeologist. Much like the concerning visions of Sifo-Dyas about an upcoming war, the Jedi Council brushed away the concerns of Cordova.
Grand Master Yoda was dismissive of premonitions brought about by the Force, and this skepticism eventually allowed the Sith to execute their plan.
The first evidence of a protocol to turn clone troopers against the Jedi came in the third year of the Clone Wars, during the Battle of Ringo Vinda. A malfunction in the chip prematurely activated Order 66 in trooper CT-5385, making him murder Jedi General Tiplar.
The Republic arrested the soldier and flew him to Kamino to study the incident. The cloners followed orders issued by Darth Tyranus to deny the chip existed. A separate investigation by ARC trooper CT-5555 uncovered it shortly before the death of CT-5385.
CT-5555, or Fives, suspected the involvement of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in the existence of the chip and the protocol against the Jedi. His cries for help in Coruscant fell on deaf ears.
When the soldier attempted to warn Jedi General Skywalker and his subordinate, Captain Rex (CT-7567), he was killed in a confrontation with shock troopers and the Coruscant Guard.
During a space battle over Coruscant after the separatists kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker executed Darth Tyranus, the father of Order 66.
By that time, Dooku was no longer essential to the plans of Darth Sidious, and the separatist forces were on the brink of defeat. As it had been one millennium before, only the Jedi stood in the way of the Sith.
Darth Sidious drew Skywalker into his inner circle and revealed his affiliation with the Dark Side of the Force.
Anakin Skywalker warned senior members of the Jedi High Council, unwittingly executing the final stage of the plan: pitting the Jedi against the Republic leadership.
Four Jedi Masters, led by Mace Windu, went to arrest the Chancellor, but he bested three of them in a lightsaber duel. When Windu prepared to kill the wounded Palpatine, Skywalker arrived and helped the Sith Lord to kill the Jedi. Anakin pledged his allegiance to Darth Sidious, becoming Darth Vader.
Starting The Great Jedi Purge
Darth Sidious executed the final step of his master plan. Using holographic and radio communications, he triggered Order 66. The Great Jedi Purge had begun.
Jedi knights across the galaxy, leading their clone units against the separatist forces, were shocked to find their subordinates drawing weapons at them. Most died within the first few minutes without knowing what was happening or why.
In Coruscant, Darth Sidious dispatched Darth Vader with a clone legion into the Jedi Temple to wipe out all members of the Order who remained on the planet.
The ensuing massacre took the lives of thousands of Jedi knights, Padawans, and younglings across the galaxy. The deadliest aspect of Order 66 was the shock of falling under fire from the troops they had considered brothers in arms for three years.
Many key members of the Jedi Order survived the initial onslaught, including Masters Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. They regrouped with Senators Bail Organa and Padmé Amidala to launch a desperate attempt to stop Darth Sidious and Darth Vader.
Grand Master Yoda dueled Darth Sidious in the halls of the Galactic Senate in Coruscant but had to withdraw.
Master Kenobi and Senator Amidala followed Darth Vader to the Mustafar system. Their pleas went unheard, and Vader injured his pregnant wife. Kenobi battled his former apprentice and bested him in combat, leaving him for dead by the lava rivers of Mustafar.
When the two Jedi Masters returned alive, it was too late. The Jedi Order was gone. Padmé Amidala died during childbirth, and her twins were separated to avoid persecution by the Empire. Kenobi moved to Tatooine, while Yoda exiled himself to the Dagobah system.
Some surviving Jedi did not have such luck. Knights, Padawans, and younglings were also captured alive by the Empire. They endured years of torture before dying or joining the imperial ranks.
The Aftermath of Order 66
In Coruscant, Darth Sidious declared the fallen Jedi Order traitors and reorganized the Galactic Republic into the First Galactic Empire. His troops swiftly eliminated most surviving Jedi and separatists.
Despite suffering horrible injuries, Darth Vader survived the confrontation in Mustafar. After learning of the death of Amidala, he harbored an intense hatred for Kenobi. Vader would become the most feared man in the galaxy, enforcing the will of the Emperor with an iron fist.
The few Jedi to survive the initial onslaught had no option but to take up a life on the run from the Empire. Intelligence and military units in Coruscant could reach far and wide in the galaxy.
The shocking defeat at the hands of the Sith and their own troops had traumatized most survivors to a point where they could not fight back anymore. The once mighty Jedi were relegated to living like rats, always one step away from a painful death at the end of stormtroopers or worse.
When the number of Jedi had dwindled beyond where regular units could track them, the Emperor launched the Inquisitorius program.
Acting under the auspices of Darth Vader, the inquisitors were a group made up of Jedi captured alive shortly after the Purge had begun.
Vader subjected its members to heinous torture for months, sometimes years, until the resentment against their former Jedi colleagues turned into a hatred strong enough to bring out the power of the Dark Side.
To aid the Inquisitorius, the Empire commissioned a final batch of clones from the Kamino facilities. These so-called Purge Troopers were engineered to counter the Jedi in combat.
Under the leadership of the Grand Inquisitor, the Inquisitorius successfully tracked and killed most Jedi who had remained loyal to the fallen Republic.
The inquisition program ended on orders of Emperor Palpatine and his right-hand man Wilhuff Tarkin.
Although they knew that some Jedi remained alive, Tarkin toed a brutal yet pragmatic line. By the year 3 BBY, the threat of rebel cells exceeded that of any lone Jedi survivor, so the Empire reallocated the resources to try and crush the nascent rebellion.
The end of the imperial inquisition did not make it safe for the surviving Jedi. Darth Sidious never rescinded Order 66. The protocol for both human and remaining clone imperial soldiers was to kill any Jedi on sight until the fall of the Empire.
As time passed, despite the biochip and its effects on their consciousness, many clone troopers involved in the Great Jedi Purge began to question their actions.
Some became overwhelmed with guilt for killing their Jedi comrades while reflecting on the incident made others jaded enough to desert the ranks of the new Galactic Empire.
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda were the most high-profile members of the Jedi Order to survive Order 66, but they were not the only ones. The Jedi survivors listed here are only some of those who escaped alive.
One of my favorite titles, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, focuses almost entirely on survivors of the Great Jedi Purge.
The main character is Cal Kestis, who escaped a Venator-class destroyer over Bracca as a Padawan thanks to the sacrifice of his Master, Jaro Tapal. Kestis took up a low-profile life in the scrapyards of the planet until the inquisition exposed his identity.
His eventual rescuer, Master Cere Junda, evaded the initial clone betrayal with her Padawan Trilla Suduri. The pair managed to rescue a group of younglings and go into hiding.
Their plan fell apart when the two fell captive. Trilla would become the Second Sister in the inquisition. Junda escaped but severed her connection with the Force to avoid falling to the Dark Side.
Jedi Master Taron Malicos lived in Dathomir after his troops betrayed him. He became corrupted by the darkness of the planet. His desire for power would doom him to eternal suffering in the dark Zeffo temple.
A fascinating survivor in the Star Wars universe is Ahsoka Tano. While Order 66 was built to target the Jedi, it also turned clone troops against her even after her removal from the Jedi Order. She survived after removing the biochip on Clone Commander Rex and leaving the doomed Venator-class destroyer with him before it crashed into a moon.
Ahsoka and Rex hid in the Outer Rim territories before joining groups that would become the nascent Rebel Alliance.
Question: Did Order 66 ever end?
Answer: Yes, around the year 3 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin). After the Galactic Empire had transitioned from a clone to a conscript army, the Emperor created the Imperial Inquisition. This group of damaged Force-wielders assisted Darth Vader in eliminating the last remnants of the Jedi.
Likely the last action undertaken as part of Order 66 and the Jedi Purge was the clash in Malachor in 3 BBY, where the Inquisitors fought Ahsoka Tano. The Empire believed Tano was the last remnant of the Jedi Order. After her presumed death in the battle, the imperial leadership quickly disposed of the inquisitors.
Question: Did all clones execute Order 66?
Answer: No. Most troops followed Order 66, but many troopers (and sometimes entire units) refused to fire at their Jedi allies.
The first clone to resist was Fives, who removed his biochip before the Purge and tried to warn the Republic without success. Captain Rex took note of this warning, which helped him spare Ahsoka Tano. The elite Clone Force 99 deserted thanks to mutations as part of their design.
Incidents like these helped spare the lives of some Jedi and arguably allowed them to fight back and defeat the Empire.
Question: Why did the Kamino cloners implement Order 66?
Answer: Although Order 66 kicked off one of the darkest chapters in galactic history, the Kaminoans were unaware of its real purpose.
Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas instructed Kaminoan cloners to implement a biochip that could override a clone’s conscience and will. The reason, ostensibly, was to allow them to contain rogue Jedi knights.
After Dooku had Dyas assassinated, he presented the cloners with a new chip containing the final version of what would become Order 66.
Order 66 is one of the darkest episodes in Star Wars history. Since its first public depiction in 2005, I get misty-eyed when watching Jedi and clone troopers go from inseparable allies to mortal enemies.
The ensuing Great Jedi Purge did not kill every Jedi in the galaxy. However, it was an overwhelming success for the Sith. The new Galactic Empire destroyed the Jedi Order as an organization. Any survivor could not bring it back without meeting the iron fist of Darth Vader and his servants.
By the time Emperor Palpatine suspended dedicated Jedi-hunting activities, the surviving Jedi had moved onto peaceful lives in the shadows where they were no threat to the Empire or had joined rebel cells already under the Empire crosshairs. From a practical standpoint, ending the inquisition was the right call.
Testament to the brutal success of Order 66 is that, even after the fall of the Empire, the Jedi Order never returned to its former glory. Luke Skywalker attempted to restore it, but the demise of one of his apprentices would eventually lead to the end of the New Republic.
The Sith may not have won against the Rebellion and the Resistance, but they did defeat the Jedi in the end.
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