|“||What do you think the enemy is?||„|
|~ Erwin Smith|
|“||How did they find out that there aren't any humans outside the Walls?||„|
|~ Erwin asks his father a life changing question|
Commander Erwin Smith, formally known as Commander Erwin, is the 13th commander of the Scouting Legion. He is noted for his brilliant and resourceful mind, having created new tactics that greatly reduced losses during operations. However, he has the capacity to be exceptionally ruthless in pursuit of the goal to protect humanity.
Erwin is portrayed as serious, calculating, seeing and planning far for the future. While he trusts his men, he is the first to realize that there is a spy interfering with the Scouting Legion and arranged for his/her capture. He is an eloquent speaker, able to sway many people, such as the war tribunal held to judge Eren and the trainees choosing recruitment branches to join.
Erwin is very grim. He accepts all news, good or bad, mockery or praise, with the same attitude because he knows his objectives and will follow through with them.
He shares this unique stoic quality with men such as Head Administrator Dot Pixis, squad leader Ian Dietrich and Generalissimo Dallis Zacklay. As Armin puts it, Erwin, like the aforementioned three men, has the ability to send his men to die if it will further the cause of humanity. He and they will sacrifice their own humanity in order to bring change to a world where those who cannot sacrifice the important things in life will not change anything.
Erwin is first introduced taking part in the latest Scouting expedition before the fall of Wall Maria.
He is later formally introduced when the Scouting Legion is clearing a town inside Wall Maria. They discover Titans are moving north, towards the Trost District of Wall Rose. Fearing a breach, they head to Trost District and narrowly save a trapped Eren, Armin, and Mikasa after their mission to block the hole is complete.
Erwin later on explains the upheaval Eren has caused in the politics of humanity. Later, he successfully gets Eren recruited into the Scouting Legion and arranges for his study by Hanji Zoe, a Titan scientist and squad leader.
At the recruitment drive, his speech about the future of humanity convinces most of the top 10 trainees from Eren's unit to join the Scouting Legion.
After the death of the Titan research subjects, Bean and Sawney, he tests everyone in the Scouting Legion 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.
However the plan fails as the Female-type Titan manages to escape but only after inflicting massive casualties on the Scouting Legion party. Erwin is forced to call a retreat back to the Wall's safety.
For the costly failure of this mission, Erwin is blamed for the fiasco and summoned to the imperial capital to explain. However, he trusts Armin's gamble that Annie Leonhardt is the Titan and orders her covert capture en route to the meeting. He briefly explains this to Nile Dawk.
She is eventually apprehended and Erwin goes into an emergency meeting held to sort out the day's events. He manages to convince the council that despite the expedition failure and subsequent death of some civilians in the inner city, they finally catch the female-type Titan successfully and this indicates that there must be more of her kinds hiding among them.
He is still there when Wall Rose is breached. Erwin helps coordinate the effort to locate the breach with the Stationary Guard, but is unable to have it located.
He is too late to save Eren from being captured by Reiner and Bertholdt who reveal themselves as the Armored and Colossal Titan, respectively. However, Erwin quickly assembles a combined force of all branches of the military to rescue Eren.
Upon sight that Eren has been captured by Reiner, Bertholdt and Ymir he orders all squads to go ahead with him and letting the Titans follow them, much to the dismay of the fellow Soldiers who call him a monster believing he uses them as decoys. Erwin assures that is not his intention, that the Military Police fights admirably and that his men should fulfill their duty as Soldiers.
As the Graduates were reunited they along with Hannes watch in shock as Erwin leads a pack of Titans right to them. The group is forced to briefly retreat and watch as the Armored Titan is overwhelmed by the horde. Erwin orders them to head into battle, stating that humanity has no future if Eren is lost. However, as he leads the charge a Titan manages to catch him by his right arm and drags him from his horse. He orders the others to continue the mission, while a handful stay behind to fight the Titan chewing on him.
His fate is revealed a short time later, when he manages to ambush and wound Bertholdt. This allows Eren to be rescued, and Erwin immediately orders all surviving forces to retreat. Though still alive, his right arm has been severed just below the shoulder with a makeshift tourniquet secured around the stump. Ignoring his injuries, he continues to command the mission. The retreat fails, however, when the Armored Titan panics and begins to throw Titans to block their path.
- Dozens of his own Survey Corps subordinates (indirectly caused and caused)
- Over 100 citizens of Stohess District (indirectly caused)
- He is attributed with the literal title of "leader of the [Scouting] Legion" (団長 danchō), often translated as "Commander".
- The story is heavily influenced by the Norse, and as other characters Erwin can be regarded as the Manga Version of Odin. Odin is associated with the Wild Hunt, a special group of Huntsmen in mad pursuit on horses. The fact that Odin is stated as cunning, tricky as well as deceptive further adds into it along with that the God welcomes the dead.
- Erwin's motif was based on Adrian Alexander Veidt/Ozymandias, a character from Watchmen.
- Erwin's character has many similarities with Erwin Rommel, a German Marshall of the 20th Century. They share the same first name and have similar personality traits like great strategy skills. Moreover, Smith was born on October 14th, the date of the death of Rommel.