In the final scene of Star Wars IV, Luke and Han are awarded the Medal of Bravery. Some officials of the rebel Alliance (Leia and perhaps others) apparently decided who would receive a medal, and for what reason. Exactly which act of bravery are these officials publicly acknowledging?

Some possibilities:

  1. There is no official reason. Those who need to know, already know why.
  2. Rescuing Leia from the Death Star. This answer would explain who was included (Chewbacca, C3-PO, R2-D2) and wasn't included (Wedge Antilles, Evaan Verlaine) on the dais.
  3. Destroying the Death Star. This is what I usually assume is the answer, and the reason claimed by Wookieepedia. However, Wedge and Evaan contributed as much to the battle as Han. Wedge's ship suffered damage (demonstrating bravery), yet Han's didn't.
  4. Both the rescue and destruction.

The movie script does not provide a reason, only describing Leia giving them a "gold medallion". The only reason I have found on StarWars.com is that Luke and Han are "the new poster boys of the Rebel Alliance".

Remember, this should be the reason cited by rebel officials. Let me be clear:

  • I'm not asking what we (the audience) assume is the act of bravery.
  • I'm not asking what characters (other than rebel officials) assume was the act of bravery. Sure, they may know Luke and Han, but I don't want to know their opinion.
  • A source is only acceptable if it is clear that the information is from the perspective of rebel officials. Because Wookieepedia does not do this, I do not accept it as an answer.
  • Anything written or said directly by George Lucas is acceptable. This includes his earlier drafts of the movie. Lucas is god; he knows everything.
  • If there are multiple answers, I will be accepting the one that cites the earliest source material.
  • 3
    Is there positive confirmation that nobody else received the same medal (off screen, before or afterwards)? Commented May 7, 2019 at 21:36
  • @KonradRudolph: There are various questions and answers here, supported by sources, that Chewie was given the same medal, privately. That does not necessarily exclude yet more people getting the medal, whether for the same act, or for some other act at some other time. Perhaps you can ask that as another question?
    – DrSheldon
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 21:59
  • 3
    You're missing an option. Perhaps they are awarded for being "braver than [Leia] though" since they "came [to the Death Star] in that wreck". Commented May 7, 2019 at 23:34
  • 2
    It's noteworthy that Solo was not enlisted in the Rebel forces. So while his involvement might have been similar to others, it was extraordinary for a civilian. And obviously Luke was special because he was the one that pulled the trigger.
    – Frax
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 0:02
  • Nothing succeeds like success. They got medals because the leadership wanted a big showy ceremony and they needed "heroes of the Rebellion" to honour.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 6:12

3 Answers 3


The (canon) Star Wars in 100 Scenes factbook indicates that the medals were awarded for brave actions in the Battle of Yavin.

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"The rebels celebrate by giving medals to the heroes of the Battle of Yavin."

This is backed up in the (non-canon) Star Wars Encyclopedia

enter image description here
"A medal bestowed by Princess Leia Organa on Luke Skywalker and Han Solo for their heroic deeds in the Battle of Yavin"

In Star Wars Journal: Captive to Evil (by Princess Leia), we learn that Han's medal was awarded for his heroic actions in returning to the fight at great personal risk.

Willard suggested that an honor ceremony is in order, and we are all busy preparing for it. Artoo has been repaired and shined, and Threepio has asked four times for more metal polish.


I urged him to reconsider his decision. At great personal risk, he had returned to fight. He had acted bravely and unselfishly. And I didn't add the for once. See what a diplomat I can be?

and in the Star Wars Official Fact File #1, we're told that Luke's medal was given for his successful attack on the Death Star.

enter image description here

"As a gifted pilot, he made the successful attack on the Death Star and earned a medal of honour from the Rebel Alliance"

  • "And I didn't add the for once." - Is this a typo, or is that how it appears in the book (in which case I assume she is supposed to be saying that she didn't add the word "the" to what she wrote somewhere)?
    – ZAD-Man
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 0:12
  • 4
    @ZADMan No, she's saying she didn't add the words "for once" to the sentence "He had acted bravely and unselfishly". Quotes around "for once" would have made that clearer, certainly. (Punctuation: the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit...)
    – Graham
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 0:23
  • Answer accepted. I find Captive to Evil the most convincing source. Not only is it directly from Leia, it is also the earliest source (1998).
    – DrSheldon
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:29

Most likely it was for both the rescue and blowing up the Death Star.

When Luke, Leia and Han arrive at Yavin IV, the Death Star isn't too far behind thanks to the tracking beacon. Han gets his payoff and leaves, but he's clearly concerned for Luke. Luke, as far as we can tell, doesn't get any real reward at this point, but it's more or less moot if the Death Star blows up the planet and kills the entire Rebel Alliance. Award ceremonies and such can wait until later.

Luke winds up as the guy who manages to do the impossible and gets the torpedoes in the port. Han is the unlikely hero who returns (at great personal risk, as it turns out) and stops Vaders from killing Luke. With the improbable loss of the Death Star, there was some breathing room for everyone to take it easy long enough for an award ceremony. In general, if you're going to award someone, you're going to mention everything they did to deserve that award.

  • 1
    I hate to break it to you, but the current (canon) novelisation doesn't say that. In fact it doesn't say anything about the reason for the ceremony, period.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 16:34
  • 1
    Quote removed. It had been cited but I couldn't find the actual chapter online
    – Machavity
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 16:47
  • 9
    Which is why you gotta go look at the cited works. If I had a nickel for everything wrong with wookieepedia, I could buy Lucasfilm and make them have Han shoot first again.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 16:52
  • @Valorum What's a nickel? Ain't seen any of them in the good U. of K.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 19:52
  • @Randal'thor - LucasFilm is a US based company so I'll need a pile of that monopoly money they use.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 19:59

I would say both, plus the delivery of the Death Star plans. Basically they'd done a hell of a lot of brave stuff in a short time.

  • 2
    Thank you for your answer. The question asks for an answer supported by source materials. Valorum's answer does that.
    – DrSheldon
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 15:55

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