There has been heated debate within the galaxy on this issue. Sadly, this is yet another example of conspiracy theorists showcasing their inability to accept logic as well as the presence in the Star Wars universe of chance, anomalies, negligence, humanoid and alien error.
Engineers and Designers for Truth claim it was the latter. What evidence is there that it was really Skywalker and the other rebels?
I will tackle some of the main Engineers and Designers for Truth (EDT) claims and hopefully shed light on what really happened that day.
EDT Claim: Lord Vader and Emperor Palpatine were part of an elaborate scheme to blow up the Death Star in order to drum up support for their Empire.
The Reality: What would Vader and the Emperor possibly gain from such an act? After the Death Star was destroyed, the economy of the Empire's reach, specifically their stocks in Sienar Fleet Systems and Kuat Drive Yards (manufacturing companies of the Imperial Navy Fleet, specifically its TIE fighters and Star Destroyers) fell drastically after stock holders feared that the Empire was in turmoil. The Empire's currency system was also drastically hurt, to the point that the Galactic market nearly crashed as an imbalance in the value of Imperial credits took a major turn for the worst. Galactic citizens were unsure of who would be running the Galaxy, The Empire or a New Republic.
Add to the fact that the Death Star itself was inhabited by some of its top officials and finest stormtroopers, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The Empire thrives on its manpower, so eliminating such a large quantity of Imperial officials and stormtroopers (despite the fact that they aren't very good marksmen), not to mention the pilots, droids, and many other troopers...ridiculous. Why would they sacrifice so much? Lastly on the Death Star note, this was a structure that had been the pride of the Empire. The ultimate symbol to its tight grasp over the galaxy. If they allowed it to be destroyed, that would certainly hurt their Galactic image and more star systems would easily slip through their fingers.
EDT Claim: The X-Wings and Y-Wings were remotely controlled or flown by droids.
Reality: There is absolutely no proof, beyond outright speculation, that the witnessed crafts (seen flying out of the atmosphere of Yavin 4) were flown remotely. Could droids have been programmed to attack the Death Star in various attack formations? Yes. It's possible, although highly unlikely. Besides, witnesses — whose interviews were the major focus of the Death Star Commission Report — captured images of the Rebel Attack Fleet ascending into skies of Yavin 4 just before the destruction of the Death Star. A tower guard (pictured below), whose name has been classified, witnessed the launch, as did a number of additional crewmen.
The EDT dismisses all such claims, stating that those witnesses were paid off by the Empire and/or were forced to tell such stories in fear that the Empire would crush them with one swift stroke.
An EDT explanation also states that while witnesses saw Rebel pilots within those cockpits, the Rebel fleet did disappear for a short period of time as they broke through the atmosphere of Yavin 4. Now, they go on to say that the Empire obviously intercepted the fleet, took the pilots and their loyal droids, and replaced them with their own droids who went on to "attack" the Death Star. There is no proof of this happening at all. Not one shred of evidence beyond pure speculation. Where did all of these Rebel pilots, pictured below during a briefing just a short time before the attack, go?
In fact, if you look at the below footage, taken from a groundbreaking documentary film about the destruction of the Death Star, you'll find at timecode :37 that there is in fact footage of a live pilot within the cockpit of an X-Wing, just before the Rebel attack fleet engaged the Death Star.
Now, if this above image and footage doesn't satisfy sceptics, I don't know what will. EDTs will simply say that this is in fact CG rendered footage, however if you compare the poor CG of the Death Star and Alderaan CG explosions (See below), you'll see that these X-Wings are far superior images. And if they were done by the Empire, why is there such a stark difference in the detail and overall quality of CG used?
EDT Claim: This is perhaps the EDTs version of their smoking gun proof. The Death Star Explosion Footage, which they say proves that the Death Star destruction was in fact a hoax.
Below are their comparison shots, where you see two vastly different explosions of the Death Star:
Reality: The footage here, specifically the second apparent explosion that the EDT says is proof that a conspiracy exists, is clearly some after-the-fact CGI. Someone within the EDT community clearly revisited the original footage, likely 20 years later according to reliable experts, and enhanced it, if not completely covered it, with CG.
The same type of CG rendered explosion was utilised by the EDT in their related Alderaan conspiracy footage, which showcased a very similar CG manipulation.
EDT Claim: There were numerous conflicting reports of the number of X-Wings and Y-Wings that attacked the Death Star, which proves that there was a conspiracy.
Reality: First off, during the attack, the media was at an all time high as far as different reports coming from different sources. If you ask any Imperial detective, they will say that eye witness reports are often the most unreliable when it comes to those witnesses remembering finer details of what a suspect was wearing, what ethnicity they were, what age they were, etc.
In this case, the number of X-Wings and Y-Wings that were seen flying out of Yavin 4 and those approaching the Death Star. They point to footage that was released 20 years after the original events that clearly show more X-Wings and Y-Wings approaching the Death Star than were seen in footage shown 20 years earlier. The simple explanation for this is is that the original footage was from one angle while the new footage was clearly for the opposite angle, showing how many Rebel ships there really were.
EDT Claim: The Empire conspired to blow up the Death Star so they could fund the construction of a more powerful Death Star.
Reality: This makes no sense. Why would they destroy a Death Star that they had hardly utilised in order to make another one? The original destroyed planets. How much more powerful did they need to be?
EDT Claim: Darth Vader had ties to the Rebel Alliance. His very own son was one of their pilots and it was later discovered that Princess Leia herself was his daughter. This proves that Vader likely created the Rebel Alliance in order to back up the story that the Death Star was attack by such a terrorist organisation.
Reality: Darth Vader had no knowledge that he had children. The members of the Old Republic, specifically General Kenobi and Jedi Master Yoda, kept that a secret since the end of the Clone Wars. He didn't discover that Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia were his heirs until a couple years after the Death Star was destroyed.
In Closing:These are just the few claims that EDT has made, declaring that the Empire is behind a major conspiracy. Since there is such divide in the galaxy, I would like to comment on the two very different perspectives here, and why both of these groups are victims of the EDT and their conspiracies.
The Empire and their supporters
It is a tragedy that the memories of the men, aliens, and droids that died that day, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, have to be trampled on so some small faction of individuals can play this conspiracy game.
The Rebel Alliance
It is with equal disgust that the memories of the men and droids that gave their life for the freedom of the galaxy, as they attempted to unseat the evil Galactic Empire, are trampled on by the EDT. Their heroic efforts paved way for the destruction of the Empire and the deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.
The human and alien brain tries to make sense of every action that it witnesses. It processes. It calculates. Then you enter the emotions that go along with being human, or alien. That leads to the search for rationalisation in what has proven to be an irrational galaxy. Human and alien error. Negligence. Chance. Anomalies.
These are what lead to those events that fateful day of the destruction of the Death Star. These are what the EDT continually can't grasp as they try to "reason" their way out of every explanation and proof given to them. Look, I hated the Empire. But there was no conspiracy. The Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin. There has been no concrete evidence, beyond speculation and paranoia, that has proven otherwise.
About the author:Ken Miyamoto, Screenwriter, former Sony Pictures script reader/story analyst, former Sony Studios liaison
This answer has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.