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'''Operation Return''', also known as the '''Battle of Bajor''', was the combined [[Starfleet]] and [[Klingon Defense Force|Klingon]] assault against [[Dominion]] and [[Cardassian Empire|Cardassian]] forces in the [[Bajor Sector]], launched in mid-[[2374]]. The objective of the mission was the recapture of [[starbase]] [[Deep Space Nine]], which had been captured in the opening battle of the war approximately five months previously. It is considered one of the three most pivotal battles of the [[Dominion War]]. ([[DS9]]: "[[Favor the Bold]]", "[[The Sacrifice of Angels]]")
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{{sidebar military conflict
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| conflict_name = Operation Return
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| part_of = the [[Dominion War]]
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| image = Federation fleet prepares to engage Dominion fleet.jpg
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| image2 = Dominion forces wait.jpg
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| imagecap = The Federation fleet advances on the Dominion
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| imagecap2 = Dominion forces awaiting the Federation fleet
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| date = [[2374]]
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| location = [[Bajor sector]]
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| result = Decisive [[Federation Alliance]] victory
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<!-- combatant 1 -->
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| combatant1 = '''[[Federation Alliance]]'''
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:[[United Federation of Planets]]<br />[[Klingon Empire]]
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| commander1 = [[Captain]] [[Benjamin Sisko]]<br />[[General]] [[Martok]]
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| strength1 = Around 600 federation ships<br />Unknown but significant number of Klingon ships<br />1 {{class|Defiant}} starship<br />7+ {{class|Akira}} starships<br />10+ {{class|Galaxy}} starships<br />8+ {{class|Excelsior}} starships<br />14+ {{class|Miranda}} starships<br />10+ [[Federation attack fighter]]s<br />5+ [[Klingon Bird-of-Prey|Klingon Birds-of-Prey]]<br />3~ {{class|Vor'cha}} Battle cruisers<br /> 1+ [[Centaur type]] ship<br /> 3+ {{class|Saber}} vessels
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| losses1 = Numerous fighters<br />Unknown number of ships<br />[[Bajoran wormhole]] [[minefield]]
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<!-- combatant 2 -->
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| combatant2 = '''[[Dominion|Dominion&nbsp;Forces]]'''
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:[[Dominion]]<br />[[Cardassian Union|Cardassian&nbsp;Union]]
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| commander2 = [[Gul]] [[Dukat]]
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| strength2 = 1,254 ships<br />10+ [[Jem'Hadar fighter]]s<br />5 [[Jem'Hadar battle cruiser]]s<br />5+ {{class|Hideki}} fighters<br />10+ {{class|Galor}} destroyers
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| losses2 = Numerous Jem'Hadar ships<br />Numerous Cardassian ships<br />[[Gamma Quadrant]] fleet removed by the [[Prophet]]s<br />[[Terok Nor]] ([[Deep Space 9]]) recaptured by Federation<br />Dukat captured by Federation, later escaped
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}}
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{{disambiguation|the plan to rescue James Kirk and Leonard McCoy from Klingon captivity|Operation Retrieve}}
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'''Operation Return''' was the assault by a combined [[Starfleet]] and [[Klingon Defense Force]] task force against the [[Jem'Hadar]] and [[Cardassian military]] forces in the [[Bajoran sector]], launched in mid-[[2374]]. The objective of the mission was the recapture of [[starbase]] [[Deep Space 9]], which had been captured by the [[Dominion]] in the [[Second Battle of Deep Space 9|opening battle of the war]] approximately five months previously. It is considered one of the more pivotal battles of the [[Dominion War]], enabling [[Starfleet]] to re-establish its forward operating base for operations in Cardassian space. ({{DS9|Favor the Bold|Sacrifice of Angels}})
   
==Prelude==
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== Prelude ==
In the opening months of the war, the [[United Federation of Planets|Federation]] suffered an almost unbroken series of defeats at the hands of the [[Jem'Hadar]], and (showed) little capability of stopping and turning back the Dominion's all-out offensive. In addition, Starfleet's few attempts to mount counteroffensives, such as the [[Starfleet Seventh Fleet|Seventh Fleet]]'s attack on the [[Tyra System]], were met with overwhelming losses. The Federation and her Klingon allies were unquestionably losing the war.
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In the opening months of the war the [[Federation]] suffered an almost unbroken series of defeats at the hands of the Jem'Hadar, and showed little capability of stopping and turning back the Dominion's all-out offensive. In addition, Starfleet's few attempts to mount counteroffensives, such as the [[Seventh Fleet]]'s attack on the [[Tyra system]], were met with overwhelming losses. Out of the 112 ships in the Seventh Fleet, only 14 survived the fight at Tyra and made it back to Federation lines. The Federation and her Klingon allies were unquestionably losing the war.
   
The status of Deep Space Nine and the [[Bajoran wormhole]] remained the sole positive (note) for the allies. The automated, [[self-replicating minefield]] deployed by [[USS Defiant (NX-74205)|USS ''Defiant'']] just prior to DS9's capture in [[2373]] remained intact and proved resistant to all of the Cardassians' attempts to destroy it; this prevented any Jem'Hadar reinforcements from entering the [[Alpha Quadrant]] and joining the conflict. Had the minefield not held, the Federation and her allies would undoubtedly have been quickly crushed. In addition, the [[Program Sisko 197|massive sabotage]] inflicted on DS9 as Starfleet forces withdrew ensured that the station itself (then known under its Cardassian name, [[Terok Nor]]), remained vulnerable to attack for several months while the Cardassians made repairs; ultimately, the station served little purpose other than as a forward supply depot for Dominion operations in the Bajor Sector.
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The status of Deep Space 9 and the [[Bajoran wormhole]] remained the sole positive note for the allies. The automated, [[self-replicating mine]]field deployed by the {{USS|Defiant|2370}} just prior to DS9's capture in [[2373]] remained intact and proved resistant to the Cardassians' attempts to destroy it; this prevented any Jem'Hadar reinforcements from entering the [[Alpha Quadrant]] and joining the conflict. In addition, the [[Program Sisko 197|massive sabotage]] inflicted on DS9 as the Federation withdrew ensured that the station itself, known again under its former Cardassian name of [[Terok Nor]], remained vulnerable to attack for several months while the Cardassians made repairs; ultimately, the station served little purpose other than as a forward supply depot for Dominion operations in the [[Bajoran sector]].
   
However, by the fifth month of fighting, both the Federation and Klingon fleet commanders were facing a crisis: aside from the initial victory at [[Torros III]] ([[DS9]]: "[[Call to Arms]]"), the allies had not won a single major engagement. Morale among both fleets was at an all-time low, presenting a serious problem for many unit commanders. In particular, the repetitive and unproductive succession of advances and retreats with little material gain was galling to many seasoned veterans of the [[Cardassian wars]].
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By the fifth month of fighting, both the Federation and Klingon fleet commanders were facing a crisis: aside from the initial victory at [[Torros III]], ({{DS9|Call to Arms}}) the allies had not won a single major engagement without suffering major losses. Morale among both fleets was at an all-time low, presenting a serious problem for many unit commanders. In particular, the repetitive and unproductive succession of advances and retreats with little material gain was galling to many seasoned veterans of the [[Federation-Cardassian War|Cardassian wars]].
   
The Cardassians were certainly not idle on Terok Nor during this period; Glinn [[Damar]], adjutant to [[Gul Dukat|Dukat]], was in charge of the operation to deactivate and destroy the minefield. Although Damar's team had little success in clearing the wormhole, it was considered only a matter of time before a means was found of destroying all of the mines.
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The Cardassians were certainly not idle on Terok Nor during this period; Glinn [[Damar]], adjutant to Gul [[Dukat]], was in charge of the operation to deactivate and destroy the minefield. Although Damar's team had little success in clearing the wormhole, it was considered only a matter of time before a means was found of destroying all of the mines.
   
[[Image:Operation_return.jpg|thumb|Sisko's plan to retake DS9.]]
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== The Plan ==
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[[File:Sisko outlines operation return.jpg|thumb|left|Sisko's plan to retake DS9]]
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In light of the situation, Captain [[Benjamin Sisko]], commander of Deep Space 9 before its capture and then adjutant to Admiral [[William Ross]], proposed a plan for the allies to launch a major offensive with the goals of recapturing the station, re-securing the wormhole, and forcing the Dominion to divert troops away from other theaters of action closer to the Federation homeworlds.
   
==The Plan==
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In the plan presented to [[Starfleet Command]], Sisko proposed to assemble a task force composed of elements from the [[Second Fleet|Second]], [[Fifth Fleet|Fifth]], and [[Ninth Fleet|Ninth]] fleets and reinforced by a large contingent of Klingon warships. Launching from [[Starbase 375]], the fleet would advance across the Bajoran sector and mount an assault to retake Deep Space 9 from Dominion hands.
In light of the situation, Captain [[Benjamin Sisko]], commander of Deep Space Nine before its capture and then adjutant to Admiral [[William Ross]], proposed a plan for the allies to launch a major offensive with the goals of recapturing the station, re-securing the wormhole, and forcing the Dominion to divert troops away from other theaters of action closer to the Federation homeworlds.
 
   
In the plan presented to [[Starfleet Command]], Sisko proposed to assemble a task force composed of elements from the [[Starfleet Second Fleet|Second]], [[Starfleet Fifth Fleet|Fifth]], and [[Starfleet Ninth Fleet|Ninth]] fleets and reinforced by a large contingent of Klingon warships. Launching from Starbase 375, the fleet would advance across the Bajor Sector and mount an assault to retake Deep Space Nine from Dominion hands.
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However, many senior officials in both the Federation and Klingon hierarchies had grave problems with this plan. Sisko's plans required that a large number of ships be diverted from several crucial theaters of combat, including the [[Vulcan (planet)|Vulcan]] and [[Earth|Terran]] sectors. The Dominion was expected to divert sufficient numbers of ships to counter the Federation advance to DS9, which would relieve pressure on the remaining forces and slow the Dominion's advance into Federation territory, but [[Admiral]] [[Coburn]] objected to the strategy, fearing that the Dominion might choose to sacrifice Deep Space 9 in favor of launching a full-scale attack on Earth. With Sisko's forces advancing towards Bajor, reinforcements would be impossible within an acceptable time limit. Ross informed them that the [[Third Fleet]] would protect Earth, but Coburn was still not convinced.
   
However, many senior officials in both the Federation and Klingon hierarchies had grave problems with this plan. Sisko's plans required that a large number of ships be diverted from several crucial theaters of combat, including the [[Vulcan (planet)|Vulcan]] and [[Earth|Terran]] sectors. The Dominion was expected to divert sufficient numbers of ships to counter the advance, which would relieve pressure on the remaining forces and slow the Dominion's advance into Federation territory. However, [[Coburn|Admiral Coburn]] objected to the strategy, fearing that the Dominion might choose to sacrifice Deep Space Nine in favor of launching a full-scale attack on Earth. With Sisko's forces advancing towards Bajor, reinforcements would be impossible within an acceptable time limit.
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Ultimately, Sisko convinced Starfleet Command that the Dominion would not launch a new offensive against Earth. Arguing that it wasn't the key to the Alpha Quadrant, and the [[Bajoran Wormhole|wormhole]] was, Sisko pointed out that whoever controlled Deep Space 9 would control the wormhole. If the Federation and Klingons were in control of Deep Space 9, then the Dominion's potential supply line to their home territories in the [[Gamma Quadrant]] would be cut off. However, [[Chancellor of the Klingon High Council|Chancellor]] [[Gowron]] remained unconvinced and refused to release any warships. In response, General [[Martok]] and Lt. Commander [[Worf]] departed for [[Qo'noS]] for private consultations with Gowron, hoping to convince him to aid the assault. Although Gowron eventually did agree to support the offensive, his delay proved critical to the timing and outcome of the battle.
   
Ultimately, Sisko convinced Starfleet Command that the Dominion would not launch a new offensive while their potential supply line to their home territories in the [[Gamma Quadrant]] (via the wormhole) were threatened. However, Klingon chancellor [[Gowron]] remained unconvinced and refused to release any warships. In response, General [[Martok]] and Commander [[Worf]] departed for [[Qo'noS]] for private consultations with Gowron, hoping to convince him to aid the assault. Although Gowron eventually did agree to support the offensive, his delay proved critical to the timing and outcome of the battle.
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== The Resistance ==
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An anti-Dominion resistance cell on the station formed around Major [[Kira Nerys]], who started the cell after [[Vedek]] [[Yassim]] committed suicide in protest of the Dominion on the Promenade, leading Kira to feel she was too complacent in the face of the Dominion occupation of the station. The initial members of the group were Kira, [[Odo]], [[Jake Sisko]], [[Rom]], [[Leeta]], [[Quark]], and in a peripheral way [[Morn]]. ({{DS9|Rocks and Shoals}}) Their first act of defiance was the taking of a secret memorandum from Damar that suggested the Dominion poison the last stocks of ketracel-white if new supplies could not be secured. The memorandum was stolen by Rom and placed in front of the barracks of the Jem'Hadar.
   
[[Image:Operation_return_departure.jpg|thumb|The fleet departs Starbase 375.]]
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[[Rom]] also tried to sabotage the station's [[deflector array]], which was going to be used to deactivate the minefield, but was caught and sentenced to death. Rom himself expected to be killed shortly after Dukat made a victory speech upon the successful destruction of the minefield. ({{DS9|Behind the Lines}})
   
==Rushed Launch==
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== Rushed Launch ==
Five days away from the planned launch of the offensive, alarming news arrived at Starbase 375: the Cardassians had finally devised a practical method of destroying the minefield. Based on information smuggled away from Deep Space Nine by resistance fighters [[Kira Nerys]], [[Jake Sisko]], and [[Quark]] operating aboard the station, and relayed by independent trader [[Morn]], the allies discovered that an advanced [[anti-graviton emitter]] was in the process of deactivating each mine individually. The process would be complete within three days, at which point Jem'Hadar reinforcements would be free to pass through the wormhole, signaling utter defeat for both the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
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[[File:Federation fleet departs Starbase 375.jpg|thumb|The fleet departs Starbase 375]]
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Five days away from the planned launch of the offensive, alarming news arrived at Starbase 375: the Cardassians had finally devised a practical method of destroying the minefield. Based on information smuggled away from [[Terok Nor]] by the resistance operating aboard the station, and relayed by the independent trader Morn, the allies discovered that an advanced [[antigraviton emitter]] was in the process of deactivating each mine individually. The process would be complete within three days, at which point Jem'Hadar reinforcements would be free to pass through the wormhole, which meant utter defeat for both the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
   
Unfortunately, the fleet was only about 60% assembled; the Ninth Fleet had not yet arrived, and no indication of support had come from the Klingons. Starfleet saw no choice but to deploy the ships already assembled and mount a direct assault on Deep Space Nine, hoping to destroy the Cardassian anti-graviton emitter and keep the minefield intact.
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Unfortunately, the fleet was not yet fully assembled; the Ninth Fleet would not arrive in time, and no indication of support had come from the Klingons. With time running out, Starfleet saw no choice but to deploy the ships already assembled and mount a direct assault on Deep Space 9, hoping to destroy the anti-graviton emitter and keep the minefield intact.
   
Dominion intelligence was not inactive during this time. Gul Dukat was informed of the disengagement and redeployment of two major fleets, and correctly deduced the fleet's target. He ordered Jem'Hadar and Cardassian warships to be diverted to meet the incoming attack.
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Dominion intelligence was not inactive during this time though. Gul Dukat was informed of the disengagement and redeployment of two major fleets, and correctly deduced the fleet's target. He ordered that Jem'Hadar and Cardassian warships be diverted to meet the incoming attack. While Dukat anticipated heavy losses from fighting against the desperate Federation fleet, Weyoun assured him that any losses would be easily replaced by the waiting forces in the Gamma Quadrant.
   
As the Starfleet force approached the Bajor System, some 600 starships strong, they were confronted by a massive formation of more than 1,250 enemy vessels. Finding the advance blocked and his fleet outnumbered, Sisko observed, "There's an old saying, '[[Fortune favors the bold]].' Well... we're about to find out."
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As the Starfleet force approached the [[Bajoran system]], they were confronted by a massive formation of 1254 enemy vessels, outnumbering the Federation fleet by about 2:1. Finding his advance blocked, Sisko ordered the fleet into the Delta Two formation in preparation to attack, then said the following: "''There's an old saying, "[[Fortune favors the bold]]." Well, I guess we're about to find out.''"
   
[[Image:Operation_Return_2.jpg|thumb|The Dominion and Cardassian fleet.]]
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== The Battle ==
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[[File:Galor class, weapons array, mid-dorsal.jpg|thumb|left|Fighters attack the Dominion and Cardassian fleet]]
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The Dominion fleet unquestionably had time on its side. With the minefield around the wormhole due to be destroyed within eight hours, Gul Dukat chose to bide his time and establish a static blockade preventing the Federation advance. Starfleet was put at a disadvantage by being forced to take the offensive against a well prepared enemy while seeking a direct approach to Deep Space 9.
   
==The Battle==
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Attempting to find a crack in the wall of enemy ships confronting him, Captain Sisko, commanding the fleet from the {{USS|Defiant|2370}}, held back his {{class|Galaxy}} and [[cruiser]] wings, and instead ordered the [[Federation attack fighter|attack fighters]] to probe the Cardassian front lines. The fighter pilots were instructed to ignore the Jem'Hadar ships in favor of striking the Cardassian ships with pulsed phaser fire, and then to break off and disengage; Sisko hoped to provoke the Cardassians into giving chase and opening a hole in the formation that Starfleet could exploit.
The Dominion fleet, outnumbering the Federation forces by more than two to one, unquestionably had time on its side. With the minefield around the wormhole due to be destroyed within eight hours, Gul Dukat chose to bide his time and establish a static blockade preventing the Federation advance. Starfleet was put at a grave disadvantage by being forced to take the offensive and seek a direct approach to Deep Space Nine.
 
   
Attempting to find a crack in the wall of enemy ships confronting him, Captain Sisko, commanding the fleet from [[USS Defiant (NX-74205)|USS ''Defiant'']], held back his [[Galaxy class|''Galaxy'']] and [[cruiser]] wings, and instead ordered the [[Peregrine class|attack fighters]] to probe the Cardassian front lines. Using cover fire from several [[destroyer]] wings, the fighter pilots were instructed to ignore the Jem'Hadar ships in favor of striking the Cardassian ships with quantum torpedoes, and then to break off and disengage; Sisko hoped to provoke the Cardassians into giving chase and opening a hole in the formation that Starfleet could exploit.
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Gul Dukat, commanding the fleet from Terok Nor, recognized Sisko's strategy almost immediately. Strictly ordering his commanders to hold position, Dukat patiently watched as his fleet took eight waves of strafing runs against his {{class|Galor}} destroyers. However, after approximately three hours of standoff bombardment and hit-and-fade attack runs, Dukat decided to toy with Sisko and deliberately break the stalemate. Ordering six [[Hideki class|attack fighter]] squadrons to break formation and chase the Federation fighters, he carefully opened a hole in his lines, with a large contingent of destroyers standing by to outflank and trap Sisko's forces as they advanced to take advantage of the gap.
   
Gul Dukat, commanding the fleet from Deep Space Nine, recognized Sisko's strategy almost immediately. Strictly ordering his commanders to hold position, Dukat patiently accepted eight full strafing runs against his [[Galor class|''Galor''-class destroyers]]. After approximately three hours of standoff bombardment and hit-and-fade attack runs, Dukat decided to deliberately break the stalemate. Ordering six [[Hideki class|attack fighter]] squadrons to break formation and chase the Federation fighters, he carefully opened a hole in his lines, with a large contingent of destroyers standing by to outflank and trap Sisko's forces as they advanced to take advantage of the gap.
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[[File:USS Sitak and USS Majestic hit.jpg|thumb|The ''Majestic'' and ''Sitak'' are hit]]
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As Dukat had similarly recognized his strategy, Captain Sisko also immediately saw the nature of the trap. However, because time was in critically short supply, Sisko decided to play along with Dukat and take the bait. Detailing two [[Galaxy wing|''Galaxy''-wings]] to engage the ''Galor''s, Sisko ordered the rest of the fleet to launch a full-scale attack on the Dominion's center and punch through the blockade. "Anyone who gets through," Sisko said, "doesn't stop until they reach Deep Space 9."
   
[[Image:Operation_Return_1.jpg|thumb|left|The Federation fleet advances.]]
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At this point, the battle quickly degenerated into a melee as the Starfleet ships closed to point-blank range with the Dominion forces. With ships so widely dispersed among the Dominion fleet, inter-ship coordination became more difficult. When the Dominion ships started jamming comm frequencies, cutting off starships' contact with each other, the melee dissolved into a total free-for-all, with every ship fighting practically on its own, or at most in twos and threes.
   
As Dukat recognized his strategy, Captain Sisko also immediately saw the nature of the trap. However, time was in critically short supply. Detailing two ''Galaxy'' wings to engage the ''Galor''s, Sisko ordered the rest of the fleet to launch a full-scale attack on the Dominion's center. "Anyone who gets through," Sisko said, "doesn't stop until they reach Deep Space Nine."
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For Starfleet, it was very quickly becoming a losing battle. Unable to concentrate their attack on specific points in the enemy fleet, the Dominion's superior firepower gradually wore down the swifter but less powerful Starfleet vessels. Many of the older {{class|Excelsior}} and {{class|Miranda}} starships were lost in this phase of the battle, overwhelmed by incoming fire from all sides.
   
At this point, the battle quickly degenerated into a melee as the Starfleet ships closed to point-blank range. With his ships so widely dispersed among the Dominion fleet, inter-ship coordination became more difficult. The melee then became a total free-for-all, with every ship fighting practically on its own (or at most in twos and threes) when the Dominion ships started jamming comm frequencies, cutting off starships' contact with each other.
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[[File:Klingon fleet, Sacrifice of Angels.jpg|thumb|left|The Klingons enter the fray]]
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After nearly two hours of sustained close-range combat, the battle was nearly hopeless, with the [[Starfleet]] flagship itself near destruction, when a large force of Klingon warships decloaked and slammed into the Dominion's starboard flank. General Martok and Commander Worf had finally convinced Chancellor Gowron to lend his support. The additional firepower of {{class|Vor'cha}} attack cruisers and venerable [[Klingon Bird-of-Prey|Birds-of-Prey]] finally tipped the balance in the allies' favor. Many Dominion craft were destroyed during Martok's flank attack, opening a hole in the Dominion lines. Due to this, the ''Defiant'' managed to slip past a formation of Jem'Hadar attack cruisers and escape the battlefield, speeding towards Deep Space 9 at maximum warp.
   
For Starfleet, it was very quickly becoming a losing battle. Unable to concentrate their attack on specific points in the enemy fleet, the Dominion's superior firepower gradually wore down the swifter but less powerful Starfleet vessels. Many of the older [[Excelsior class|''Excelsior'']] and [[Miranda class|''Miranda'']]-class starships, between 30 and 80 years old and considered antiquated by modern standards, were lost in this phase of the battle, overwhelmed by incoming fire from all sides.
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Gul Dukat choose not to order a pursuit of the ''Defiant'', relying instead on the station's defenses to destroy the ship as it approached. Meanwhile, the Dominion lines were beginning to crumble as they were outflanked by the Klingon forces. Dukat chose to have his forces continue fighting, anticipating the destruction of the minefield and the imminent arrival of several thousand Jem'Hadar warships. He believed that any ship lost in the battle would be compensated by those warships' arrival.
   
[[Image:Operation_return_klingons.jpg|thumb|left|The Klingons enter the fray.]]
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After Rom's attempt to sabotage the deflector array, [[Damar]] arrested the entire resistance group, except Quark, and put them in the station's [[brig]]. Eventually, [[Quark]] and [[Tora Ziyal]] released the group from the station's brig. Just after their release, Kira and [[Rom]] were in a running shootout to the station's weapon control area. When they were pinned down by the [[Jem'Hadar]], [[Odo]] and the Bajoran security teams helped them.
   
After nearly two hours of sustained close-range combat, the battle was nearly hopeless. Indeed, the Starfleet flagship ''Defiant'' was itself near destruction, when a large force of some 300 Klingon warships decloaked and slammed into the Dominion's starboard flank. General Martok and Commander Worf had finally convinced Chancellor Gowron to lend his support. The additional firepower of [[Vor'cha class|''Vor'cha''-class]] attack cruisers and venerable [[Klingon Bird-of-Prey|Birds-of-Prey]] finally tipped the balance in the allies' favor. Opening a hole in the Dominion lines, the ''Defiant'' managed to slip past a formation of Jem'Hadar cruisers and escape the battlefield, speeding towards Deep Space Nine at maximum warp.
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When the last mine's self-replication unit was deactivated, Terok Nor immediately destroyed the minefield, eliminating the only impediment to ultimate Dominion victory in a spectacular explosion, just seconds before the ''Defiant'' arrived. With practically no options left, Captain Sisko ordered the ''Defiant'' to enter the wormhole for a hopeless, last-ditch stand against the incoming enemy forces. On the station, [[Rom]] had disabled the weapons systems, although he was, by a matter of a couple of seconds, too late to stop the destruction of the minefield.
   
Strangely, Gul Dukat did not choose to order a pursuit, relying instead on the station's defenses to destroy the ''Defiant'' as it approached. Meanwhile, the Dominion lines were beginning to crumble as they were outflanked by the Klingon forces. Dukat, anticipating the destruction of the minefield, chose to ignore the situation pending the imminent arrival of several thousand Jem'Hadar warships.
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[[File:Dominion fleet disappears in wormhole.jpg|thumb|Dominion fleet disappears]]
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In the wormhole, though, an incredible turn of events occurred, one that could be considered nothing short of a miracle. The Bajoran [[Prophet]]s, the inhabitants of the wormhole, spoke to Captain Sisko &ndash; their [[Emissary of the Prophets|Emissary]]. Though enigmatic, the Prophets indicated that they did not wish Sisko to sacrifice his life. Arguing that the approaching Dominion fleet constituted a threat to Bajor, whose people see them as gods, Sisko convinced the [[noncorporeal being]]s to intervene, though according to the Prophets a penance would be exacted from Sisko in the future. Moments later, as the ''Defiant'' and the Dominion fleet prepared to open fire on each other, all of the Dominion ships simply... disappeared.
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{{bginfo|The non canon MMO ''[[Star Trek Online]]'' covered a possible fate of the Dominion fleet.}}
   
The last mine's self-replication unit was deactivated, and DS9's weapons immediately opened fire on the minefield, eliminating the only impediment to ultimate Dominion victory just seconds before the ''Defiant'' arrived. With practically no options, Captain Sisko ordered the ''Defiant'' to enter the wormhole for a hopeless, last-ditch stand against the incoming enemy.
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When the ''Defiant'' exited the wormhole alone, the Dominion leaders were first perplexed, then alarmed. Their monitoring outposts in the Gamma Quadrant confirmed that the fleet had entered the wormhole, but there was no sign of them exiting, and no sign that they were still in the wormhole. To the Dominion and the Cardassians, it appeared that the one Starfleet ship had somehow annihilated their entire armada.
   
In the wormhole, though, an incredible turn of events occured, that could be considered nothing short of a miracle. The Bajoran [[Prophets]], the inhabitants of the wormhole, spoke to Captain Sisko their [[Emissary]]. Though enigmatic, the Prophets indicated that they did not wish Sisko to sacrifice his life. Arguing that the approaching Dominion fleet constituted a threat to Bajor, Sisko convinced the [[noncorporeal being]]s to intervene. Moments later, as the ''Defiant'' prepared to open fire, the Dominion ships simply... disappeared.
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The bad news only got worse for the Dominion as, back at the main battle zone, a group of 200 allied ships broke past the Dominion lines and headed toward the station, while the ''Defiant'' opened fire. Stunned by the sudden turn of events and unable to fire even on the ''Defiant'' because of Rom's too-late sabotage earlier, the [[Female Changeling]] ordered an evacuation and retreat to Cardassian territory. Dukat in a near cataclysmic shock at the impossible reversal, was dealt further blows when his half-[[Bajoran]] daughter, [[Tora Ziyal]], confessed that she had released the members of the resistance from their holding cells and had had then helped them sabotage the station. This confession led to her being shot by Damar as a traitor. Devastated, Dukat stayed behind on the station with his dying daughter, in the process of a total mental breakdown.
   
When the ''Defiant'' exited the wormhole, the Dominion leaders were first perplexed, then alarmed. Their monitoring outposts in the Gamma Quadrant confirmed that the fleet had entered the wormhole, but there was no sign of them exiting, and no sign that they were still in the wormhole. To the Dominion and the Cardassians, it appeared that one Starfleet ship somehow had apparently completely annihilated their fleet.
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With the station lost, the remaining Dominion forces in the battle zone turned in full retreat back to Cardassian space, bringing the battle to a quick conclusion. All other forces in the Alpha Quadrant retreated as well, allowing the Federation to regain much of its territory as the Dominion rapidly fled.
   
The bad news only got worse as, back at the main battle zone, a group of 200 allied ships broke past the Dominion lines and headed toward Deep Space Nine. In addition, the [[Bajoran Resistance]] had not been idle inside the station. Although they had been unable to act in time to prevent the destruction of the minefield, Kira and [[Rom]] sabotaged the power grid, disabling the entire weapons array and leaving the station defenseless against the incoming allied forces. Meanwhile, the ''Defiant'' had opened fire on the crippled DS9.
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== Aftermath ==
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[[File:USS Venture and Excelsiors.jpg|thumb|Starfleet re-occupies Deep Space 9]]
  +
The importance of Operation Return to the outcome of the war cannot be underestimated. Had the Dominion established a reliable supply line through the Bajoran wormhole, they would have had a secure industrial base from which to send an enormous number of warships and [[Jem'Hadar]] that was unlikely to be reachable by the [[Federation Alliance]].
   
Stunned by the sudden turn of events, the [[Female Changeling]] ordered an evacuation and retreat to Cardassian territory. Dukat, already showing signs of megalomania enhanced by the imminent victory but now in cataclysmic shock at the impossible reversal, was dealt a further blow. His half-[[Bajoran]] daughter, [[Tora Ziyal]], confessed that she had helped the Bajoran Resistance sabotage the station, and was then murdered by Damar as a traitor. Devastated, Dukat stayed behind on the station with his dying daughter, in the process of a total mental breakdown.
+
The battle itself was a major tactical and morale success for the Alliance, as they now had control over the wormhole and that Dominion reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant were now cut off. The Bajoran wormhole would ultimately remain closed to Dominion traffic for the remainder of the war. Following the loss of the station, the Dominion withdrew to Cardassian territory on all fronts to regroup, but the loss of the supply line to its home territories was so significant that the Dominion sued for peace within a few weeks, though this was a ploy to obtain systems with the resources necessary to fuel its war machine. Soon after this, the Dominion recovered rapidly and was launching new offensives into Federation territory shortly afterward, attacking worlds such as [[Coridan (planet)|Coridan]] and [[Betazed]]. Fortunately, the [[Romulan Star Empire]] declared war against the Dominion after the Dominion takeover of Betazed.
   
[[Image:Operation_Return_4.jpg|thumb|Starfleet re-occupies Deep Space 9.]]
+
The battle was also the beginning of the end of the Dominion's political leadership in the Alpha Quadrant. As a result of the events during the Dominion withdraw from the station, [[Damar]] became leader of the Cardassian Union, replacing [[Dukat]]. Dukat was an extremely aggressive combat commander, and was willing to work with the Dominion to further his own goals. By contrast, Damar was a far more cautious leader, and only marginally supported his Dominion allies and their strategies. [[Weyoun]]'s role in the leadership of the Dominion's war effort also became far greater, as opposed to Dukat's aggressive leadership. His inexperience with large-scale military operations, as demonstrated during Dukat's tenure, resulted in the Cardassians taking a back-seat to the Vorta. Damar's place in power lead to the fracturing of the Cardassian Union and the [[Cardassian Rebellion|rebellion]] that would join the allies the following year. ({{DS9|Statistical Probabilities|One Little Ship|In the Pale Moonlight}})
With the station lost, the remaining Dominion forces in the battle zone turned in full retreat back to Cardassian space, bringing the battle to a quick conclusion.
 
   
==Aftermath==
+
For his crucial role in leading the attack, Benjamin Sisko was awarded the [[Christopher Pike Medal of Valor]]. ({{DS9|Tears of the Prophets}})
Although the battle was a clear tactical and strategic victory for the Federation in the long run, aside from preventing fresh Jem'Hadar reinforcements there was little impact in the Dominion's offensive. Deep Space Nine had played only a minor role in the war thus far, and though it remained a crucial target, holding the station was not sufficient for victory on either side. Within weeks after the loss of DS9, the Dominion returned to the offensive, attacking more Federation worlds along the front lines, including [[Coridan (planet)|Coridan]] and [[Betazed]]. ([[DS9]]: "[[One Little Ship]]", "[[In the Pale Moonlight]]")
 
   
For his crucial role in leading the attack, Benjamin Sisko was awarded the [[Christopher Pike Medal of Valor]]. ([[DS9]]: "[[Tears of the Prophets (episode)|Tears of the Prophets]]")
+
== Starships present ==
  +
The following is a partial list of the [[Federation Alliance]] starships present at the battle.
   
Statistically, numbers of ships and lives lost in the Battle of Bajor are uncertain. It is believed that up to 50,000 to 110,000 Starfleet officers died, and between 200 and 400 starships were destroyed. Klingon and Dominion losses are not known.
+
{| class="grey"
  +
|-
  +
! Ship Name
  +
! Registry
  +
! Class
  +
! Status
  +
!
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Centaur}}
  +
| NCC-42043
  +
| [[Centaur type|''Centaur''-type]]
  +
| Unknown
  +
| [[File:USS Centaur.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Cortez}}
  +
| Unknown
  +
| Unknown
  +
| Survived
  +
|
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Defiant|2370}}
  +
| NX-74205
  +
| {{class|Defiant}}
  +
| Survived
  +
| [[File:USS Defiant (NX-74205), quarter view.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Hood|Excelsior class}}
  +
| NCC-42296
  +
| {{class|Excelsior}}
  +
| Survived
  +
| [[File:USS Hood, Sacrifice of Angels.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Magellan}}
  +
| Unknown
  +
| Unknown
  +
| Unknown
  +
|
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Majestic}}
  +
| NCC-31060
  +
| {{class|Miranda}}
  +
| Destroyed
  +
| [[File:USS Majestic.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
| {{IKS|Rotarran}}
  +
| N/A
  +
| [[Klingon Bird-of-Prey]]
  +
| Survived
  +
| [[File:IKS Rotarran.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Sarek}}
  +
| Unknown
  +
| Unknown
  +
| Unknown
  +
|
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Sitak}}
  +
| Unknown
  +
| {{class|Miranda}}
  +
| Destroyed
  +
| [[File:USS Sitak.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Trial}}
  +
| NCC-1948
  +
| {{class|Miranda}}
  +
| Survived
  +
| [[File:USS Trial.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
| {{USS|Venture}}
  +
| NCC-71854
  +
| {{class|Galaxy}}
  +
| Survived
  +
| [[File:USS Venture and Excelsiors.jpg|200px]]
  +
|-
  +
|}
   
==Significance==
+
As well as:
The importance of the Battle of Bajor to the outcome of the war cannot be underestimated. Had the Dominion established a reliable supply line through the Bajoran wormhole, they would have had a secure industrial base from which to send an enormous number of Jem'Hadar warships and soldiers that could not be touched by the allies. As it was, the Dominion's impressive capacity for rapid shipbuilding and cloning of Jem'Hadar gave them great staying power and the means to return from a major defeat with a new offensive within months. The Bajoran wormhole remained closed to Dominion traffic for the remainder of the war.
+
* Several other [[unnamed Klingon Birds-of-Prey]], at least three lost.
  +
* 7+ [[unnamed Akira class starships|unnamed]] {{class|Akira}} [[starships]].
  +
* Several other [[unnamed Excelsior class starships|unnamed ''Excelsior''-class starships]].
  +
* 9+ [[unnamed Galaxy class starships|unnamed ''Galaxy''-class starships]].
  +
* 8+ other [[unnamed Miranda class starships|unnamed ''Miranda''-class starships]]
  +
* 3+ {{class|Steamrunner}} starships.
  +
* Several unnamed {{class|Saber}} starships.
  +
* At least three {{class|Vor'cha}} [[battle cruiser]]s.
  +
* [[Federation attack fighter]]s.
   
In addition, the battle provided a large boost to the allied forces' morale, definitively showing that the Federation and Klingon forces were capable of winning a major victory. It reversed the problem of plummeting confidence and strengthened the Federation's resolve for a total victory rather than a [[Dominion peace negotiations|negotiated peace]]. For that reason, despite the reverses that would come later, the Battle of Bajor will always be remembered as the fight that set the Federation on the road to triumph.
+
{{Dominion War battles}}
   
==Related Topics==
+
== Appendices ==
* [[Bajor]], [[Prophets]], [[Celestial Temple]], [[Emissary]], [[Bajoran wormhole]]
+
=== Related topics ===
* [[Battle of Betazed]]
 
* [[USS Centaur|USS ''Centaur'']], [[USS Cortéz|USS ''Cortéz'']], [[USS Defiant (NX-74205)|USS ''Defiant'']], [[USS Galaxy|USS ''Galaxy'']], [[USS Leeds|USS ''Leeds'']], [[USS Magellan|USS ''Magellan'']], [[USS Majestic|USS ''Majestic'']], [[USS Sarek|USS ''Sarek'']], [[USS Sitak|USS ''Sitak'']], [[USS Venture|USS ''Venture'']], [[USS Trinculo|USS ''Trinculo'']], [[IKS Rotarran|IKS ''Rotarran'']], [[Frankenstein Fleet]]
 
 
* ''[[The Charge of the Light Brigade]]''
 
* ''[[The Charge of the Light Brigade]]''
   
{{msg:DWB}}
+
=== Background information ===
  +
The name Operation Return comes from the ''[[Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual]]''.
   
{{msg:featured}}
+
=== Apocrypha ===
  +
  +
In the 2003 novel ''[[Unity]]'', the Jem'Hadar soldiers who were aboard the starships the Prophets disappeared attack a [[Neural parasite (24th century)|Queen neural parasite]] who enters the Celestial Temple.
  +
  +
The non-canon 2006 videogame ''[[Star Trek Online]]'' also posits a possible fate for the Dominion reinforcements eliminated by the Prophets at Sisko's behest. In the mission series ''The 2800'' (referring to the number of ships in the reinforcement fleet), it is revealed that the Prophets did not destroy the Dominion ships, but instead relocate them nearly 40 years into the future, to the year 2409 (the timeframe of ''[[Star Trek Online]]''). Unaware of their temporal displacement and the end of the war, the Jem'Hadar fleet exited the wormhole on the Alpha quadrant side, and attacked Deep Space 9, forcing Starfleet and Klingon forces to evacuate to Bajor.
  +
  +
In the game, players would be assigned to infiltrate the wormhole in a [[shuttle]] to contact the present-day Dominion in the Gamma quadrant, who would agree to withdraw the time-displaced fleet occupying Deep Space 9 in exchange for the release of a captured Founder from the Federation prison "Facility 4028".
  +
  +
Unfortunately, despite the demands of the Founder, the Jem'Hadar commander Kar'ukan refused to relinquish the station without a fight. Starfleet and the KDF were forced to deploy their fleets to retake the station by force, and successfully did so, with the assistance of players who infiltrated the station via [[EV suit]] spacewalking.
  +
  +
It was during this storyline that the [[Andorian]] captain {{mbeta|Va'Kel Shon}} was promoted from the {{class|Defiant}} USS ''Belfast'' to command of the ''Odyssey''-class {{mbeta|USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-F)|USS ''Enterprise''-F}}, successor to the {{class|Sovereign}} ''Enterprise''-E, captained by [[Data]] following the retirement of [[Jean-Luc Picard]].
  +
  +
=== External links ===
  +
* {{Wikipedia}}
  +
* {{NCwiki}}
  +
  +
{{featured|date=May 2004|id=23209|re-date=April 2012|re-id=1383853}}
  +
  +
[[Category:Conflicts]]
  +
  +
[[cs:Operace návrat]]
  +
[[de:Operation Rückkehr]]
  +
[[ja:DS9奪還作戦]]
  +
[[nl:Operatie terugkeer]]

Latest revision as of 04:41, September 8, 2014

Operation Return
Part of the Dominion War
Federation fleet prepares to engage Dominion fleet.jpg

The Federation fleet advances on the Dominion

The Federation fleet advances on the Dominion
Date: 2374
Location: Bajor sector
Result: Decisive Federation Alliance victory
Belligerents
Federation Alliance
United Federation of Planets
Klingon Empire
Dominion Forces
Dominion
Cardassian Union
Notable commanders
Captain Benjamin Sisko
General Martok
Gul Dukat
Strength
Around 600 federation ships
Unknown but significant number of Klingon ships
1 Defiant-class starship
7+ Akira-class starships
10+ Galaxy-class starships
8+ Excelsior-class starships
14+ Miranda-class starships
10+ Federation attack fighters
5+ Klingon Birds-of-Prey
3~ Vor'cha-class Battle cruisers
1+ Centaur type ship
3+ Saber-class vessels
1,254 ships
10+ Jem'Hadar fighters
5 Jem'Hadar battle cruisers
5+ Hideki-class fighters
10+ Galor-class destroyers
Casualties and losses
Numerous fighters
Unknown number of ships
Bajoran wormhole minefield
Numerous Jem'Hadar ships
Numerous Cardassian ships
Gamma Quadrant fleet removed by the Prophets
Terok Nor (Deep Space 9) recaptured by Federation
Dukat captured by Federation, later escaped
Dominion forces wait.jpg

Dominion forces awaiting the Federation fleet

Dominion forces awaiting the Federation fleet
For the plan to rescue James Kirk and Leonard McCoy from Klingon captivity, please see Operation Retrieve.

Operation Return was the assault by a combined Starfleet and Klingon Defense Force task force against the Jem'Hadar and Cardassian military forces in the Bajoran sector, launched in mid-2374. The objective of the mission was the recapture of starbase Deep Space 9, which had been captured by the Dominion in the opening battle of the war approximately five months previously. It is considered one of the more pivotal battles of the Dominion War, enabling Starfleet to re-establish its forward operating base for operations in Cardassian space. (DS9: "Favor the Bold", "Sacrifice of Angels")

Prelude Edit

In the opening months of the war the Federation suffered an almost unbroken series of defeats at the hands of the Jem'Hadar, and showed little capability of stopping and turning back the Dominion's all-out offensive. In addition, Starfleet's few attempts to mount counteroffensives, such as the Seventh Fleet's attack on the Tyra system, were met with overwhelming losses. Out of the 112 ships in the Seventh Fleet, only 14 survived the fight at Tyra and made it back to Federation lines. The Federation and her Klingon allies were unquestionably losing the war.

The status of Deep Space 9 and the Bajoran wormhole remained the sole positive note for the allies. The automated, self-replicating minefield deployed by the USS Defiant just prior to DS9's capture in 2373 remained intact and proved resistant to the Cardassians' attempts to destroy it; this prevented any Jem'Hadar reinforcements from entering the Alpha Quadrant and joining the conflict. In addition, the massive sabotage inflicted on DS9 as the Federation withdrew ensured that the station itself, known again under its former Cardassian name of Terok Nor, remained vulnerable to attack for several months while the Cardassians made repairs; ultimately, the station served little purpose other than as a forward supply depot for Dominion operations in the Bajoran sector.

By the fifth month of fighting, both the Federation and Klingon fleet commanders were facing a crisis: aside from the initial victory at Torros III, (DS9: "Call to Arms") the allies had not won a single major engagement without suffering major losses. Morale among both fleets was at an all-time low, presenting a serious problem for many unit commanders. In particular, the repetitive and unproductive succession of advances and retreats with little material gain was galling to many seasoned veterans of the Cardassian wars.

The Cardassians were certainly not idle on Terok Nor during this period; Glinn Damar, adjutant to Gul Dukat, was in charge of the operation to deactivate and destroy the minefield. Although Damar's team had little success in clearing the wormhole, it was considered only a matter of time before a means was found of destroying all of the mines.

The Plan Edit

Sisko outlines operation return

Sisko's plan to retake DS9

In light of the situation, Captain Benjamin Sisko, commander of Deep Space 9 before its capture and then adjutant to Admiral William Ross, proposed a plan for the allies to launch a major offensive with the goals of recapturing the station, re-securing the wormhole, and forcing the Dominion to divert troops away from other theaters of action closer to the Federation homeworlds.

In the plan presented to Starfleet Command, Sisko proposed to assemble a task force composed of elements from the Second, Fifth, and Ninth fleets and reinforced by a large contingent of Klingon warships. Launching from Starbase 375, the fleet would advance across the Bajoran sector and mount an assault to retake Deep Space 9 from Dominion hands.

However, many senior officials in both the Federation and Klingon hierarchies had grave problems with this plan. Sisko's plans required that a large number of ships be diverted from several crucial theaters of combat, including the Vulcan and Terran sectors. The Dominion was expected to divert sufficient numbers of ships to counter the Federation advance to DS9, which would relieve pressure on the remaining forces and slow the Dominion's advance into Federation territory, but Admiral Coburn objected to the strategy, fearing that the Dominion might choose to sacrifice Deep Space 9 in favor of launching a full-scale attack on Earth. With Sisko's forces advancing towards Bajor, reinforcements would be impossible within an acceptable time limit. Ross informed them that the Third Fleet would protect Earth, but Coburn was still not convinced.

Ultimately, Sisko convinced Starfleet Command that the Dominion would not launch a new offensive against Earth. Arguing that it wasn't the key to the Alpha Quadrant, and the wormhole was, Sisko pointed out that whoever controlled Deep Space 9 would control the wormhole. If the Federation and Klingons were in control of Deep Space 9, then the Dominion's potential supply line to their home territories in the Gamma Quadrant would be cut off. However, Chancellor Gowron remained unconvinced and refused to release any warships. In response, General Martok and Lt. Commander Worf departed for Qo'noS for private consultations with Gowron, hoping to convince him to aid the assault. Although Gowron eventually did agree to support the offensive, his delay proved critical to the timing and outcome of the battle.

The Resistance Edit

An anti-Dominion resistance cell on the station formed around Major Kira Nerys, who started the cell after Vedek Yassim committed suicide in protest of the Dominion on the Promenade, leading Kira to feel she was too complacent in the face of the Dominion occupation of the station. The initial members of the group were Kira, Odo, Jake Sisko, Rom, Leeta, Quark, and in a peripheral way Morn. (DS9: "Rocks and Shoals") Their first act of defiance was the taking of a secret memorandum from Damar that suggested the Dominion poison the last stocks of ketracel-white if new supplies could not be secured. The memorandum was stolen by Rom and placed in front of the barracks of the Jem'Hadar.

Rom also tried to sabotage the station's deflector array, which was going to be used to deactivate the minefield, but was caught and sentenced to death. Rom himself expected to be killed shortly after Dukat made a victory speech upon the successful destruction of the minefield. (DS9: "Behind the Lines")

Rushed Launch Edit

Federation fleet departs Starbase 375

The fleet departs Starbase 375

Five days away from the planned launch of the offensive, alarming news arrived at Starbase 375: the Cardassians had finally devised a practical method of destroying the minefield. Based on information smuggled away from Terok Nor by the resistance operating aboard the station, and relayed by the independent trader Morn, the allies discovered that an advanced antigraviton emitter was in the process of deactivating each mine individually. The process would be complete within three days, at which point Jem'Hadar reinforcements would be free to pass through the wormhole, which meant utter defeat for both the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

Unfortunately, the fleet was not yet fully assembled; the Ninth Fleet would not arrive in time, and no indication of support had come from the Klingons. With time running out, Starfleet saw no choice but to deploy the ships already assembled and mount a direct assault on Deep Space 9, hoping to destroy the anti-graviton emitter and keep the minefield intact.

Dominion intelligence was not inactive during this time though. Gul Dukat was informed of the disengagement and redeployment of two major fleets, and correctly deduced the fleet's target. He ordered that Jem'Hadar and Cardassian warships be diverted to meet the incoming attack. While Dukat anticipated heavy losses from fighting against the desperate Federation fleet, Weyoun assured him that any losses would be easily replaced by the waiting forces in the Gamma Quadrant.

As the Starfleet force approached the Bajoran system, they were confronted by a massive formation of 1254 enemy vessels, outnumbering the Federation fleet by about 2:1. Finding his advance blocked, Sisko ordered the fleet into the Delta Two formation in preparation to attack, then said the following: "There's an old saying, "Fortune favors the bold." Well, I guess we're about to find out."

The Battle Edit

Galor class, weapons array, mid-dorsal

Fighters attack the Dominion and Cardassian fleet

The Dominion fleet unquestionably had time on its side. With the minefield around the wormhole due to be destroyed within eight hours, Gul Dukat chose to bide his time and establish a static blockade preventing the Federation advance. Starfleet was put at a disadvantage by being forced to take the offensive against a well prepared enemy while seeking a direct approach to Deep Space 9.

Attempting to find a crack in the wall of enemy ships confronting him, Captain Sisko, commanding the fleet from the USS Defiant, held back his Galaxy-class and cruiser wings, and instead ordered the attack fighters to probe the Cardassian front lines. The fighter pilots were instructed to ignore the Jem'Hadar ships in favor of striking the Cardassian ships with pulsed phaser fire, and then to break off and disengage; Sisko hoped to provoke the Cardassians into giving chase and opening a hole in the formation that Starfleet could exploit.

Gul Dukat, commanding the fleet from Terok Nor, recognized Sisko's strategy almost immediately. Strictly ordering his commanders to hold position, Dukat patiently watched as his fleet took eight waves of strafing runs against his Galor-class destroyers. However, after approximately three hours of standoff bombardment and hit-and-fade attack runs, Dukat decided to toy with Sisko and deliberately break the stalemate. Ordering six attack fighter squadrons to break formation and chase the Federation fighters, he carefully opened a hole in his lines, with a large contingent of destroyers standing by to outflank and trap Sisko's forces as they advanced to take advantage of the gap.

USS Sitak and USS Majestic hit

The Majestic and Sitak are hit

As Dukat had similarly recognized his strategy, Captain Sisko also immediately saw the nature of the trap. However, because time was in critically short supply, Sisko decided to play along with Dukat and take the bait. Detailing two Galaxy-wings to engage the Galors, Sisko ordered the rest of the fleet to launch a full-scale attack on the Dominion's center and punch through the blockade. "Anyone who gets through," Sisko said, "doesn't stop until they reach Deep Space 9."

At this point, the battle quickly degenerated into a melee as the Starfleet ships closed to point-blank range with the Dominion forces. With ships so widely dispersed among the Dominion fleet, inter-ship coordination became more difficult. When the Dominion ships started jamming comm frequencies, cutting off starships' contact with each other, the melee dissolved into a total free-for-all, with every ship fighting practically on its own, or at most in twos and threes.

For Starfleet, it was very quickly becoming a losing battle. Unable to concentrate their attack on specific points in the enemy fleet, the Dominion's superior firepower gradually wore down the swifter but less powerful Starfleet vessels. Many of the older Excelsior-class and Miranda-class starships were lost in this phase of the battle, overwhelmed by incoming fire from all sides.

Klingon fleet, Sacrifice of Angels

The Klingons enter the fray

After nearly two hours of sustained close-range combat, the battle was nearly hopeless, with the Starfleet flagship itself near destruction, when a large force of Klingon warships decloaked and slammed into the Dominion's starboard flank. General Martok and Commander Worf had finally convinced Chancellor Gowron to lend his support. The additional firepower of Vor'cha-class attack cruisers and venerable Birds-of-Prey finally tipped the balance in the allies' favor. Many Dominion craft were destroyed during Martok's flank attack, opening a hole in the Dominion lines. Due to this, the Defiant managed to slip past a formation of Jem'Hadar attack cruisers and escape the battlefield, speeding towards Deep Space 9 at maximum warp.

Gul Dukat choose not to order a pursuit of the Defiant, relying instead on the station's defenses to destroy the ship as it approached. Meanwhile, the Dominion lines were beginning to crumble as they were outflanked by the Klingon forces. Dukat chose to have his forces continue fighting, anticipating the destruction of the minefield and the imminent arrival of several thousand Jem'Hadar warships. He believed that any ship lost in the battle would be compensated by those warships' arrival.

After Rom's attempt to sabotage the deflector array, Damar arrested the entire resistance group, except Quark, and put them in the station's brig. Eventually, Quark and Tora Ziyal released the group from the station's brig. Just after their release, Kira and Rom were in a running shootout to the station's weapon control area. When they were pinned down by the Jem'Hadar, Odo and the Bajoran security teams helped them.

When the last mine's self-replication unit was deactivated, Terok Nor immediately destroyed the minefield, eliminating the only impediment to ultimate Dominion victory in a spectacular explosion, just seconds before the Defiant arrived. With practically no options left, Captain Sisko ordered the Defiant to enter the wormhole for a hopeless, last-ditch stand against the incoming enemy forces. On the station, Rom had disabled the weapons systems, although he was, by a matter of a couple of seconds, too late to stop the destruction of the minefield.

Dominion fleet disappears in wormhole

Dominion fleet disappears

In the wormhole, though, an incredible turn of events occurred, one that could be considered nothing short of a miracle. The Bajoran Prophets, the inhabitants of the wormhole, spoke to Captain Sisko – their Emissary. Though enigmatic, the Prophets indicated that they did not wish Sisko to sacrifice his life. Arguing that the approaching Dominion fleet constituted a threat to Bajor, whose people see them as gods, Sisko convinced the noncorporeal beings to intervene, though according to the Prophets a penance would be exacted from Sisko in the future. Moments later, as the Defiant and the Dominion fleet prepared to open fire on each other, all of the Dominion ships simply... disappeared.

The non canon MMO Star Trek Online covered a possible fate of the Dominion fleet.

When the Defiant exited the wormhole alone, the Dominion leaders were first perplexed, then alarmed. Their monitoring outposts in the Gamma Quadrant confirmed that the fleet had entered the wormhole, but there was no sign of them exiting, and no sign that they were still in the wormhole. To the Dominion and the Cardassians, it appeared that the one Starfleet ship had somehow annihilated their entire armada.

The bad news only got worse for the Dominion as, back at the main battle zone, a group of 200 allied ships broke past the Dominion lines and headed toward the station, while the Defiant opened fire. Stunned by the sudden turn of events and unable to fire even on the Defiant because of Rom's too-late sabotage earlier, the Female Changeling ordered an evacuation and retreat to Cardassian territory. Dukat in a near cataclysmic shock at the impossible reversal, was dealt further blows when his half-Bajoran daughter, Tora Ziyal, confessed that she had released the members of the resistance from their holding cells and had had then helped them sabotage the station. This confession led to her being shot by Damar as a traitor. Devastated, Dukat stayed behind on the station with his dying daughter, in the process of a total mental breakdown.

With the station lost, the remaining Dominion forces in the battle zone turned in full retreat back to Cardassian space, bringing the battle to a quick conclusion. All other forces in the Alpha Quadrant retreated as well, allowing the Federation to regain much of its territory as the Dominion rapidly fled.

Aftermath Edit

USS Venture and Excelsiors

Starfleet re-occupies Deep Space 9

The importance of Operation Return to the outcome of the war cannot be underestimated. Had the Dominion established a reliable supply line through the Bajoran wormhole, they would have had a secure industrial base from which to send an enormous number of warships and Jem'Hadar that was unlikely to be reachable by the Federation Alliance.

The battle itself was a major tactical and morale success for the Alliance, as they now had control over the wormhole and that Dominion reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant were now cut off. The Bajoran wormhole would ultimately remain closed to Dominion traffic for the remainder of the war. Following the loss of the station, the Dominion withdrew to Cardassian territory on all fronts to regroup, but the loss of the supply line to its home territories was so significant that the Dominion sued for peace within a few weeks, though this was a ploy to obtain systems with the resources necessary to fuel its war machine. Soon after this, the Dominion recovered rapidly and was launching new offensives into Federation territory shortly afterward, attacking worlds such as Coridan and Betazed. Fortunately, the Romulan Star Empire declared war against the Dominion after the Dominion takeover of Betazed.

The battle was also the beginning of the end of the Dominion's political leadership in the Alpha Quadrant. As a result of the events during the Dominion withdraw from the station, Damar became leader of the Cardassian Union, replacing Dukat. Dukat was an extremely aggressive combat commander, and was willing to work with the Dominion to further his own goals. By contrast, Damar was a far more cautious leader, and only marginally supported his Dominion allies and their strategies. Weyoun's role in the leadership of the Dominion's war effort also became far greater, as opposed to Dukat's aggressive leadership. His inexperience with large-scale military operations, as demonstrated during Dukat's tenure, resulted in the Cardassians taking a back-seat to the Vorta. Damar's place in power lead to the fracturing of the Cardassian Union and the rebellion that would join the allies the following year. (DS9: "Statistical Probabilities", "One Little Ship", "In the Pale Moonlight")

For his crucial role in leading the attack, Benjamin Sisko was awarded the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor. (DS9: "Tears of the Prophets")

Starships present Edit

The following is a partial list of the Federation Alliance starships present at the battle.

Ship Name Registry Class Status
USS Centaur NCC-42043 Centaur-type Unknown USS Centaur
USS Cortez Unknown Unknown Survived
USS Defiant NX-74205 Defiant-class Survived USS Defiant (NX-74205), quarter view
USS Hood NCC-42296 Excelsior-class Survived USS Hood, Sacrifice of Angels
USS Magellan Unknown Unknown Unknown
USS Majestic NCC-31060 Miranda-class Destroyed USS Majestic
IKS Rotarran N/A Klingon Bird-of-Prey Survived IKS Rotarran
USS Sarek Unknown Unknown Unknown
USS Sitak Unknown Miranda-class Destroyed USS Sitak
USS Trial NCC-1948 Miranda-class Survived USS Trial
USS Venture NCC-71854 Galaxy-class Survived USS Venture and Excelsiors

As well as:

Appendices Edit

Related topics Edit

Background information Edit

The name Operation Return comes from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual.

Apocrypha Edit

In the 2003 novel Unity, the Jem'Hadar soldiers who were aboard the starships the Prophets disappeared attack a Queen neural parasite who enters the Celestial Temple.

The non-canon 2006 videogame Star Trek Online also posits a possible fate for the Dominion reinforcements eliminated by the Prophets at Sisko's behest. In the mission series The 2800 (referring to the number of ships in the reinforcement fleet), it is revealed that the Prophets did not destroy the Dominion ships, but instead relocate them nearly 40 years into the future, to the year 2409 (the timeframe of Star Trek Online). Unaware of their temporal displacement and the end of the war, the Jem'Hadar fleet exited the wormhole on the Alpha quadrant side, and attacked Deep Space 9, forcing Starfleet and Klingon forces to evacuate to Bajor.

In the game, players would be assigned to infiltrate the wormhole in a shuttle to contact the present-day Dominion in the Gamma quadrant, who would agree to withdraw the time-displaced fleet occupying Deep Space 9 in exchange for the release of a captured Founder from the Federation prison "Facility 4028".

Unfortunately, despite the demands of the Founder, the Jem'Hadar commander Kar'ukan refused to relinquish the station without a fight. Starfleet and the KDF were forced to deploy their fleets to retake the station by force, and successfully did so, with the assistance of players who infiltrated the station via EV suit spacewalking.

It was during this storyline that the Andorian captain Va'Kel Shon (β) was promoted from the Defiant-class USS Belfast to command of the Odyssey-class USS Enterprise-F (β), successor to the Sovereign-class Enterprise-E, captained by Data following the retirement of Jean-Luc Picard.

External links Edit

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