This was the original Gundam series that started it all. Released as a 52 episode series for television in Japan in 1979, it tells the story of the Earth Federation Assult Carrier White Base and its crew. The series almost didn't make it, with it's ratings being so bad that it was nearly cancelled after the first 36 episodes. It gained popularity in reruns and was later edited into three movies, eventually launching other Gundam series that expound upon the time period surrounding the One Year War and continuing on into the Universal Century, as well as being the basis for several other series that take place in alternate universes.

It takes place in the year Universal Century (UC) 0079, seventy-nine years after mankind had started colonizing space. Humans inhabited large space colonies known as "sides". The colony known as Side 3 declared itself the Principality of Zeon, and declared war against the Earth Federation in a fight for independence. Six months into the war, both sides suffered heavy losses, with each seeing it's population halved. The "Zekes" had the initial edge in battle with their force of mobile suits, but the Earth Federation was also developing it's own mobile suits.

The Earth Federation's colony at Side 7 housed a research facility where several "Feddie" mobile suits were sent for testing and enhancement, and the Feddies had also built a new experimental Assault Cruiser, the White Base which had arrived at Side 7 to pick up the prototype mobile suits.

It was during a reconnaissance mission turned battle by soldiers of Ace Zeon Pilot Char Aznable, the "Red Comet", that Zeke forces discovered what the Federation was building. Sixteen year-old Amuro Ray, who lived on Side 7, happened upon the RX-78-2 Gundam during the battle, and used it to hold off the Zekes while the survivors of Side 7 were loaded onto White Base. The crew of the White Base was also able to save three Federation mobile suits from being destroyed along with Side 7: the RX-75 Guntank, the RX-77-2 Guncannon, and the Gundam.

The inexperienced crew of White Base, staffed mostly by civilians, makes their way back to Earth, and follows where the war takes them, hoping that one day peace will return, and they will no longer be forced to fight for their lives.