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Battle of Perharb

Conflict:

Second Great War

Date:

2567

Location:

Perharb

Outcome:

Tactical New Covenant victory, glassing of planet

Belligerents

New Covenant/Governors of Contrition

Commanders

Capaneus

Rear Admiral Horace Stuttgart

Strength
  • Fleet of Penitent Embrace
  • Raak'ezh Warrior Creche
  • USE
    • Thousands of civilian workers and security personnel
  • UNSC
    • Battlegroup Perseus
    • 99th Marine Regiment
    • Anelace Team
Casualties

A handful of capital ships, thousands of warriors

Total defeat, no survivors

 

There are a few battles that manage to change the course, not only of wars, but of history itself. If William the Conqueror had failed in 1066, Britain may have remained Anglo-Saxon, part of the Scandinavian/Germanic political sphere. If Britain and Prussia had lost at Waterloo, Napoleon may have spread across Europe. If not for Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany could well have succeeded in its aim at domination. If not for Reach, the Covenant may simply have overwhelmed Earth. And if not for the disastrous assault on Perharb, the Governors of Contrition may have succeeded in their ultimate goals of destroying humanity and subjugating the Sangheili.

Previously a neutral faction, the Unggoy Star Empire had limited itself to providing economic aid to the UNSC, allowing humanity to purchase valuable metals and minerals mined on Unggoy colonies in exchange to UNSC slipspace technology. Many among the New Covenant dismissed the Unggoy as a threat, and ignored them even as a target, but others realised that the sheer numbers and growing military competence of the Unggoy posed a significant threat. As a result, the attack on Perharb was conceived by highly placed members of the Governors of Contrition to totally knock the Unggoy out of the war - as an economic centre, it would set the Unggoy back years, and militarily the Governors fully expected to intimidate the Unggoy into non-participation. The operation would backfire spectacularly as, outraged at the unprovoked attack on a declared neutral faction, and realising that they needed to prove their capabilities to themselves and other potential enemies, the Unggoy Star Empire declared war immediately, sending their military forces in unison with those of the UNSC, SAF and Brotherhood of Ruskt. By the war's end, the Unggoy were one of the few factions not crippled by the effort of fending off the concerted attack of the Governors and forced to rebuild - placed in such a position of strength, the Unggoy would become a major political and economic force towards the end of the 26th Century, engaging in a "Cold War" with the UNSC that would see them rise rapidly, technologically and culturally. All of this has been linked to Perharb - in the greatest irony, the Governors sparked the very threat they hoped to avoid.

History

Perharb has long been a Covenant colony, but it has had little attention paid to it. One of the few habitable terrestrial worlds with a methane-dominated atmosphere, it was ideal for Unggoy colonisation, but efforts by the Covenant would set this back for centuries as they restricted Unggoy breeding rates. nevertheless, a small mining colony was established there as early as 2430, and would expand as it mined valuable shipbuilding materials for the Covenant - rare earth minerals are abundant on the planet, and were used for vital components. By 2525, the Covenant has established the planet as a shipyard, tasked with constructing ships for the war effort against humanity - still mistrustful of Unggoy, however, the Prophets would garrison several Jiralhanae legions on the world as guards and overseers, to ensure that the Unggoy remained in check. Their use of terror tactics and brutal suppression of any dissent and punishment of any weakness would create an atmosphere of fear that the Prophets desired, but also a climate of hatred - the Unggoy of Perharb would have no love of the Covenant when the Schism erupted in 2552, and using their sheer numbers would overwhelm their Jiralhanae garrisons, using their oppressors' own weapons against them.

Although now free, the Unggoy of Perharb quickly realised that they could not stay this way. Some suggested building their own ships to defend themselves, hoping to create an Unggoy paradise on the planet - others countered that they lacked even rudimentary knowledge of ship construction, and that the small number of Huragok who had sided with them were simply insufficient for the task. When a Sangheili fleet arrived in the system, expecting to have to take the shipyards by storm, it was with a mixture of surprise and scepticism that they heard the news that the Unggoy themselves had already taken care of the Jiralhanae. On the one hand, the Sangheili saw Perharb as a readily available commercial advantage with a work crew already present. On the other, the Unggoy recognised that they would need protection from reprisal, and that they would be better of with the Sangheili than on their own. Within a matter of hours, the Unggoy of Perharb had pledged their loyalties to the Sangheili Armed Forces, and Perharb became a protectorate of the SAF, with a legion of Sangheili warriors garrisoned there to ensure "security". Largely distracted by the War of Vengeance, the SAF would leave Perharb to itself, with the local Sangheili running their own training missions and leaving the administrator, Ushe 'Tzanarq, to run the Unggoy mine. While the fledgling Unggoy Star Empire would rapidly expand and just as quickly implode in on itself, Perharb managed to achieve some state of stability - breeding restrictions were put in place to limit the growth of the local Unggoy population, but nothing so harsh as those put in place by the Covenant, and the colony was rapidly become an example to the Sangheili of a well-run Unggoy colony - the inhabitants were passive and productive, and gave little trouble.

This passive front, however, was merely a charade. Between 2552 and 2560, they had been secretly accumulating stocks of weapons, ammunition, and even a small number of ships bought second hand from the Kig-Yar. In 2561, they made their move - using their makeshift fleet, the Unggoy boarded the small orbiting "protection" fleet using stolen pass codes, killing or imprisoning the crews, and used the ships to provide fire support for a ground offensive, consisting of thousands of Unggoy swarming across the Sangheili garrison. Cutting off communications quickly, it took the Sangheili several months to even realise that the regular shipments from Perharb has stopped, and a follow-up taskforce engaged the Unggoy ships. Plans were drawn up to invade the system, using overwhelming force, as an example to other Unggoy rebels - at the same time, however, with the War of Vengeance drawing to a close, the UNSC began to consider exactly what its relationship with the SAF was to be. Seeing an Unggoy interstellar empire as a useful buffer between humanity and the Sangheili, a UNSC Navy battlegroup arrived in the system, ostensibly to ensure that the colony was treated fairly - covertly, ONI agents supplied the Unggoy rebels with information and supplies, allowing the Unggoy to effectively build their forces up to make an invasion, if not unfeasible, then extremely costly. A UNSC garrison would be set up, again claiming only to be peacekeepers present to distribute aid - in actual fact, UNSC Marines had begun training Unggoy soldiers in combat, especially the use of UNSC-issue weaponry. The fact that Unggoy were using human weaponry was dismissed by the UEG administration under Jerome Smithson as the result of black market transactions, despite officially sanctioning UNSC involvement in Unggoy affairs. Using this opportunity, Perharb would ally itself with the Unggoy Star Empire, and become a central colony. Within a few short years, Perharb had totally integrated itself - its ships and soldiers were now part of the Imperial Unggoy Navy and Army, its leaders were official and respected members of the USE Council of Elders, and settlers had begun to pour into the colony, seeking a better life away from the frigid conditions of Balaho. Grateful to its UNSC "liberators", Perharb would allow the UNSC to keep its garrison, supported by an Orbital Defence Platform, and would successfully negotiate trade agreements with the UNSC for its mineral and metal wealth.

Prelude

It is the close relationship that Perharb had that made it such a tempting target for the Governors of Contrition. The presence of a human garrison could be used as a cassus belli - later, the Governors would claim Perharb as a UNSC/SAF staging area, despite no intelligence to indicate this. Better still, by attacking Perharb the Governors hoped to cripple human manufacturing efforts, crippling their war industry even further after Operation Twilight of The Gods devastated their infrastructure. An Unggoy defector would deliver even more tempting information - in addition to fleet and ground force composition, a UNSC Spartan team was present on the colony to assist in training the Unggoy Imperial Army garrison. Given what their loss would mean to humanity, the UNSC presence was almost enough to warrant an invasion by itself.

Its importance to the Unggoy also made it a definite target. In military terms, it was the Unggoy Star Empire's chief military training base, cooperating with UNSC forces to give itself a modern and professional military with which to defend itself and its interests. With UNSC technical assistance, the orbiting shipyards, so long dormant, had also begun churning out warships for the Imperial Unggoy Navy, finally allowing the Unggoy to defend their interplanetary interests - early models would continue to use former UNSC slipspace technology, and would be slower and less accurate than those of the SAF or Governors, but would be enough to accomplish their missions. More importantly, Perharb was seen as a diplomatic triumph by the Unggoy - symbolic of casting off the shackles of both Jiralhanae and Sangheili oppression, and representing its budding and mutually beneficial alliance with the UNSC. Nevertheless, at first the Unggoy had no intention of entering the Second Great War in any capacity, let alone that of the "Allies" - the USE still resented the SAF for the post-Schism occupation, while the SAF was still outraged by the slaughter of its garrison. In fact, there was no guarantee before the attack that, if the Unggoy were to enter the war at all, it would be on the Allies side at all.

The Governors of Contrition failed to realise this, and saw Perharb only as a threat and opportunity. The force assembly for the attack was conducted throughout 2566, eventually assembling a fleet of seventy warships, seventeen legions of Jiralhanae and Sangheili, and attaching the Raak'ezh Warrior Creche for shock engagements. Under the banned of Chieftain Capaneus, the Fleet of Penitent Embrace entered the system in early 2567.

Invasion

Entering under the cover of the system's asteroid belt, the New Covenant fleet made significant headway undetected, spearheaded by a pair of stealth frigates. Eventually detected at four AU, the fleet engaged the UNSC battlegroup Perseus at range, taking a few casualties but managing to inflict some of their own. Closing the gap, even under withering fire from the ODP, the New Covenant fleet engaged the UNSC battlegroup at close range, launching a massive invasion against the ground positions - eleven legions, with the remaining six held in reserve, supported by Banshee and Seraph tactical strikes against UNSC and Unggoy anti-air emplacements. While the orbiting forces tried to hold their own, the ground forces were simply overwhelmed - against eleven legions, the UNSC only had a single Division, the 33rd, on the planet, outnumbered six to one on the ground. Worse still, the Raak'ezh creche had infiltrated the garrison, FOS Helmejong, slaughtering Marines as they searched for the local SPARTAN-III attaches, Anelace Team.

Realising their strategically disastrous position, the Marines would pull back to the nearby Papap mountain ranges, using precisely placed shield emitters to block New Covenant progress. Following on foot or in mounted transport, the Covenant would target these emitters first, sending in the Raak'ezh. It was during the defence of one of these emitters that Anelace Team would meet their deaths, engaging the entire creche and desperately buying time for an Unggoy squad to reach a transmitter, hoping that the UNSC or USE could send reinforcements to retake the colony. The attempt would fail, and over the next few days the New Covenant would hunt the 33rd Division through the mountains, with both sides picking each other off in ambushes and carefully laid traps. Eventually, the Governors of Contrition would deem the continued effort to kill the Marines on the ground a waste, and would commit three cruisers to simply glass the mountain ranges, leveling the area with plasma bombardment.

At the same time, the orbital shipyards were pillaged by Governor technicians, all useful materials shipped for reuse, and personnel captured or executed. Now stripped of all useful personnel and materiel, the shipyards were knocked from orbit, crashing down onto the colony's capital city, killing three million Unggoy civilians. Efforts by Battlegroup Perseus to stop this were in vain, though MAC rounds would shatter the shipyards, allowing much of it to burn up during reentry, ultimately mitigating some damage. For their efforts, the battlegroup were trapped in a pincer formation by the Fleet of Penitent Embrace, and hammered with plasma and laser fire. Seeing no way out, the battlegroup would give their lives to destroy as many enemy ships as possible - by the end of the campaign, of seventy New Covenant ships and fourteen UNSC ships, the New Covenant would be left with only twenty nine, a 57% loss for the New Covenant. Battlegroup Perseus would be utterly destroyed in the fleet engagements, though the self-destruction of the destroyers Rembrandt and Orions Belt would destroy seven enemy ships - an example the rest of the battlegroup would follow, with fourteen ships destroying nearly three times their number.

Withdrawal

Although Anelace Team had given their lives to allow an Unggoy squad, and other UNSC Marines and Unggoy soldiers had in turn tried to establish contact with their respective chains of command, help would come far too late. Intercepting the emergency distress beacon of a single catastrophically damaged frigate, the Fleet of Triumphant Declaration would respond, arriving in the system just in time to engage a few New Covenant stragglers at extreme long range. While destroyers and cruisers secured the system, mopping up a few stray New Covenant fighter pickets and corvettes, the Assault Carrier Bringer of Holy Light would send out Phantom and Spirit dropships, escorted by Seraph and Banshee wings, to scour the planet for survivors. A small number of Marine and Unggoy squads would be found, still suppressed by New Covenant infantry, and were recovered by the friendly dropships. These survivors would prove crucial to establishing the chain of events leading up to the abandonment of the planet by the New Covenant - with the Spartans dead, the majority of the UNSC ground forces and all of the naval element devastated, and the Unggoy colony in an utter shambles, with the cities lying in smoking craters and the mines collapsed, the New Covenant deemed the operation a total success. A small element was left behind, which the Sangheili fleet would destroy, but the other survivors of the fleet had withdrawn long ago after makeshift repairs, taking with them Unggoy and Huragok technicians, valuable materiel from the shipyards, and whatever intelligence had been plundered from Helmejong Base.

Aftermath

Militarily, the battle had a mixed effect. The loss of 57% of the Fleet of Penitent Embrace was deemed by the Governors of Contrition as mitigable - it had been specially formed from soldiers and crews whose loyalties, while not questionable, were not unswerving, and the ships were all older models, scheduled for decommissioning and reacquired at the last moment. In essence, the entire fleet had been designated "expendable" by the Governors. The UNSC and Unggoy defeat, however, was palpable - not since the attacks by the Blood Covenant had a UNSC military force been so effortlessly wiped out. There was no chance that a single Division could have repelled an attack, and putting more boots on the ground would have constituted a violation of Unggoy sovereignty that they would not have tolerated, even with the friendly relations between the two. The fact that they were there at all would be a major point of contention, and yet another retroactive black mark on the record of former Secretary General Smithson. Worse for the UNSC, which was still rebuilding itself from the earlier Twilight of The Gods campaign, the materials that were being produced by Perharb had been deemed of critical importance, and their loss would delay the total refurbishment and reconstruction of the Fleet by another few years. The destruction of the colony's population centres by dropping the shipyards on them from orbit has been declared a war crime by the UNSC and the USE, though the Sangheili have been more reluctant to lend their support to such a claim - their use of similar tactics against the Jiralhanae during the War of Vengeance may have something to do with this.

Politically, however, the battle would be catastrophic for the New Covenant. While they had hoped to warn the Unggoy off from the war, instead it only served to enrage them as a species, finally unifying them as a potent force to be reckoned with. With UNSC experience and training, the quality of Unggoy warfighters was improving dramatically, and the rapid rate of reproduction, combined with the growing quality of their training, meant that while the Unggoy would remain little threat in ship-to-ship warfare, they would be devastating on the ground. Abandoning the suicide missions of their forebears, future Unggoy warfighters wuld take on more conventional infantry, armour, special operations and naval roles, and even assemble their own versions of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, launched from orbiting insertion pods and equipped with state-of-the-art Unggoy weaponry. All of this was catalysed by the loss of Perharb - diplomatically, the Unggoy Star Empire would use the war to prove once and for all, to both the New Covenant aggressors and their reluctant Brotherhood of Ruskt and Sangheili Armed Forces allies, that the Unggoy could no longer be pushed around and bullied anymore. Culturally, the demand for a reaction for Perharb became a universal rallying cry, with all internal factions setting aside their own differences and uniting under the banner of vengeance. An action meant to neutralise the very threat the Governors of Contrition had foreseen would, in the end, prove their undoing - overwhelmed by the technical mastery of the UNSC, the ferocity of the Brotherhood and SAF, and the sheer numbers of the USE, and harassed by the Yanme'e Hives, the New Covenant would eventually collapse early in the next decade.

Remarks

Gallery

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