The Earth-Minbari War
Unless we find a way to defeat the Minbari, the Human race ends with the current generation.
General Robert Lefcourt, 2245
The Earth-Minbari War began in 2245 when an Earthforce expeditionary fleet destroyed and heavily damaged other supporting vessels in the Grey Council’s fleet, killing the Minbari leader Dukhat.The Human fleet commander misinterpreted the Minbari warrior caste’s tradition of approaching a ship with gun ports open as hostile action and fired on the Minbari vessels without provocation, from the Minbari’s point of view.
The war lasted for two years with Earth outmatched by an enemy driven with a relentless genocidal zeal and ended with the unexpected Minbari surrender at the Battle of the Line. Earth made the Minbari fight for every inch of space, and the Minbari inflicted many losses in the 2 years of bloody conflict.
The war was provoked by an Earth Alliance task force led by Captain Michael Jankowski aboard the warship EAS Prometheus, engaged on a mission to investigate the Minbari. During the expedition, the Prometheus and her escorts encountered three Minbari cruisers, one of which was carrying the Grey Council, the highest echelon of Minbari society. The Grey Council was en route to investigate reports of sightings of their ancient enemy, the Shadows. Although Jankowski had been given strict orders to not do anything which might be perceived as hostile, Jankowski arrogantly disobeyed the orders and refused to jump to hyperspace when the Minbari spotted his fleet. He thought that by waiting to the last possible moment to jump he could gain valuable sensor information about the Minbari cruisers, and this would lead to a promotion and medals from a grateful Earthforce Command. When he finally did decide to flee, it was too late.
Upon seeing the Earth vessels, the Minbari cruisers opened their gunports as a sign of respect and strength – even though Humans would have no knowledge of such a tradition. Dukhat, leader of the Grey Council, realized the error and ordered the gunports closed – but too late. Captain Jankowski misinterpreted the gesture as a sign of hostility, an impression compounded by the fact that the powerful sensors of the Minbari cruisers accidentally disabled the Prometheus’ jump engines, thus preventing the ship from jumping to hyperspace and escaping. When told by his first officer that his vessel’s jump engines had malfunctioned and that the weapons on the Minbari cruisers were “hot” (active), Jankowski panicked and opened fire on the Minbari ships. After the Earth ships opened fired they completely tore apart the Minbari Sharlin, ripping through the hull of the Sharlin and killing their leader Dukhat. This scene showed that EarthForce ships had enough firepower to easily destroy a Minbari Sharlin, but getting within firing range was very difficult, and the only real issue for EarthForce ships when fighting the Minbari. After Dukhat was killed and his protege Delenn, in a fit of rage, cast the deciding vote on the Council to wage a war of vengeance against Earth. However, the war of vengeance quickly turned into a holy crusade by the Minbari to exterminate humanity. This decision proved to be costly to both sides, as a bloody two-year long war ensured.
The Earth Alliance made frantic efforts to present official apologies to the Minbari through all possible diplomatic channels, and tried to obtain help (military or diplomatic) from neutral alien races such as the Centauri. However, no alien race wanted to incur the wrath of the Minbari military, and so Earth was left to fight alone.
The humans, I think, knew they were doomed, but where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with even greater strength. They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space. In my life, I have never seen anything like it. They would weep, they would pray, they would say good-bye to their loved ones, and then throw themselves, without fear or hesitation, at the very face of death itself, never surrendering…
Emperor Londo Mollari, 2278
Immediately following the destruction of Jericho 3, the Minbari struck at half a dozen Earthforce bases in the space of just a few days, leaving no survivors and accepting no surrender. Although EarthForce was losing in space combat, the war was far from over and Earth had a clandestine plan to exterminate the Minbari race, although it was never carried out. During battles, Minbari would even target ships no longer capable of fighting and destroy them. All attempts to communicate-including an offer to turn over Michael Jankowski were rebuffed.
In contrast to human concepts of total war, the Minbari fleet moved methodically through the outer colonies, eliminating defence structures and moving on, leaving civilian structures mostly untouched. At the time, Earthdome believed this behaviour was linked to the Minbari caste system, which targeted human “warriors” first; it was assumed that after destroying Earth, they would return to exterminate the now disorganized and defenseless civilians. Thus, by the end of the war, most of Earth’s colonies and outposts were still intact, and Earthforce was able to recover quickly. Indeed, many believed that Earth was even strong enough to fight the Minbari on equal terms (Ep: And now for a word).
Earthdome had thought of a new way to fight and very likely even defeat the Minbari – biological warfare. Earth’s plan was to unleash bio-weapons on the Minbari thus exterminating the Minbari race. This plan would have worked, but Dr. Franklin, the only man with access to the Minbari’s complete DNA sequence, burned all of his notes to prevent his work from being used to be used to annihilate an entire race. Without access to this data, as well as the refusal of other top medical scientists to participate, Earth could no longer use bio-weapons to defeat the Minbari. Fortunately, the Minbari later surrendered.
Although EarthForce ships did have the firepower to destroy a Minbari (as seen in the first encounter), Minbari steath technology foiled attempts to acquire a weapons lock, and thus, human ships were forced to fly in dense formations to come into firing range for a manual lock. Attempts to acquire more advanced weaponry from their long term trading partners, the Centauri Republic, were rebuffed, as the Centauri had no intention of siding against the Minbari by aiding their enemy. The Narn Regime, on the other hand, proved more than willing to do business; the weapons that they sold were reverse-engineered Centauri weapons.
Engagements weren’t restricted to outposts and colonies; in April 2247, two dozen Earth warships were lost to hit-and-run attacks in the space of only three weeks. Though no personnel had survived an attack, word at the time was that there was some kind of ace cruiser on the prowl. That theory was proved correct when a small fleet led by the EAS Lexington was attacked in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The Lexington itself was crippled in the opening salvo as the Minbari flagship Drala Fi (Black Star) jumped into the middle of the fleet, killing its commander, Captain Roger Sterns and left to drift while the Black Star engaged to remainder of the fleet. Thinking fast, John Sheridan had his crew seed several nearby asteroids with a trio of two-megaton tactical nuclear warheads, then sent out a distress call to lure the Black Star back to their position. As the Minbari cruiser moved into range for a clear shot, Sheridan remotely detonated the two nukes in range and obliterated the Drala Fi. Earthdome wasted no time in capitalising on what was to date the only victory in the entire war, broadcasting the footage throughout the Alliance. For their part the Minbari were less than impressed, the Warrior Caste in particular were affronted at being defeated by such “dishonourable” tactics and Sheridan would become infamously reviled as “Starkiller”.
In the midst of all this, the Minbari Anla’shok Na Lenonn secretly made contact with the Narns at the behest of Satai Delenn in hopes of opening peace talks. Cautious and understandably suspicious, EarthGov agreed to an initial meeting in neutral territory, sending Sheridan along with a Dr. Stephen Franklin and G’Kar of the Narn Regime to make sure the offer was serious before sending in the negotiators. Travelling aboard a Narn ship, the team arrived at the agreed upon rendezvous; a nameless abandoned Drazi colony and a one-time Earthforce listening post in the Epsilon System. The meeting was cut short when an unknown party destroyed the Narn ship in orbit and bombarded the surface, killing Lenonn and any hope of peace in the process. The Minbari soon arrived and retrieved Lenonn’s body, though Satai Delenn chose to simply release the two Human prisoners rather than execute them. Both the Minbari Federation and the Earth Alliance assumed that the attack had been perpetrated by a rogue faction of their own government. It wasn’t until decades later that the truth was made known. The attack had in fact originated from the Centauri Republic, ordered by Londo Mollari who had learned of the Narn mission though his sources close to the Kha’Ri and assumed it had been an arms shipment.
By this point in the war, somewhere between fifty to sixty thousand Humans had been killed. With the one hope for peace ruined, the war escalated. Over the next six months 200,000 more would die (official military casualities).
Even as more and more outposts and colonies fell, the humans made the Minbari fight for every inch of space. In the Battle of Sinzar, a crippled Earth dreadnought deliberately rammed a damaged Minbari warcruiser that was attempting to escape, destroying both ships in the process. At Flinn Colony, ground-based weapons forced the Minbari to land warriors on the planet and incredible hand-to-hand combat raged across the planet’s surface. Though the Minbari were always victorious, they more often than not came away from these battles battered and bruised. Indeed, though the humans could hardly appreciate or be aware of it at the time, word of their repeated noble “last stands” spread to almost every Minbari. In the early days of the war, the humans were perceived as cowards and savages, as evidenced by their unprovoked assault and murder of Dukhat. However as this demonised image of humanity proved more and more to be false, many Minbari, particularly in the Worker and Religious Caste began to doubt the justification for war, though few could see a way to stop the madness that had engulfed them.
The Minbari, frustrated by the futile but persistent Human resistance and their pride wounded by the handful of Earthforce victories, were determined to utterly annihilate the younger species by the time their fleet finally reached the Human homeworld. Knowing that nothing less but the total annihilation of Earth’s populace and later all colonies will be going on Earth Alliance started to evacute people from Earth. To give Earth’s civilian population time to flee to neutral territory, military and civilian leaders on Earth desperately organized a grand last stand, “to hold the line against the night”. Nearly all of the Earth Alliance’s remaining warships, fighters, and personnel were combined into a vast armada of more than 20,000 vessels (most of which are fighters). They were placed in near-Earth orbit and waited for the Minbari tostrike.
Though a noble gesture, the defense was to no avail. In the engagement that came to be known as The Battle of the Line, an enormous fleet of Minbari warcruisers jumped from hyperspace and attacked the human armada with overwhelming firepower.They swiftly destroyed almost all of the Earthforce defenders, with the desperate Human pilots reduced to desperate kamikaze tactics. But then, just on the cusp of a total Minbari victory, came the most unexpected twist in the war – the Minbari ceased fire and surrendered unconditionally to Earth. The entire galaxy reeled at news of this impossible reversal, and a great deal of wild speculation was voiced about what could have caused this drastic capitulation. However, the Minbari’s governing Grey Council never revealed the official reason, even to their own people.
With the war over, the Earth Alliance pledged to build a diplomatic space station in neutral territory to promote galactic peace and prevent such misunderstandings in the future; known as the Babylon Project. After the first three stations were sabotaged while the fourth vanished without trace the final station was known as Babylon 5. Having barely survived the Minbari assault, Earthforce began an incredible effort to rebuild and to acquire more and more advanced technology and weapons to avoid such a disaster again.