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In A New Hope, Han introduces himself as the captain of the Millennium Falcon. In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, many also refer to him as "Captain Solo", including various Rebels (Luke, Zev Senesca), droids (C-3PO), Imperials (Darth Vader), and others (Boba Fett, Jabba). Is there a definitive source on whether this was his military rank in the Alliance, or just in reference to his being captain of the Millennium Falcon?

Searching for "captain" in the TESB and ROTJ scripts is inconclusive; the script refers to him as a "star captain" at one point in ROTJ, but no one refers to him as "Captain" after he becomes a General.

I know that he does at least have the title of Captain for his ownership of the Falcon, but I'm asking because I've seen trivia questions like "Q: what was Han Solo's rank in the Rebellion in TESB; A: Captain" (and other questions like this), so it would be nice to have a canon (or formerly canon) source to give an answer one way or the other. The starwars.com databank entry just says he was "promoted to general", and presumably he'd have to have some sort of rank beforehand for it to be a "promotion".

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    Captain in this sense largely means current ship owner and/or lead operator. Dec 3, 2014 at 16:16
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    @Richard "Han Solo. I'm captain of the Millennium Falcon." - Han Solo, captain of the Millenium Falcon. FTFY
    – MrLemon
    Dec 3, 2014 at 22:28
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    @MrLemon: "BTFY" FTFY (and here's some recommended reading) Dec 4, 2014 at 11:11
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    He's the kind of captain that can do the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs. Mar 26, 2016 at 13:41
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    Captain can be a military rank, but also a role on a ship. They don't always line up. Feb 13, 2020 at 18:24

6 Answers 6

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Within the main (Disney) canon of Star Wars, Han Solo's captaincy in A New Hope was in recognition of being master of his own vessel, the Millennium Falcon, noting that we learn in Solo that his highest military rank (prior to his desertion from the Imperial Fleet) was that of Lieutenant.

"Han Solo. I'm captain of the Millennium Falcon." - Star Wars : A New Hope.

In the George Lucas novelisation of A New Hope, Chewbacca describes Solo to Ben Kenobi as the ship's "captain-owner", again confirming that the intention is that he's the master of his own vessel, rather than being a military-ranked captain.

“This is Chewbacca,” he explained when the anthropoid had joined them at the bar. “He’s first mate on a ship that might suit our needs. He’ll take us to her captain-owner now.

Interestingly, it would appear that Solo was actually made a captain in the Rebellion Fleet at some point after the Battle of Yavin, prior to his elevation to General, so he becomes a bona-fide captain at some point between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

After the victory at Yavin, Han eventually accepts a commission as captain in the Rebel Alliance. At frozen Echo Base he volunteers for difficult perimeter patrol duty even though he doesn't like tauntauns or the cold. Han is a natural leader and serves as an inspiration to many of the troopers around him.

Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary (New Edition)

This mildly conflicts with what we seen in Star Wars (2015) #55 where he's made a colonel in the Rebel Alliance, but claims that he doesn't have any intention of taking a rank. Possibly he just means a leadership rank.

Hologram Mon Mothma informs us that Solo has the rank of colonel


Moving down into the EU novels, The Hutt Gambit deals with Han Solo's earlier life. In it we learn that although Solo did undertake military service in the Imperial Army, his highest rank was that of Lieutenant.

Han Solo, former Imperial officer, sat despondently at a sticky table in a dingy bar on Devaron, sipping an inferior Alderaanian ale and wishing he were alone.

The huge, hairy being gazed back at him with concerned blue eyes. Han sighed heavily. If only he’d go home— But the Wookiee — Chew-something — utterly refused to go home to Kashyyyk, despite Han’s repeated urging. The alien claimed he owed something called a “life debt” to former Imperial Lieutenant Han Solo.

In ESB, he was evidently appointed to the rank of General in the Rebel Alliance. Note also that Lando (previously City Administrator (and owner) of a small mining facility) is also appointed General at the same time.

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    He's the "captain-owner"? So, he owns the captain?
    – KSmarts
    Apr 14, 2015 at 18:24
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    @ksmarts - Yes. Precisely. ;-)
    – Valorum
    Apr 14, 2015 at 18:40
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    @KSmarts: Solo owns everybody. :-D
    – DevSolar
    Aug 4, 2015 at 7:28
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    @KSmarts It's an old sailing ship thing. The captain was not necessarily the owner, but could be. A captain-owner was both. An owner sailing on his ship but not acting as captain was known as the owner-aboard. He could give instructions to the captain (because he owned the ship), but the crew took their official instructions from the captain. An owner-aboard could lead to confusion in the chain of command, if he was a prat.
    – T.J.L.
    Feb 13, 2020 at 14:26
  • Thanks for tracking down the original source for this!
    – Milo P
    Jun 18, 2022 at 2:03
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The title of 'Captain' is because he is the Captain/pilot of a space ship. The same holds true of a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea. The 'driver/pilot' of a FV is also known as 'Captain' even though he holds no military rank.

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    I'm hoping for canon sources that give an explicit answer one way or another, although I know that might be harder if he in fact doesn't have a rank in the Alliance military.
    – Milo P
    Dec 3, 2014 at 0:20
  • I'm with Morgan on this. Crossing universes, but in Star Trek, the commanding officer of any independent vessel is a "captain". The commanding officer of an independent Starfleet vessel is "(acting) captain" if no actual captain-ranked officer is assigned to that ship (runabouts and shuttlecraft are not independent vessels).
    – miltonaut
    Dec 3, 2014 at 6:51
  • @miltonaut - In Star Wars, Shuttlecraft operators are described as captains.
    – Valorum
    Dec 3, 2014 at 9:12
  • @Richard - Really? I knew Vader had a shuttle, but I thought that was his own personal craft. Are they independent vessels or attached to cruisers and stations and such?
    – miltonaut
    Dec 3, 2014 at 9:22
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    @miltonaut it is an old Earth naval tradition. The commanding officer of a ship is referred as captain, regardless of her rank (more or less quoting DS9, O'Brien correcting the Ferengui for calling Dax Commander).
    – Davidmh
    Dec 3, 2014 at 11:00
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This is addressed in Canon in Skywalker: A Family At War:

Within a year after the Battle of Yavin, Leia was promoted to general, Luke to commander, and Han to Colonel—though he would insist that most simply called him "Captain Solo."

(page 171, emphasis added)

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  • It's not clear what (canon) Imperial military rank Han held before he became an independent ship's captain (if indeed they decide to make him an Imperial officer at all). He may also have been a captain in the Imperial Navy.
    – Valorum
    Dec 28, 2017 at 18:01
  • Or some kind of captain on his home planet of Corellia
    – Valorum
    Dec 28, 2017 at 18:13
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    We now have confirmation that he held the rank of captain in the Rebel Alliance prior to becoming a Colonel in SW #55 which is what A Family at War is referencing.
    – Valorum
    Jun 17, 2022 at 14:11
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In a new hope he is referring to being the captain of the Millennium Falcon. Although at the beginning of Empire he is referred to as captain Solo by the resistance troops. Judging by the setting and the fact that they now refer to Luke as Commander, I think it's safe to assume they were both promoted due to their heroics in episode IV.

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  • I'm looking for sources rather than assumptions--for example, Han led Renegade Squadron in the EU, so that would point towards some sort of rank, but the Rebel command was also apparently ok with him just leaving in TESB, so that would point away from having rank.
    – Milo P
    Jan 22, 2016 at 17:47
0

In Star Wars: Battlefront (2015), if Han appears as a hero unit, there's a chance that the Rebel announcer will declare that "Commander Solo" has entered the battlefield. This is the only example of any pre-General rank that I've found for Han Solo, and it comes from a Disney-canon source.

Unfortunately, it's unclear how the ranks in the Alliance work. If "Commander" is his actual title, then if it works like the U.S. Navy, all this indicates is that he ranked below a military Captain at whatever point in time the match is assumed to take place. Since there's very little in the game that can be considered "story" content, the time at which he would have been a Commander is mostly speculative. The fact that he's wearing his jacket from TESB, not a general, and not frozen in carbonite would seem to indicate anywhere from after ANH to during TESB.

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    While there is Battlefront material that is canon (there is a book based off the game), the canon level of gameplay and "story" of the game is unclear.
    – phantom42
    Jan 31, 2016 at 22:17
  • @phantom42 It seems to me like it's a detail closer to "the T-21B is an actual blaster" than "Leia shot the Emperor in the head five times" in terms of reliability, but yeah, it's hard to say for sure with anything from the new game but Sullust.
    – Milo P
    Jan 31, 2016 at 22:27
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Jabba mentions that "I like Captain Solo where he is" when confronted by Luke in ROTJ.

Darth Vader mentions to Lando "we will test it first on Captain Solo" when Lando warns him of killing someone in freezing chamber.

No mention of Captain was used by Rebel forces on Hoth they only called him "Sir".

Leia mentions "being held by you Captain isn't hardly enough to get me excited" when together in a large worm.

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    This doesn't answer the question in any meaningful way
    – Valorum
    Sep 16, 2017 at 10:39
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    ...and @Valorum - the answer is incorrect. When Han is searching for Luke on Hoth, Rogue Two addresses him as Captain Solo: "This is Rogue Two, this is Rogue Two. Captain Solo, do you copy? Commander Skywalker, do you copy? This is Rogue Two." Additionally, Threepio says "Capt. Solo, Capt. Solo" when attempting to get Han's attention. Leia's line is "Captain, being held by you isn't quite enough to get me excited." - subtle difference that doesn't change the intent, but accuracy is nice :)
    – NKCampbell
    Dec 28, 2017 at 18:28

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