Admiral Gial Ackbar was a hero of the Rebellion who gained cult status amongst many Star Wars fans for his utterance of the line, “It’s a trap!” in Return of the Jedi. But in-universe, what was Ackbar up to following the Battle of Endor?
Let’s take a look at what we know from canon material.
Commanding the New Republic Fleet
Following the massive victory for the Rebellion at Endor, which was commanded by Admiral Ackbar, the Empire was left reeling, but they weren’t destroyed. In fact, under the command of Gallius Rax, they began enacting Emperor Palpatine’s plan for Operation: Cinder. These attacks targeted several planets (including Naboo), threatening devastating damage all while ensuring that the Empire wouldn’t survive post-Palpatine. So the war continued on for a year following the Battle of Endor, and Ackbar had a key role in it.
Before long, the Rebellion was reorganized into the New Republic, with Mon Mothma as Chancellor, and Ackbar took command of the entire New Republic Defense Fleet. He helped to command the New Republic efforts from afar, including the conflict on Akiva surrounding Wedge Antilles’s disappearance. Before long, however, he was personally engaged in commanding the New Republic Fleet in fights across the galaxy, including a major victory at Kuat, a major shipbuilding world for the Empire.
All throughout the war, Ackbar was skeptical about the Imperial remnants. He remembered the Empire’s trap at Endor and was wary of anything that could possibly resemble a trap, which is why he expressed such skepticism about The Operator, a mysterious Imperial informant. Ackbar didn’t trust The Operator, and he was hesitant to accept the proposal of peace talks from Grand Admiral Rae Sloane (who claimed to be The Operator, though Ackbar didn’t believe it). Additionally, Ackbar rejected the title of “Grand Admiral”, saying that was an Imperial designation, so he remained the Fleet Admiral of the New Republic Fleet. Ackbar would later be proven right in his concern about Imperial traps when the peace talks turned out to be an attack on Chandrila.
Before that happened, however, Ackbar received word that Han Solo and Chewbacca were fighting to liberate Kashyyyk but were in need of help. This mission was not sanctioned by the New Republic, and in fact Ackbar had previously ordered Norra Wexley to cease looking for Solo. But upon hearing of the effort on Kashyyyk, and of his friends in need, Ackbar went anyway. Leia Organa had already traveled to the planet aboard the Millennium Falcon to give aid to her husband, and Wedge Antilles had accompanied her, but Ackbar soon arrived aboard Home One to aid the decisive victory.
Following the attack on Chandrila, the end game of the war begun to take focus, with Gallius Rax soon gathering the Imperial remnants above Jakku. Hearing about this, Mon Mothma convened an emergency session of the Senate seeking to send the Fleet to Jakku… but the vote failed. After the needed senators were convinced, the vote then passed, giving full authorization to Ackbar to take the New Republic Defense Fleet to Jakku to face the gathered remnants of the Empire.
The Battle of Jakku wasn’t an easy one for Ackbar and the New Republic Fleet, however, as the Empire had configured a formidable defense, particularly protecting the Ravager, their fleet’s Super Star Destroyer. At one point, Commander Kyrsta Agate’s ship (the Concord) was damaged. Ackbar ordered her to abandon ship, but while Agate ordered her crew to do so, she remained, and angled her ship toward the Ravager. As the Concord was shot down, Agate activated the ship’s tractor beam and dragged the Ravager down with it, crashing down onto the Jakku surface. That proved to be the decisive moment in the battle, as with the Ravager destroyed (and the ground battle going well, too) Ackbar and the Fleet were able to soundly defeat the Empire.
Some of the Imperial remnants fled, but nonetheless this was the decisive battle in the Galactic Civil War. The New Republic had won. The Empire was defeated. After the Battle of Jakku, both sides signed the Galactic Concordance, officially ending the war.
Admiral Ackbar had proven to be an incredible leader and military strategist for the Rebellion and New Republic, commanding their forces at key victories including the Battle of Endor, the Battle of Kuat, the Battle of Kashyyyk, and the Battle of Jakku.
With the war over, Mon Mothma demilitarized the New Republic and significantly reduced their Fleet as a show of confidence that they were done fighting. So at some point following the Galactic Concordance, Ackbar retired from New Republic service and went home to live on Mon Cala. We don’t know exactly when this retirement happened, but a canon reference book may give us a hint. In the section on the T-85 X-Wing, posted on the Star Wars Leaks subreddit, we read this:
“The Incom-FreiTek T-70 X-wing starfighter had been in service to the New Republic Defense Fleet for more than two decades when Fleet Admiral Gial Ackbar realized that most T-70s were overdue for technical and mechanical upgrades. Anticipating that the aging starfighters would require additional maintenance, modifications, and repairs within five years, Ackbar proposed that the Republic Navy should commission Incom-FreiTek to design a prototype for a next-generation model of the X-wing.”
The T-70 X-Wing was commissioned in 5ABY, and that excerpt says that it was in service for more than two decades before Ackbar (the New Republic Fleet Admiral) commissioned the new T-85 X-Wing. So doing the quick math, that means that Ackbar was the New Republic Defense Fleet Admiral until at least 25ABY, as that would be two decades after the T-70 X-Wing was commissioned. So it seems that he served the New Republic for quite some time before retiring, and that he then wasn’t retired for too long.
By the time of 28ABY, however, he was retired (so, again, it seems like his retirement was at most three years). He wasn’t totally out of touch with his friends, however, as for example he sent a message of support to Leia Organa after the revelation that she was the daughter of Darth Vader.
Gial also had a son, named Aftab, but rarely saw him as he devoted his life to the New Republic. Aftab was a devoted student of his father’s tactics, however, and later joined the Resistance.
Serving the Resistance
In the wake of that revelation, Organa’s political career with the New Republic was ruined. She no longer had the support to win First Senator (the proposed replacement to the office of Chancellor), but more importantly she grew to understand that there was a rising threat to the New Republic. The Senate wouldn’t take it seriously, but Leia would. So she held a meeting in a hangar on Hosnian Prime to officially establish the Resistance, and many friends were there – including Ackbar, who was recruited by Leia to help her cause.
Ackbar served as one of the Resistance’s key leaders, but at one point during their efforts he was captured by the First Order. The Resistance launched a mission to figure out where Ackbar was being held captive, but after a crash only the droids C-3PO and O-MR1 survived. Thanks to the heroics of the droid, however, they were able to contact Poe Dameron and give him the location of Admiral Ackbar, who was then rescued. For his efforts in helping to rescue Ackbar, Dameron was awarded the Rieekan Ribbon for Bravery in Battle.
When the conflict escalated to the point of open warfare, with the First Order destroying the Hosnian System, the Resistance launched a strike against Starkiller Base, which Ackbar helped plan and oversee from the hidden Resistance base on D’Qar. Following the destruction of the First Order superweapon, Ackbar was present both for the discovery of Luke Skywalker’s location and the funeral for Han Solo before aiding the evacuation efforts.
Unfortunately for the Resistance, however, their escape from the First Order at D’Qar was only temporary, as they soon were tracked by First Order technology. As the Resistance desperately tried to avoid the First Order attack, Organa and Ackbar commanded from the bridge of the Raddus. Kylo Ren took to his ship after them, but after sensing his mother on the bridge, he couldn’t bring himself to fire… but his wingmen did. They destroyed the bridge in one pass, killing everyone on it except Organa, who used the Force to save herself.
Admiral Gial Ackbar was dead. His death was unceremonious, and it served as a cold reminder of the cruel realities of war. But he was a vital part of the war efforts in the Clone Wars, the Galactic Civil War, and the Cold War against the First Order. He was a renowned hero, a beloved friend, and a brilliant military strategist. And in the end, he gave his life for the cause he had spent his entire life fighting for: to save the galaxy from the threat of tyrannical regimes.
TIMELINE OF ACKBAR’S NOTABLE MOMENTS:
20 BBY – Ackbar fights in the Mon Calamari army during the Battle of Mon Cala in the Clone Wars
4 ABY – Ackbar leads the Alliance fleet to victory in the Battle of Endor
4 ABY – the New Republic is founded, with Ackbar serving as Fleet Admiral
5 ABY – Ackbar leads the New Republic to victory in the Battle of Kuat
5 ABY – Ackbar reinforces Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Leia Organa in aiding the Liberation of Kashyyyk
5 ABY – Ackbar commands the New Republic forces at the Battle of Jakku, the final encounter of the Galactic Civil War
5 ABY – the Galactic Concordance is signed
~ 25-27 ABY (estimated) – Ackbar retires to Mon Cala
28 ABY – Leia Organa forms the Resistance, with Ackbar in attendance
~ 28-34 ABY (exact date unknown) – Ackbar kidnapped by the First Order and rescued by the Resistance
34 ABY – the Battle of Starkiller Base takes place
34 ABY – Ackbar dies aboard the Raddus as the Resistance attempts to flee the First Order