Erwin Smith is the Commander of the Survey Corps and the creator of the Long-Distance Enemy Scouting Formation.
|Survey Corps Commanders|
|◄ Preceded by|| 13th|
|Followed by ►|
Keith Shadis (Unknown-845)
Hange Zoë (850-Current)
|Everything I have done, I did thinking that this day would come. That someday...I would be able to check my answers. There were so many times that I thought it would be easier to just die. But then...the dream I shared with my father would flash through my head. And now...those answers are close enough to reach out and grab.|
|— Erwin reflects on his reasons for living|
Erwin Smith (エルヴィン・スミス Eruvin Sumisu?) was the 13th commander (団長 Danchō?) of the Survey Corps. Discerning, intelligent, and widely respected, Erwin was an able commander. While he cared deeply for his men, he did not hesitate to sacrifice them for the good and prosperity of mankind, and his men have proven more than willing to stake their lives at his order. Erwin developed the Long-Distance Enemy Scouting Formation, and due to uncertainty about his future, he later named Hange Zoë as his successor.
Erwin had a commanding presence. He stood tall above most members of the Survey Corps, with his blond hair kept neatly parted on the left side.
Erwin always wore a calm and collected expression on his face, with his icy blue eyes being one of his most striking features. His eyebrows were also quite noticeable, being very thick and bushy.
Erwin typically dressed in the standard military uniform, donning the Survey Corps' signature green cape when on missions. He also wore a small, emerald bolo tie around his neck similar to the other military commanders, Nile Dok and Dot Pixis.
Erwin was a complex character, portrayed as serious, calculating, and always planning far in the future. While he trusted his men, he was the first to realize that there was a spy interfering with the Survey Corps, and was able to come up with a reasonable criteria to determine which of his soldiers to trust with vital information, and which to keep in the dark. He was also heavily involved in designing the plan that would be used to capture said traitor. He was an eloquent speaker, able to sway many people, such as the military tribunal held to judge Eren and the trainees choosing recruitment branches to join.
Erwin was often seen as a very grim individual. He accepted all news, good or bad, mockery or praise, with the same stoic attitude because he knew his objectives and would follow through with them. His ultimate goal was for humanity to once again rise up and become the dominant species over the Titans, a goal he was willing to sacrifice anything for. Even with his arm caught in a Titan's mouth, he ordered everyone to save Eren.
He shared this unique stoic quality with men such as Garrison Commander Dot Pixis, team leader Ian Dietrich, and Commander-in-Chief Darius Zackly. As Armin Arlert put it, Erwin, like the aforementioned three men, had the ability to send his men to die if it would further the cause of humanity. He and they would sacrifice their own humanity in order to bring change to a world where those who cannot sacrifice things important to them will not change anything. Since he was able to make such commitments, he was a master strategist, shown multiple times through actions like capturing the Female Titan and leading a group of Titans to distract the Armored Titan so the military could save Eren.
Behind his front of assurance and single-minded determination, Erwin revealed he still had his human side. Following the rebellion, he admitted he understood his audacious actions and questioned constantly if what he was doing was the right thing. Darius Zackly and Dot Pixis were also privy to this, with Zackly hypothesizing that Erwin did not truly care about humanity's best interests, and Pixis openly accusing Erwin of caring more about his own life than the survival of humanity as a whole.
These views of Erwin proved, in the long run, to be true. During his final expedition in Shiganshina, when faced with the prospect of sacrificing his own life in order to defeat the Beast Titan, Erwin proved reluctant to act, refusing to tell anyone the strategy until coerced by Levi. He cared more about discovering the secrets hidden in Eren's basement, and finally proving his father's theories correct, than he did about retaking the lost territory of Wall Maria. His dream of understanding the world was so strong that he confessed to Levi that he considered it more important than the victory of humanity. This selfishness should not, however, be mistaken for heartlessness. He felt great remorse for sacrificing countless others for the sake of his ambitions, admitting to Levi that he felt their fallen comrades watching him, waiting to see what he would do with the lives that they dedicated to him.
As a child, Erwin was a curious and insightful individual who did not accept facts at face value. He asked why humanity had no memory of what happened before they lived within the Walls, because even if they had lost all their records, the first generation should have been able to teach their children. His father shared a theory with him that the king had altered humanity's memories when they first entered the Walls so he could control them better. Too innocent to realize why his father would not discuss this in the classroom, Erwin shared it with the other kids in town, which resulted in his father's "accidental" death, arranged by the Military Police Brigade's First Interior Squad.
Erwin later enlisted in the Training Corps where he became friends with Nile Dok, with whom he shared his theory about the Royal Government hiding the truth about the world. The two of them planned to enter the Survey Corps together, but they fell in love with the same woman at their favorite bar. Erwin gave up on a relationship with Marie so he could continue pursuing the truth and Nile changed his plans to marry her.
After graduating, Erwin joined the Survey Corps, where he stopped sharing his theory with others. He realized that everyone else was fighting for the sake of humanity, whereas he was only fighting for himself. Nonetheless, he thrived as a soldier and eventually was given subordinates under his command.
While a Squad Leader, Erwin devised the Long-Distance Enemy Scouting Formation as a way to minimize casualties while on expeditions. His proposal was rejected by then Commander Keith Shadis, who told him to try it when he became commander himself. Although his proposal had been rejected, Erwin began implementing his strategies in his own squad, and over time other soldiers and the populace began to notice that his squad would take no casualties, whereas Shadis would often be the only survivor of his charges.
In the year 845, Erwin takes part in an expedition beyond Wall Maria. When the soldiers encounter a Titan, Erwin reports their distance from the Titan to Keith Shadis while the Corps splits up to engage the Titan.
When the expedition returns, Shadis requests that Erwin take over as commander of the Survey Corps.
In the year 850, Erwin leads an expedition beyond Wall Rose. While the Survey Corps is clearing a town inside Wall Maria, it is discovered that Titans are moving north, towards the Trost District of Wall Rose, and Erwin orders a retreat.
Erwin next appears when Eren recovers from his three day coma and is kept in a jail cell beneath the military court. He explains to Eren that his Titan powers have caused an uproar within the Walls. He has taken the key to Eren's basement and asks if the secret to Titans is located in the basement, to which Eren replies that he believes so. Erwin then formulates a plan to use Eren's Titan form to retake Wall Maria so they can investigate the basement.
Erwin attends the military's tribunal to determine what to do with Eren Yeager, proposing to the military's commander-in-chief Darius Zackly that the boy be entrusted to the Survey Corps so that his powers can be used to reclaim Wall Maria. In the middle of the trial Eren loses his temper, prompting Levi to beat him in front of everyone to prove that he can be controlled. Seizing the opportunity, Erwin promises that he will station Eren under Levi if he is allowed to join the Survey Corps, ensuring that he will be kept under control. Additionally, to keep Walls' civilians calm, he agrees to hand Eren over to the Military Police if the boy proves to be a failure on his first expedition. Satisfied with Erwin's proposal, Zackly hands Eren over to the corps.
After the trial Erwin and some of his officers meet with Eren privately. Erwin apologizes to Eren for Levi's treatment of him before commending him for unwittingly giving them the perfect argument to convince the military to turn him over to the corps, formally welcoming him to the Survey Corps.
After the death of the Titan research subjects, Bean and Sonny, he tests everyone in the Survey Corps by asking them a direct, but confusing question to gauge their reactions. When this turns everyone innocent, he begins planning the next expedition to capture the spy, guessing they have abilities similar to Eren and are intent on sabotaging the expedition.
Erwin later appears at the recruitment drive where the 104th Training Corps choose their path. He makes an impassioned plea that the Survey Corps and Eren represent the hope of humanity, although he is very realistic in telling them that a sizable number of them will die. During his speech, Erwin makes public that they will get to the basement and maybe will find clues that may free them of domination by Titans, which makes Armin think that he must have an agenda. His speech and other factors succeed in recruiting every remaining member of the top 10 graduates except Annie, who joins the Military Police Brigade.
Erwin leads the 57th expedition out of Karanes District on a mission to reach Shiganshina District and potentially uncover the secret of Eren's basement. Shortly after the Survey Corps reaches open territory outside Wall Rose, he orders them into a Long-Distance Enemy Scouting Formation.
Despite the decimation of the formation's right flank by an abnormal Titan, Erwin continues the operation to the surprise of his soldiers. He directs them to a Titan Forest where the central column containing the carts and the Special Operations Squad are to follow him inside, while the rest of the formation surrounds the forest perimeter to prevent the entry of any additional Titans. Understanding that the abnormal Titan destroying his ranks is intelligent, Erwin plans to deal with it inside.The Special Operations Squad leads the Female Titan into Erwin's trap, where he orders the firing of the Special target restraining weapon. This allows the Survey Corps to successfully capture it. When Levi and Mike try to cut through the Female Titan's hands to the nape, Erwin notes that it can selectively harden its body, similar to what he has heard about the Armored Titan. He decides the corps does not have enough time to see if the Titan will weaken under repeated assaults and calls Keiji over to prepare explosives to blow off the Female Titan's hands at the wrists to avoid killing the person inside.
Before that can happen, the Female Titan screams and Mike alerts Erwin to multiple Titans approaching from all directions. Erwin sends the cart team to intercept the first wave of Titans, but they ignore the soldiers and break through. He realizes that they are after the Female Titan and orders the Corps to defend it. However, they are overwhelmed and unable to keep up. The Female Titan is torn to pieces and Erwin calls his soldiers to retreat and return to Karanes.As Erwin watches the Titans devour what remains of the Female Titan, he admits to Levi that he did not expect their enemy would be willing to sacrifice themselves. The steam emitting from the remains of the Female Titan causes him to think of the Colossus Titan, which had also vanished in a cloud of steam. Before Levi can call back his team, Erwin tells him to refill his gas and blades.
Hange questions the order while they ride out of the forest, because they cannot spare the time, and Erwin explains that though the Female Titan has been eaten, he can not say the same for the person inside. He expects that their enemy has regained human form and is now able to move around. If they also equipped vertical maneuvering equipment then they are likely wearing the Survey Corps uniform and are camouflaged as a fellow soldier. Erwin thinks it was a mistake to have based their assumption of the Female Titan's abilities on Eren, who is a complete novice when it comes to his power.
He leads the corps back into Karanes where they are greeted by grumbles of wasted taxes and demands for justification for the number of dead. Because of the expedition's failure, Erwin is summoned to the capital to hand over Eren.Before they depart for the capital, Armin shares his suspicion with Erwin that Annie Leonhart is the Female Titan. Erwin orders her covert capture en route to the meeting. After arriving in Stohess District and fighting breaks out against the Female Titan, he is questioned by Nile Dok who orders his troops to support the operation.
She is eventually apprehended, and Erwin goes into an emergency meeting held to sort out the day's events. Admitting that the corps was unable to get any information out of Annie before she sealed herself away inside of a hardened crystal, Erwin requests that he be allowed to track down any allies Annie might have hidden in the military. The meeting is interrupted when a corps soldier, Thomas, bursts in to inform them that Titans have been spotted inside Wall Rose.
By the next day, Erwin's forces are in Trost District where he meets up with Dot Pixis. Pixis congratulates him for finding one of their "mice" even though the plan did not succeed as well as hoped. Now those in the interior will reconsider their motives and beliefs. Erwin says they have. The Military Police have been forced to come out and help fight against the Titans.
Erwin is present when Phil reports to Pixis about having met up with Hange's unit on top of Wall Rose. He hears that an additional three trainees of the 104th can change into Titans and asks what happened when their forms were revealed. Phil tells him the corps engaged the Colossus and Armored Titans, but the battle was over by the time Phil's unit was able to join.
The combined military force rides along the top of Wall Rose and when they meet up with Hange's unit, Erwin has them deploy the lifts to carry the horses down to the ground on the outside of the Wall. Though badly injured, Hange gets a map and shows Erwin where a Titan Forest is. She suspects Reiner and Bertolt have gone there. When Erwin asks her why, she explains that even though they can change into Titans, they probably are exhausted and will need to rest somewhere ordinary Titans are not able to reach them before making a run for the outside of Wall Maria. The Survey Corps will only have until nightfall when other Titans cannot move.
Erwin leads the combined military force into a long-range scouting formation as they head for the forest. When Titans begin to approach from the right flank, Erwin has the formation pull in on that side rather than change direction as they cannot afford to lose any time. As Titans continue to approach, Erwin tries to maneuver the formation, but they end up being hemmed in on both sides as well as ahead of them. Deciding that it would take too much time to make a detour, Erwin orders the soldiers to force their way through.
They arrive as the sun is setting and when they see the light from a Titan transformation inside the forest Erwin notes that they have arrived in time. He has the soldiers disperse to locate and recover the kidnapped Eren. Their priority is to recover and retreat, not to fight the numerous Titans swarming around them.
Erwin spots the Armored Titan escaping at the edge of the forest and calls for all squads to follow him and let the Titans chase after them. He leads the military straight at Reiner, with all the Titans on their collective tail. Knowing that the Titans will be just as happy to attack the Armored Titan, he shouts for all soldiers to disperse and get away, leaving Reiner to deal with the brunt of the Titan attention.
Once Reiner is immobilized beneath the weight of all the other Titans, Erwin calls for the soldiers to attack, because they must recover Eren if humanity is to have a future. As he leads the charge, a Titan unexpectedly appears in their midst, catching his arm in its mouth. Erwin shouts for the soldiers to continue their advance as it carries him away.
He returns to the battle as Armin is baiting Bertolt and Reiner into losing control, and takes the opportunity to cut Eren free of Bertolt as well as severing one of Bertolt's grappling lines. Erwin's right arm is now cut off just below the shoulder and bandaged with a makeshift tourniquet. With Eren retrieved, Erwin bellows for all soldiers to retreat.
Reiner begins throwing Titans at the fleeing soldiers and Erwin is knocked from his horse as Ymir takes out the Titan chasing him. When a Survey Corps soldier tries to help him, Erwin insists that he is replaceable. Retreating with Eren is their top priority. The battle turns against the military as the soldiers are hemmed in and the Armored Titan recovers enough strength to begin moving again.
Eren strikes a Titan attacking him and Mikasa, triggering something that causes all the other mindless Titans present to tear it apart. The Titans then go and attack Reiner and Bertolt as well. Seeing the opportunity for escape, Erwin shouts for the soldiers to withdraw.
Despite the loss of his arm, Erwin is in good spirits when Hange and Connie Springer report on the supposed breach of Wall Rose, and the fate of Ragako Village, Connie's home. Despite the evidence that the village buildings had exploded from the inside, there was no blood found. In addition to finding no survivors, the number of Titans discovered inside Wall Rose was equal to the population of Ragako. Hange theorizes that Titans are humans, pointing out the fact that the weak point of Titans correlates to the spinal cord of a human.
After his recovery, Erwin arrives in the capital to answer a summons by the chancellery. On the way he meets with Nile Dok, who is guarded about the reason Erwin called him. Erwin asks if Nile knew that Minister Nick was tortured to death by the Military Police's Interior First Squad. Finding Nile unaware and disinclined to think for himself, Erwin brings up Nile's wife, Marie, and warns Nile that protecting his job is not the same as protecting his family.
Unsatisfied with the results of his summons, Erwin meets with Dot Pixis and proposes that the military stage a coup d'etat. He recounts the events of his childhood and how his father was killed for getting close to a truth the government wanted to be hidden. Based on his father's theories, and the evidence they have gained concerning the Titans, the Walls, and Eren's powers, Erwin concludes that 107 years ago, the memories of humanity were altered to erase knowledge of the outside world.
When Nifa arrives, confirming the Reiss family as the true royal bloodline, Erwin proposes that they meet with Rod Reiss, and if that does not work, replace the King with Historia. However, Pixis is reluctant to participate because they do not understand the reasons behind the government's secrecy and they could have valuable skills or knowledge the military would be unable to replace.
After returning to the Survey Corps headquarters in Trost District, Erwin is informed that the Interior First Squad is looking for him in regard to an organized murder. Erwin appoints Hange the next Commander of the Survey Corps should anything happen to him and heads outside to meet the Military Police. The Survey Corps is blamed for the death of Dimo Reeves and Erwin is taken away.
Despite his persistent defense of the Survey Corps, even in the face of the Interior Military Police's questioning, Erwin's words fall on deaf ears. His audience with the king goes poorly and the nobles reveal that Levi has killed several members of the Military Police Brigade. They declare that there is need to tolerate such a group as the Survey Corps within the Walls. Disheartened, Erwin realizes that he has done all he could and there is only one gambit left. The order is given to take him to the gallows.
As he is being escorted from the room, Anka bursts in and announces that the Colossus Titan and Armored Titan have breached Wall Rose. Refugees are already on their way to Wall Sheena. Pixis reacts immediately, calling for soldiers to secure an evacuation route, which causes the officials in the room to reveal their true colors.
When they give the order to shut the gates to Wall Sheena, sacrificing half of humanity, Nile Dok throws his lot in with Wall Rose, as does Commander-in-Chief Zackly, who arrives with group of armed soldiers and announces that the panic was just a fabrication. The announcement was a test by Pixis to see if the aristocracy is worthy of ruling of the human race. Now all heads of the military are against them, and thanks to a report by the Berg Newspapers, the civilians are as well. Erwin's coup has succeeded.
After the proclamation that the military has seized control of the capital, Erwin departs in a carriage with Zackly. He expresses second thoughts about having deposed the monarchy. Regardless of their corruption and selfishness, humanity had survived this long under their guardianship.
Zackly tells him that he threw his lot in with the coup because of an intense desire to humiliate the king and his men, and he had planned to eventually give it a try with or without Erwin. The revolution is irrelevant to Zackly, and he shrewdly points out that it is the same for Erwin. Erwin planned the coup, despite his misgivings, and contacted Pixis because he was selfish and willing to put himself over the fate of humanity. After a moment's thought, Erwin admits that his reason is for a childhood dream.
In the evening, Erwin meets up with Pixis and Anka at a military barracks filled with waiting Survey Corps soldiers to head to Reiss Chapel. Pixis informs Erwin that the government leaders say the same thing, that the Reiss family has the ability to alter human memory, proving correct the theory that Erwin and his father had. However, Pixis disagrees both with Zackly's fondness for torture and Erwin's own penchant for risk. It bothers Pixis that if the crown had been worthy, he would have fought against Zackly instead. Erwin remarks that people won't stop fighting each other until the population is one or less, which amuses Pixis enough lighten his mood.
On the way to Reiss Chapel, Erwin and the Survey Corps encounter a giant Titan crawling face down on the ground. It is hot enough to ignite trees and Erwin orders his soldiers to get back and evacuate any nearby civilians. One of the Survey Corps members reports that Squad Levi is here, having successfully rescued Eren and Historia. Erwin rides over to them and finds out that only Hange is hurt, and not too badly.
Levi informs Erwin that the giant Titan is Rod Reiss and Eren's scream is not working to stop him, so the Survey Corps falls back to Orvud District to prepare fighting it, using the civilian population as bait. When the Garrison pushes back, Hange explains that this particular Titan is so abnormal that if the citizens are evacuated inside Wall Sheena it will likely ignore Orvud entirely and break through the Wall, eventually arriving at the capital, Mitras, which would be a disaster. Despite the risk to civilians, Erwin pledges to do everything they can to prevent the loss of any non-combatants and suggests an emergency evacuation drill be held so people will be prepared to leave should the need come.
The Titan arrives at dawn and the opening cannon volley by the Garrison does little to slow Rod despite being the best effort Orvud could scrape together, but Erwin still has a strategy. Hange brings out barrels of gunpowder, ropes, and net to form a blunt weapon, like stuffing a sock full of rocks, and Moblit wheels out a barrel of gunpowder strapped to a cart and modified with vertical maneuvering gear to reel itself into its target.
Finding Historia among the soldiers present, Erwin expresses his concern for her being on the front lines, since she will become queen if they survive. Undeterred, Historia asks if he thinks people are naive enough to follow someone who is a ruler only in name. She has her own mission she intends to carry out. Erwin disapproves, but admits that due to his missing arm he cannot stop her.
Though the Garrison's repeated shelling eventually exposes the giant Titan's nape, the wind changes before they can finish it off. Rod clings to the Wall and begins to pull himself over it, exposing his Titan's face for the first time. It is sheared off from the pressure of being dragged across the ground and the mouth is hanging open. The Survey Corps sends the Garrison away and douses themselves in water to withstand the heat from Rod's body as they enact Erwin's plan. At his signal, they fire the gunpowder loaded carts into Rod's hands, throwing him off balance and allowing Eren to run up in his Titan form. Eren throws the net full of gunpowder barrels into the massive Titan's mouth, and the entire package explodes due to the sheer heat of the Titan.
Large chunks of the Titan fly into the air and Erwin calls for his soldiers to finish it off, since the Titan will regenerate if the nape is not destroyed and the size is still the same one meter long and ten centimeters wide even on a Titan of this size. Historia is the one to find the correct piece, thus killing her father.
Two months after Historia has been crowned as queen, technology has progressed thanks to research that was preserved by the Interior Military Police, the shining stones found on the Reiss family grounds, and Eren's new hardening abilities. This allows new weapons to be created that allow soldiers to kill Titans without taking risks. With the success of the Executioner from Hell, Erwin tells Zackly and the other heads of the military that the Survey Corps is preparing for the retaking of Shiganshina and that preparations will be ready in a month. Failure is not an option given the military's financial and political situation.
After the meeting, Erwin, Pixis, Hange, Levi and Zackly have a private meeting. They talk about the serum that Kenny gave Levi. Hange explains that analyzing it is impossible because the fluid evaporates in contact with air. Pixis then decides that it must be used for the purpose it was made for, to allow a human to become a Titan and then take the power of the Titans. Erwin decides to entrust the vial to Levi because he is their strongest soldier with the highest chance of survival. Levi will have the freedom to use it based on his judgment of the situation.
In the Trost District, the Survey Corps' head members are having a meeting about Keith Shadis' revelation. Erwin listens as Hange explains that Grisha Yeager had the power of the Titans from outside the Walls. They then discuss why Grisha did not speak of the information he had to the Survey Corps but also committed the killing of the Reiss family the day Wall Maria fell. They theorize about what may be hidden in the basement of Grisha's house as Erwin suggests that it may be the memories of the world that the Reiss family tried to erase.
Erwin then announces that the operation to retake Wall Maria is ready and will commence in two days, promising to see the basement. When the meeting ends, Levi closes the door behind the other members and begins to warn Erwin. He tries to convince him, with the threat of breaking his legs, to stay behind in the Trost District due to the fact that his missing arm would make him "Titan food," especially on the front lines. However, Erwin confesses that seeing what is in the basement is more important to him than living and that he must be there to see this moment for humanity. After hearing this, Levi gives up and realizes that he will unfortunately not be able to change the Commander's mind.
The day of the operation, all soldiers are ready at dawn. Erwin and other high-ranking soldiers salute to members of the other branches and head to the Wall. However, the soldiers are surprised after seeing that the civilians know about the operation's goals and start to cheer for them. Erwin, seeing the best sends off the Survey Corps has ever received, cheers a loud scream back at them as he raises his one arm into the air, leaving his subordinates surprised for this unusual reaction. He then orders the start of the operation, and the members of the Survey Corps start their path towards Shiganshina District as Erwin leads them, yelling for them to once again, advance.
Upon arriving in Shiganshina, Erwin commands the soldiers to switch to vertical maneuvering equipment and rush the gate, as he himself also switches to vertical equipment. Erwin is aware that their enemies know about the operation to seal the Wall and investigate the basement, so he has 100 soldiers covered by their hoods rush the gate so that the enemy will be unable to know which soldier is Eren until he has sealed the gate. The corps' becomes wary of the complete lack of Titans in the area, but they choose to continue with the mission anyway, aware they are playing into the enemies' hands. The corps' stand by and prepare for the closing of the Wall as Eren flies up above the gate and prepares to transform.
After Eren seals the breach in the southern gate of Wall Maria, Armin informs the Commander of the remains of a campsite atop the Wall as well as cold cups lying on the ground. Erwin rightly speculates that the enemy had foreseen their arrival, and he gives Armin authority over an investigation of the Wall. Just after Reiner is found within the Wall and unsuccessfully attacked by Captain Levi, Erwin spots the Beast Titan and a horde of other Titans from beyond the northern gate. The Beast Titan launches a rock at Shiganshina's inner gate and traps the Survey Corps' horses outside, making escape into the district impossible. This begins a war and Erwin states that only one of them, the humans or the Titans, will leave alive. As Reiner begins climbing the wall, Erwin orders the soldiers to avoid engaging with him. As he surveys the Beast Titan's forces, Erwin notices a quadrupedal Titan carrying luggage on its back and theorizes that it was the scout that warned the other Warriors of the Corps' arrival.
As the Beast Titan's forces begin attacking, Erwin predicts that they will attack the Corps' horses next in order to completely remove any option of retreat. Erwin orders Dirk, Marlene, and their squads to join with Klaus Squad in protecting the horses north of the district, Hange and Levi's squads to engage the Armored Titan, and orders Levi to attack the Beast Titan directly and kill it. Erwin also has the idea to use Eren as bait to lure Reiner away from the Corps' horses, and orders Armin to relay the plan to Hange.
As he observes the battle from atop Wall Maria, Erwin notes the Corps' lack of manpower, prompting him to reflect on the lives lost under his command, being sent to their deaths for his own ambitions of proving his father's theories of the outside world right. Although he feels some guilt, Erwin quickly turns his attention towards Eren's basement and beings trying to work out a way to reach it even if the Corps' are defeated in battle. From atop the Wall, he witnesses Bertolt being thrown into the district by Zeke as well as his subsequent transformation into the Colossus Titan. Seeing the Colossus Titan, Erwin questions if everything is going according to the Beast Titan's plan.
When Zeke begins assaulting the Survey Corps to the north with a barrage of stones and boulders, Erwin orders their retreat and joins with them at the base of the Wall. Erwin informs Captain Levi of their desperate situation, having lost many of their soldiers as well as their advantage in the battle. As the new recruits descend into a panic, Levi asks the Commander if he has any more ideas. Seeing the inevitable defeat of the Survey Corps, Erwin begins to grieve over the failure of his attempts to learn the truth of the world. He thinks back on the many soldiers that died for the sake of humanity. Levi decides to make the choice of action on Erwin's behalf: Erwin must give up on his dreams and die with the recruits while Levi battles the Beast Titan. Despite his dreams coming to a bitter end, Erwin is relieved.
Standing before the panicked recruits, Erwin announces their plan to charge head-on against the Beast Titan using smoke signals as cover while Levi moves in from the side to confront him, using the line of Titans as a means of clearing the distance. The recruits are distraught at the plan, asking if it is even worth the effort if they will die anyway. Erwin admits that the decisions of the recruits to fight or abandon their duties are meaningless, but the lives of the soldiers who will die are not without meaning. He declares that it is the duty of the living to give meaning to the dead, and that they must carry out their duty in a way that the living will give their own deaths meaning. The recruits agree to ride forth to their deaths. Using smoke signals as cover, they charge the Beast Titan head-on with battle cries. Charging into the fray, Erwin urges the soldiers to let their blood boil, to let their voices be heard, and fight. Erwin is struck in the hip by a flying stone at the front of the charge.
After the first barrage of rocks is thrown, Erwin is struck and a rock flies through the left side of his waist and through his horse's head and neck. In pain and near death, Erwin throws his head forward and smiles in determination shortly before his now dead horse collapses. Though Erwin's subordinates are shocked, Marlowe Freudenberg urges them forward just as the commander ordered. After Levi brutally assaults the Beast Titan and cuts Zeke out of its nape, he wonders if there is anyone within the wreckage of Survey Corps' corpses that he could give the Titan injection to so that they may eat Zeke and gain the Beast Titan's power. Unfortunately, his thought is interrupted when the Cart Titan snatches Zeke and carries him away in his mouth. After the surrounding Titans are given orders to kill Levi, he remembers his promise to Erwin which he rode to his death for. Refusing to let him down, Levi exchanges his swords and begins to attack the Titans and chase Zeke.
In the meantime Eren successfully cuts Bertolt out of his Titan and holds him hostage on one of the rooftops. Zeke attempts to talk Eren into joining his side, but then is interrupted when he sees Levi (having killed all the surrounding Titans) charging toward him. Shocked, Zeke and the Cart Titan decide to retreat and pick up Reiner in the process.
Levi regroups with Eren and a severely burnt Armin. Believing there are no other critically wounded survivors, he tells Eren that he will give Armin the Titan serum and have him eat Bertolt to save his life. However, Levi changes his mind when Floch Forster delivers a mortally wounded Erwin to him. He settles on saving Erwin, angering Eren. After a scuffle with Eren and Mikasa, Levi is about to give Erwin the serum when he remembers Erwin's desire to give up his dreams and die with the recruits killed earlier. Levi gives Armin the serum instead, allows him to eat Bertolt, and tells Erwin that there will be a delay in his promise to kill the Beast Titan, as Erwin dies peacefully.
After he wakes up fully healed, Armin learns that Erwin died so that he could live. Levi explains that it was ultimately him that chose to save Armin. When all is said and done, Erwin's body is laid to rest in an abandoned house with his cloak draped over his body and flowers set next to the bed where he lays.
Erwin Smith's statistics :
- Levi Ackerman - The two had a mutual trust and respect for each other's skills. He willingly followed Erwin's command, though that did not keep him from speaking his mind.
- Hange Zoë - Erwin greatly valued Hange's intellect, and when he felt he was nearing death, he made sure Hange knew she was next in line.
- Mike Zacharias - Erwin and Mike had a deep mutual trust due to their lengthy time in service together, as well as respect for one another's skills as soldiers. Most of the time he was Erwin's right-hand man, and loyally followed his every command; despite their closeness and long time together, Mike still found Erwin difficult to read.
- Nile Dok - Erwin and Nile were in the same Training Corps and had intended to join the Survey Corps together, but parted ways when Nile fell in love with Marie and chose to join the Military Police instead. Their relationship was strained, though Erwin trusted Nile enough to give him a warning before the coup.
- Keith Shadis - He respected him as a soldier, despite the many losses that were sustained under his command.
- Armin Arlert - Erwin seemed to recognize Armin's potential as a strategist and had started entrusting him with commanding roles and making decisions in the Survey Corps. When Armin learns Erwin had to die so he could live, Armin was shocked at the revelation.
- Erwin's father
- Dozens of Survey Corps subordinates
- Over 100 citizens of Stohess District
- Erwin's motif was based on Adrian Alexander Veidt/Ozymandias, a character from Watchmen.
- According to Hajime Isayama, Erwin was single because he was not certain when he will die.
- Isayama revealed his nickname as a child was "Eyebrow."
- Isayama modeled Erwin after one of the secret service members who appears in the music video by Paris Hilton called "Paris for President."
- Erwin was the first commander of the Survey Corps to ever take over command before the previous commander was killed.
- Since Erwin lost his right arm, he saluted with his left arm, which is considered to be an incorrect way of saluting.