In A NEW HOPE, during the Battle of Yavin, many rebel pilots lost their lives for the greater good. We'll discuss some of them here in relation to deleted material.
First up is Red Four, otherwise known as "John D", described as a young pilot who gets shot down after eliminating his first target. He was played by actor Jack Klaff and originally had a few lines of dialogue which were removed from the film to reduce the running time a bit.
Here's an interesting quote from the "Behind the Magic" CD-ROM about John D. I say "interesting" because it's actually wrong... from a certain point of view:
An additional fighter pilot, Red Four (or "John D.") is mentioned in the novel. He is a young, eager pilot who is sadly shot down after destroying his very first TIE fighter. Actor Jack Klaff was case in the rold for the film and his three lines ("Red 4 standing by...," "I've got one, I've got one...," and "I'm hit! Arrrrgh!") were shot in under an hour. To reduce the film's overall length, these scenes were ultimately eliminated. Although he does not appear in the film, Jack Klaff does receive a credit at its close.
The part that's incorrect is where they say he does not appear in the film. John D actually does appear in the film for a few brief shots where his fighter is followed and destroyed. The script excerpt below even contains a line from Red Leader (Blue Leader in the original drafts) that made it into the film ("...watch it, you've got one on your tail.") It's interesting to find an error like this on an official source but hey, everyone makes mistakes...from time to time.
Here's the script excerpt with Red Four's deleted shots intact:
Blue Four standing by.
and then later in the script we find this...
181. INT. JOHN D's STARSHIP - COCKPIT - TRAVELING
CU. John D, a young pilot with a scar across one eye, adjusts his targeting device.
I'm on one! I've got one!
182. EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR
Full Shot. A tie ship races by camera followed by John D.
183. INT. JOHN D's STARSHIP - COCKPIT - TRAVELING
POV. shot over John D's shoulder. The tie ship attempts to outmaneuver the young rebel, to no avail. John D closes on the Imperial craft as it skims the surface.
184. INT. JOHN D's STARSHIP - COCKPIT - TRAVELING
CU. John D reaches up and pulls the trigger of his laser cannon.
185. EXT. JOHN D's STARSHIP - TRAVELING
POV. Gunsite. The ship is blown to oblivion and spirals down toward the Death Star.
186. INT. JOHN D's STARSHIP - COCKPIT - TRAVELING
CU. John D. A gleeful expression crosses his face at his good shooting.
Good shooting, Blue Six...
watch it, you've got one on your tail.
John D's smile instantly disappears from his face as he looks around, but can't see the ship behind him. His ship shudders as a laserbolt explodes nearby, creating flak out the cockpit window.
187. EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR
Full Shot. John D's x wing races past camera, closely chased by an Imperial tie ship firing both guns.
188. INT. JOHN D's STARSHIP - COCKPIT - TRAVELING
CU. John D. The inside of the cockpit explodes as John D is hit.
I'm hit! I'm hit!
189. EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR
Full Shot. John D's X wing explodes in a fiery ball, parts flying in all directions.
The above excerpt is from the "Star Wars Revised Fourth Draft Screenplay" dated March 15, 1976 courtesy of Starkiller and ultimately Lucasfilm, of course.
Next up is a guy referred to as Red 12 (or Blue 12, if you're reading the novel/screenplay). My good friend Greg Rossiter alerted me to this small bit of information on his wonderful site which you should check out here. Apparently what happened is that Red 12 was part of the second run on the Death Star exhaust port and was the first to be shot down by Vader during that run. At some point, I'm assuming, the editors needed a cockpit shot of Red 10's (another pilot) destruction and used Red 12's instead, probably assuming no one would know the difference...and here we are. In the world of editing, no big deal - get the job done. In the world of Star Wars fans - interesting trivia!
The first few images below are of John D. The image below of Red 12 exploding is from the actual film and courtesy of Greg Rossiter.