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According to the whole host of Star Wars books out there Ackbar was a one-time slave of Grand Moff Tarkin, which is where he learned (or at least honed) his military strategy and theory. However, the Rebel Alliance had many others who had much more training.

People like General Crix Madine and others defected to the Rebels over the years, how come one of them wasn’t put in charge of such an important task of attacking the not-yet-completed Death Star? Surely someone from the Imperial Navy more qualified and schooled in martial theory and imperial tactics than Ackbar had defected at some point.

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    As a sub-note if he only got his freedom when Tarkin died during the first Death Star’s explosion how did he become an Admiral, and chief of the fleet in such a short time? – boxed-dinners Jan 26 '12 at 15:27
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    He used the Force? – Xantec Jan 26 '12 at 15:39
  • @Xantec Really. Please tell me you were joking. You didn't really think Admiral Ackbar was Force-sensitive, did you? Poor uneducated ... er ... dude. :) – Peter Cassetta Jan 26 '12 at 16:10
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    @PeterDC Yes, I was joking. I am sure had he been Force-sensitive he would have been able to tell it was a trap much sooner. – Xantec Jan 26 '12 at 16:11
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According to his page on Wookieepedia, Admiral Ackbar was a decorated officer on his homeworld of Mon Calamari, leading them in many battles and later leading a resistance movement against the Empire.

Ackbar was selected as Coral City's representative on the Calamarian Council after finishing school, and became a proponent of Mon Calamari space exploration during the Clone Wars.

Ackbar was one of the leaders that participated in the Second Battle of Mon Calamari. During that time, he held the rank of Captain in charge of the Mon Calamari Guard and was the chief military adviser to King Yos Kolina and then to the young and inexperienced Prince Lee-Char.

In 19 BBY, Ackbar was chosen as the Calamarian Council's leader.[4] When Imperial warships arrived to exert Emperor Palpatine's will over Mon Calamari, Ackbar tried in vain to negotiate; the Mon Calamari and Quarren were forced into slavery and the orbital shipyards were nationalized. Ackbar quickly became a leader of the resistance movement and succeeded in temporarily freeing his homeworld.

It seems that he had much experience rallying troops and fighting against oppressive, overwhelming opposition, as well as inside knowledge of the Empire from his time as an Imperial slave.

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He was actually a high-level military commander before his capture. This was actually why he was Tarkin's slave. From Wookiepedia:

The Imperial officer commanding the operation was so impressed by the Mon Calamari resistance that he decided to take Ackbar as a slave and presented him as a gift to Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. Ackbar spent his enslavement learning from Tarkin and his staff, acquiring a deep knowledge of Imperial doctrine, as well as knowledge of secret projects like the first Death Star. Tarkin held a great deal of respect for Ackbar.

The reason he was able to learn so much and be able to apply it against them later was probably because he was already an accomplished military leader and strategist.

And regarding your other question, he was freed a year before Yavin, in an operation specifically designed and carried out to do so. His knowledge of the Death Star and where the plans were hidden was one of the big reasons they were able to defeat it.

  • Was it 19 years before Endor? I don't know much about book sources, but the X-Wing game would have him rescued shortly before the Battle of Yavin (so, about 4 years before Endor) – HorusKol Jan 27 '12 at 1:05
  • @HorusKol You're right, I must have completely misread the article; I thought it was odd too... Anyway, updated now. – Kevin Jan 27 '12 at 3:31
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Leaving aside Ackbar's qualifications1, the position of commanding the fleet in ROTJ didn't seem to be too demanding - basically:

  • Sit there like ducks, draw the Imperial fire and attention while the away team Endor strike force disables the shield; then

  • Sit there like ducks, draw the Imperial fire and attention while the small craft under Lando hit the weak point on the Death Star.

If you notice, the main damage done in a fleet engagement by the rebels was done by small craft as well - the A-Wing that smashed through Star Destroyer's bridge.


[1] From Wikia:

Ackbar was one of the leaders that participated in the Second Battle of Mon Calamari. During that time, he held the rank of Captain in charge of the Mon Calamari Guard and was the chief military adviser to King Yos Kolina and then to the young and inexperienced Prince Lee-Char

  • The Rebel fleet did not-insignificant damage of its own. – Jeff Jan 26 '12 at 16:38
  • The entire attack was Ackbar's strategy - and this doesn't really answer the question of "how does a slave become a fleet admiral" – HorusKol Jan 27 '12 at 1:04
  • @HorusKol - did you read the second half of the answer? He wasn't a "slave" - he was a high ranking captain and obviously a gifted officer based on his position on Mon Calamari. Also, I'm not certain re: entire attack being Ackbar's strategy - is there an in-universe confirmation? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 27 '12 at 1:29
  • @DVk - no, I didn't I'm afraid - and I should have. But I still don't get with the disparaging of the ROTJ strategy... As for it being Ackbar's strategy - I'm assuming that he was the supreme fleet commander at that point, given this was an all-out leave-no-ship-out assault, and even if he had planners, he would have the final say on the strategy – HorusKol Jan 27 '12 at 1:57
  • @HorusKol - the plan didn't exactly require the deepest strategic thinking. And the most critical part that had to be done on the fly (closing in with Imperial ships once the DS2 was with the shield) was done on Lando's advice – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 27 '12 at 2:28

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