Facts that will change the way you look at Stormtroopers
Stormtroopers often get a bad rap in the Star Wars galaxy for being clumsy, weak-minded, and poor shots, but these Imperial soldiers are more than a bunch of disposable nameless, faceless bodies in terrible white armor. Search your feelings … and this article. You know it to be true. These are the Stormtrooper facts you’re looking for.
They’re inspired by WWII German Soldiers
They may not goose-step around the Death Star, but Imperial stormtroopers are heavily inspired by German stormtroopers. Go figure, right? It makes sense, as George Lucas once explained to the Boston Globe in 2005 (via The History Channel), “I love history … so while the psychological basis of Star Wars is mythological, the political and social bases are historical.” In particular, much like BFF Steven Spielberg, Lucas has a major fascination with World War II.
During WWI, Germany used small units of soldiers called Sturmabteilung, or “storm troops,” to break through enemy lines using stealthy tactics and brute force. During the early ’20s, Hitler re-purposed the “storm troops” into a military group called the SA, which he used as protection during party meetings, and as a disruption to opposing political groups. Known for their brown shirts and black jackboots, the often violent SA were heavily featured in both pro and anti-fascist propaganda and became “the face” of Nazi Germany.
These “brown shirts” have much in common with their Imperial “bucket-head” offshoots, whether spreading fear to all around them or displaying an unwavering allegiance to their leader no matter how crazy and violent his ideas. And let’s be real, Palpatine had to be crazy, to have built an expensive, moon-sized, planet-destroying weapon/base … twice. Ah well, loyalty is blind … at least when it’s wearing those cumbersome white helmets.
Stormtroopers originally carried lightsabers
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … okay, really just around 1975 when Lucas and his team were planning out the Star Wars universe, lightsabers weren’t just limited to Jedi Knights. Ralph McQuarrie’s early concept art featured stormtroopers wielding the “elegant weapon for a more civilized age” and handheld shields. They probably would’ve had a better hit rate with the sabers.
Meanwhile, in the now-non-canon short story A Two-Edged Sword (part of Star Wars Legends), Vader trains a group of clones from noted Dark Jedi Cuis in lightsaber combat skills. These telekinetic Cuis Clones were armed with red-bladed lightsabers that had a special white hilt, which matched their regular stormtrooper armor. Four were killed by flamethrower, and two were Force-choked to death by Vader after a failed revolt against Emperor Palpatine. You’d think if they had Force powers, they would have seen THAT coming, even in those vision-obstructing helmets. The Force Awakens’ stormtrooper, Finn, seems to be a spiritual brother to these Cuis Clones since he apparently has enough Force abilities to work Rey/Luke’s lightsaber against Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base.
Anyway, Lucas originally envisioned lightsabers being as commonplace in the galaxy as blasters, but he quickly decided to limit their usage to Jedi Knights, to add to their mystique. Apparently, he too thinks that hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.
Pre-Phasma, women could be Stormtroopers too
Okay ladies of the Empire, now let’s get in formation! While Captain Phasma may be the first female stormtrooper we’ve seen onscreen, she’s not the only badass lady to don the iconic Imperial armor. John Jackson Miller’s novel A New Dawn casually introduced female stormtroopers to the new Disney-approved Star Wars canon, back in 2015. The official Rogue One novelization followed suit in 2016, meaning women have been part of the Imperial military since at least after the Clone Wars, even training and serving in all-female units like Unit Forn. Total #squadgoals.
For the most part, the Empire is totally progressive when it comes to gender equality. According to non-canon book The Essential Guide to Warfare (via Star Wars Legends), women undergo the same training as their male counterparts, wear the same uniforms, and even share the same barracks. But don’t race off to join the Empire and get that equal galaxy pay just yet, ladies. During Palpatine’s reign, even though women served in the Coruscant guard, no more than three women were allowed to serve in a legion, and zero served on the Death Star. Ugh. Though is anyone really surprised the Death Star is a total “no girls allowed” zone? Like, if Vader couldn’t have his woman, nobody could have one.
They’re all lefties
Something like ten percent of the population is left-handed, but judging by the Empire’s recruits, the odds of being left-handed in that Galaxy are way higher. If you look at the Stormtroopers from the original trilogy, nearly all of them are left-handed.
No definite explanation has ever been given for this phenomenon. One possible explanation is that Stormtroopers keep their holsters and extra ammunition clipped to the left side of their utility belts. However, it may simply be because the film’s props department based the E-11 blasters on WWII tank scopes, and a 1950s submachine gun used by British and Canadian forces called the Sterling Mark 4 L2A3, which has its magazine clip on the left. This made it a nuisance for right-handed actors, because the clip kept knocking into their chests while they stood in formation. To solve the problem, the actors switched to their left hands, so the clip would face away from them.
In a nice touch of continuity, even the clone troopers in the prequels are left-hand dominant, but that doesn’t explain why Imperial stormtroopers are all left-handed, since they’re normal human recruits. However, the First Order has both left and right-handed stormtroopers, so … maybe the Empire just has a thing against righties?
They carry a special thermal detonator on their backs
It may look like a cutesy thermos of soup or a some kind of Imperial-issue flask, but it turns out that cylindrical canister attached to the back of each Stormtrooper’s utility belt underneath the “donuts and twinkies” is actually a highly specialized, thermal detonator.
Made by Imperial weapons designer BlasTech Industries with an N-20 Baradium core, these thermal detonators were designed specifically for stormtroopers, so Rebels couldn’t operate them. According to non-canon resource The New Essential Guide to Weapons & Technology (via Star Wars Legends), each comes with an individual arming code and unlabeled buttons, further securing it from use by Rebel forces and probably making it more secure than most of our iPhones. Stormtroopers are also able to set a timer and modify the blast intensity, which has a range of up to five meters.
The canister was originally intended as a holster for lightsabers, but when Lucas abandoned the idea of Stormtroopers carrying the Jedi weapon, the design team re-purposed them into thermal detonators, which appear on phase I, phase II, and regular stormtrooper armor. So basically stormtroopers are the bomb … or at least, they could turn into one.