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During the Battle of Endor, Emperor Palpatine reveals some information to Luke about the strength of the Imperial forces guarding the shield generator that is protecting the Death Star:

Your friends, up there on the sanctuary moon, are walking into a trap, as is your Rebel fleet. It was I who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator. It is quite safe from your pitiful little band. An entire legion of my best troops awaits them. Oh, I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive.

We are not told the exact number of troops comprising the legion protecting the shield generator, but according to Wookieepedia an Imperial legion consisted of 8,192 troops. Even without Wookieepedia, the audience could reasonably infer that an Imperial legion numbered in the thousands of troops (perhaps the size of the Roman unit from which we get the word legion, about 5,400).

With the unexpected help of the Ewoks the small Rebel force was told of a nearby secret entrance to the shield generator's command bunker and so avoided the main guard force. In the ensuing battle a force of about 100 stormtroopers and several AT-STs (an estimate based on the numbers seen during the Rebels' brief capture) fought the Rebels and the Ewoks.

The stormtroopers eventually lost the battle and the shield generator was destroyed, but why didn't they call for reinforcements? If there were about 10,000 troops in a legion and only about 100 fighting the Rebels and Ewoks then only about 1% of the Imperial force was engaged in battle. Even if the stormtroopers were concerned that the attack on the secret entrance was merely a diversion, why not send in more than a mere 1% of the available troops (especially when they started losing)?

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    @phantom42 "Legion" (and "troops", for that matter) has always referred to ground forces. Besides, the Emperor treats the Rebel strike team on the moon separately from the Rebel Fleet, and says that an entire legion opposes the Rebel strike team. – Null Oct 23 '14 at 14:46
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    They're Imperial Stormtroopers. Things like marksmanship practice, training, calling for help - only losers do that stuff. – Omegacron Oct 23 '14 at 16:07
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    Maybe they called and it just take time to get the reinforcements planet-side? – Max Oct 23 '14 at 16:31
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    Don't know if there's a good canonical explanation. My impression was that the ~100 stormtroopers engaged with the Rebels was meant to be a significant portion of the Emperor's crack legion. It would have been too expensive to film a battle with thousands of extras in stormtrooper costumes. – RobertF Oct 23 '14 at 16:45
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    The script says that the captured rebels were surrounded by "several hundreds of Stormtroopers. – Valorum Oct 23 '14 at 16:49
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There are a number of factors at play here that may explain the small number of troops involved in the engagement:

  • Assuming your numbers are correct, ten thousand troops is a relatively small number to defend a base as large as the one seen in the film. Even placing sentries at 50 metres would use up a couple of thousand troops.

  • When Luke surrenders, the base Commander requests permission to go and hunt for rebels in the vicinity of where he was found. This was clearly a decoy and would have drawn a sizeable number of troops away from the main base, let's say another thousand to be generous.

COMMANDER : This is a Rebel that surrendered to us. Although he denies it, I believe there may be more of them, and I request permission to conduct a further search of the area.

VADER : Good work, Commander. Leave us. Conduct your search and bring his companions to me.

  • The rebels don't attack the force-field projector itself (the obvious target) but in fact attack the generator control room. This is a high-value target and the front of the bunker building is likely heavily guarded (another 2-3000 troops?) The rear, however is another matter. It's a "secret entrance" that the rebels shouldn't have been able to find without the help of local insurgents.

LEIA : The main entrance to the control bunker's on the far side of that landing platform. This isn't gonna be easy.

THREEPIO : He says there's a secret entrance on the other side of the ridge.

  • Vader knows the approximate size of the rebel force, small enough to fit into a standard shuttle. Throwing thousands of troops at their location (once the engagement starts) would be overkill, especially given the ease with which the rebel commandos were captured by the small number of troops guarding the back of the bunker.

The surrounding area, deserted before, is now crowded with two-legged Imperial walkers and hundreds of Imperial troops. The situation looks hopeless.

  • By the point that it's become apparent that they need extra troops, Chewie and the ewoks have already knocked out all of the walkers, leaving just stormtroopers who seem to lack the ability to communicate with the main base (due to the aforementioned ridge, perhaps, or maybe Paploo activated the speeder-bike's jammer when he stole it?). Han uses the videophone on the AT-ST to call up reinforcements from the bunker. We learn that plenty of Stormtroopers were waiting just behind the bunker door, oblivious to the fight taking place.

HAN/PILOT (VO) It's over, Commander. The Rebels have been routed. They're fleeing into the woods. We need reinforcements to continue the pursuit.

CONTROL ROOM COMMANDER Send three squads to help. Open the back door.

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    You beat me to it. The commander in charge of the garrison obviously never spent time in prison. You ALWAYS keep your rear entrance heavily protected. – Omegacron Oct 23 '14 at 15:40
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    @null Would YOU be the first Stormtrooper to admit you needed help defeating 5 rebels and a band of teddy bears? – Zibbobz Oct 23 '14 at 17:19
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    @Null - You tell him, no you tell him. What, do I look like I want to get choked? You tell him., etc – Valorum Oct 23 '14 at 17:36
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    @Richard: it is established in Shadows of the Empire that Vader's officers draw straws to determine who gives Vader bad news. – James Sheridan Oct 24 '14 at 0:43
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    @PaulDraper - a common problem in armies throughout history. Some estimates put the number of bullets fired per casualty produced in WW II in the 5000 - 10000 range. So it's not that stormtroopers are lousy shots - in the heat of battle nearly everyone is a lousy shot! :-) – Bob Jarvis Oct 24 '14 at 2:07

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