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Why is Master Chief Called ‘117’ on HALO?

Why is Master Chief 117?

If you’re watching the new HALO TV series on Paramount+ and aren’t completely certain of the lore, you might be wondering why Master Chief is called “117” and why his armor has the number “117” on it. We’ve got a refresher right here to help you out. It’s all tied to how secretive the program is in the first place.

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Master Chief Is Referred to as John-117

Master Chief is referred to as John-117 in the games. He’s a Spartan-II supersoldier created by the UNSC. According to Halopedia, he’s most commonly called SPARTAN-117 or Sierra 117 as his callsign.

John doesn’t actually remember his childhood or his parents, Halopedia explains. He was kidnapped at the age of six when Dr. Catherine Halsey chose him as one of 150 preliminary candidates for the Spartan-II program. Only 75 children, including him, were ultimately chosen and kidnapped from their homes. After he was conscripted, he was given his new name of John-117, where he became one of the top members and ultimately the leader of the Spartan-IIs. When he was 14, he was given dangerous augmentation enhancements that killed 30 trainees and disabled an additional 12. Only 33 Spartans survived.

In the games, he has almost no memory of his childhood, except a vague memory of his mom, Halopedia shared.

An interesting Quora discussion details a bit more, where user Liam Partain writes: “Shortly after arriving to the base he’d call home for the next 8 years, he and his fellow Spartans were stripped of their last names and legal identity. In place of their last name, they were assigned classification numbers. For John’s case, it was 117.”

There’s also a very telling quote from the Halo Escalation comics, issue #10, that Halopedia provides. In the issue, John says, “I do not remember my name. I do not remember my family. I do not remember my home. But I can remember the game. We played it every day. And I never lost. The game… It’s the only thing I can remember about the life I had before I met Doctor Halsey. Since then, I have experienced a lifetime of combat. Through thirty years of war against alien aggressors… I have always known my fate. I knew someday I would die in battle. But now that it is here… now that it is time to die… I find I am not ready.”

So what exactly do we know about John’s parents? According to a Reddit thread from four years ago, the expanded lore in Hunt the Truth (Season 1) revealed that they were still living in Elysium City as of about 2528, before the planet was glassed. John runs into a childhood friend in Halo Evolutions, but doesn’t reveal his identity.

Mark Stamp on Quora added: “Only Catherine Halsey knows the last name of any of the SPARTANs and she will likely carry those names to her grave.”

As you can see, much of John’s past is a mystery. His designation of 117 helps maintain that mystery.

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Stephanie Dwilson started Post Apocalyptic Media with her husband Derek. Her favorite shows of all-time are Attack on Titan, Battlestar Galactica and Lost, and she's always happy to talk about her cats. 🙂 She's a licensed attorney (currently not-practicing) and has a master's in science and technology journalism.

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