When the galaxy entered the 28th century, the careful balance of power between the three superpowers was deemed by the leadership of all three states to be stable and immovable. Indeed, the balance was believed to guarantee peace between the competing ideologies of National Conservatism, Dijonist Communism and Oligarchal Technocracy. Each power knew that instigating a conflict would bring the other two against it, ensuring defeat. Assuming perfect rationality and perfect information, the plan was infallible.
But humans are not perfect.
The tiny world of Neu Stuttgart IV would, in most circumstances, be a backwater. It provided little in the way of resources, its population was significant enough to put it on the map but otherwise unimpressive, and its industrial base laughable by galactic standards. However, the factors of history placed it in a strategically desirable position: right between the Coalition of Western Republics and the Conseil of Workers' Systems, two of the behemoths which competed over the galaxy. The placement of the Neu Stuttgart system ensured that whoever captured it would have a safe way to system-hop into their rival's territory. This ensured that the Coalition and Conseil both kept a close eye on the happenings of Neu Stuttgart IV, which itself was split between native capitalist and communist powers. But Neu Stuttgart IV was merely one possible flashpoint among thousands scattered throughout the galaxy. Nobody knew it would be the catalyst for the most destructive war in human history.
The spark occurred in 2740 when Charles I, Emperor of Milleaux and leader of the primary pro-Coalition power, attempted to unite his nation with the leading pro-Conseil power, the Euskadi Democratic Republic. This was to be accomplished via arranged marriage, opposed by the Princess of Milleaux, Kimberly Adelina Paquet, the Euskadi Premier's bride-to-be. Unification between the two states, and subsequently an end to the Neu Stuttgart IV cold war and superpower influence in the system, was unacceptable to both the Coalition and Conseil. While the marriage went through as planned, the creation of the so-called Mittelland Union State was delayed by the Milleauxese senate. While this political union was also successful, the delays enough time for a still-unidentified group of assassins, most likely agents of one of the superpowers, to kill Charles I and two of his sons. Kimberly I ascended to the throne, divorced her husband and declared war on the despised Euskadi, whom she suspected of the plot. The Mittelland Union State fractured almost immediately, triggering Neu Stuttgart IV's alliance system and starting a world war.
The beginning of the Neu Stuttgart IV War alarmed the politicians and military planners of the Coalition and Conseil. While over a dozen world wars could be going on at any given time in the galaxy, Neu Stuttgart IV’s strategic position meant that whoever triumphed in the war would have an edge in the galactic great game. Both superpowers happily provided their client states with weapons and money, but both were wary of direct intervention because of the consequences it could have. While neither power cared about the insignificant costs of fighting a planetary war, it could spark a greater galactic conflict.
However, military incompetence on the part of the Milleauxese forced greater Coalition intervention. Intent on commanding her armies herself, Kimberly I attempted to micromanage the entire war effort from her throne, causing disastrous defeats at the hands of the Euskadi. The Coalition gradually sent advisers, first to train the Milleauxese in the art of modern warfare, and later to fight the battles themselves. However, this was not enough, and the Coalition responded by sending more and more troops to Neu Stuttgart IV. The Conseil responded in kind, sending their own forces to Neu Stuttgart IV; by the end of the war on Neu Stuttgart IV, most battles were fought between Coalition and Conseil troops. By 2746, the Milleauxese state was in near-collapse, and Kimberly I was forced offworld, command of the country being taken over by the Coalition military. This move was opposed by the Milleauxese themselves, who had no desire of becoming part of the Coalition. This cased mass revolts against the million or so Coalition troops on Neu Stuttgart IV, forcing a retreat to Alvenzi Island, the Coalition’s base on the planet.
By this point in the war, the Coalition was desperate. It desired not to win Neu Stuttgart IV, but to deny it to the Conseil. With most of the planet under communist control, the Coalition planned a desperate last stand on Alvenzi Island. In order to lure communist forces to the island and to keep them on-world, the Directorate of State Security fabricated reports indicating that a xeno-crafted doomsday device lay deep within the island. The Coalition gave orders to fight to the last man, with no retreats permitted. Meanwhile, in orbit, the Coalition Navy positioned an entire battlefleet around Neu Stuttgart IV. On November 8th, 2746, Battlefleet Tripoli was issued an order to scour the world of all life. Tens of thousands of nuclear missiles rained down over Neu Stuttgart IV, reducing it to a radioactive husk. While this succeeded in stopping the Conseil from taking the world, it also forced the Conseil’s hand. Neither side could continue to ignore what was abundantly clear: the Coalition and Conseil were at war. Continuing to deny war threatened mass uprisings within both sides’ militaries, as a desire to exact vengeance and defeat the enemy had been growing through the ranks since the beginning of hostilities in 2740. As a result, on December 1st, 2746, the Conseil of Workers’ Systems issued a declaration of war against the Coalition of Western Republics, denouncing its "nuclear genocide" against the people of Neu Stuttgart IV. The Galactic War had begun.
The Beginning of the War
The official declaration of war between the Coalition and the Conseil immediately enacted hundreds of thousands of war plans. Drilled into the minds of all military personnel in the Springfield Pact and Communist International for generations, these plans were ready to go as soon as the news of war arrived. Fighting on Neu Stuttgart IV had already put the two sides on high alert, so it took little time for some of the most intense fighting in human history to break out all throughout the galaxy.
The first countries to go to war were those in the Inner Sphere, the area of the galaxy surrounding the Sol System. Although devastated by the Collapse, this area still held large human populations and powerful states that could field armies hundreds of millions strong. The Kassel Confederation and the People’s Republic of Cymaline, the two most powerful states in the area save for the superpowers themselves, mobilized first. Within three weeks, massive battlefleets were already bombarding frontier fortifications in an attempt to destroy their counterparts as quickly as possible.
The Confederates proved quicker, and the two militaries met in the Breline system. A Cymalian industrial and military center, the Breline system was deemed strategically important by top Springfield Pact strategists. Breline III, a warm agricultural world, was the first target of the Confederate forces, so the world could provide their troops with food in-system. Although the Confederates managed to take the planet, the campaign took them a year, while they expected resistance to crumble in three months. This allowed Communist forces on Breline IV, the more densely-populated industrial world, to prepare, which proved to be the Confederates’ downfall. The Communists also pursued a scorch earth policy, saturating the atmosphere with cobalt-salted nuclear warheads in order to render the planet useless.
The Siege of Breline IV would define the early campaigns of the Inner Sphere. The Confederates, used to quick “lighting warfare,” became bogged down in the sprawling reinforced cityscape of Breline IV. The Cymalians had anticipated that the Confederates would attempt to take the world, and had spent decades reinforcing it with a myriad of trench systems and underground bunkers. Even high-yield nuclear weapons proved ineffective, unless used in mass numbers that would render the planet useless anyway. Although pressured by their Coalition allies to destroy the planet and move on, the Confederates insisted that they could take the planet and that Breline IV was necessary for supplying continued operations in Cymaline. So strong was their conviction that they refused Coalition assistance, in order to keep operational command for themselves.
The battle would end up as the Confederation’s most humiliating defeat. The six-year long siege took over a hundred million Confederate lives, and only succeeded in turning Breline IV into an irradiated ball of ash. The Siege of Breline IV forever broke the back of the Confederation’s military, forcing them to rely on the Coalition military for the rest of the war. The Cymalians were also exhausted, although fighting a defensive war allowed them to maintain more of their pre-war military. The same situation would repeat itself throughout the Inner Sphere, as the local militaries depleted themselves and became dependent on their superpower backer.
Ironically, the Galactic War was welcomed by the top echelons of the Coalition and the Conseil. Both Supreme Director Michael Applegate and General Secretary Louise I feared an internal revolt from somewhere within the vast governmental apparatus, as their various intelligence services reported that their rivals were plotting something nefarious. Not wishing to end up as the next entry in a long list of deposed leaders, both Applegate and Louise I independently considered the possibility of starting a major war and using this as a distraction and a pretense to rid themselves of treasonous elements. However, fearing that a joint conspiracy would never work, no plans were ever drafted.
The Galactic War gave both leaders the opportunity to discuss the possibility of using the war to their advantage, and as soon as trust was established between the two a general plan was drafted. Neither side would fully commit its forces, both to ensure that superweapons that could shatter both countries would be used and to ensure that the war would last for as long as possible. This plan would be executed on a macroscopic level; if one side began to lose ground in one area, the leaders would use their power as commander-in-chief of the armed forces to commit forces elsewhere and ensure the offensive goes nowhere. In the meanwhile, potential subversive elements, distracted by their wartime duties, would be hunted down and eliminated.
The question of the then-neutral United Technocracies was resolved by convincing them to enter as a third faction. Both the Coalition and Conseil had determined that Generalissimo Windsor, a high-ranking Party official within the Ministry of Peace, was facing serious challenges from his rivals. It was determined that Windsor would be a useful co-conspirator in a three-way conflict, which would ensure that no side became too dominant. Coalition and Conseil agents were sent to System 14 to bring the United Technocracies into the wartime conspiracy, and to the delight of Columbia Prime and Karl-Marx-Welt Generalissimo Windsor accepted the plan. Now all that was necessary was a pretense for the Technocracies’ entry to the war.
While it was agreed that the United Technocracies would enter the war, there needed to be a legitimate casus belli. The justification for the United Technocracies' entry into the Galactic War originated not in the main battlefields of the galaxy, but far off in the chaotic fringe. There, the Second 240-300 War had been raging since the 2600s. Fought between weak interstellar powers which were limited in industrial capability, the war there provided such strange sights as cavalry charges supported by orbital bombardment. In the 240-300 region, the alliance system that dominated the galaxy did not necessarily apply. The Republic of China, a member of the Communist International, was supported by the Coalition’s Operation Condor against the Technocracy-backed Kingdom of South Anglia. It was the war against South Anglia that provided the spark for the United Technocracies’ entry into the Galactic War.
In 2747, the Coalition conducted Operation Hibernia, an attempt to capitalize on the gains made against the South Anglians. Operation Hibernia attempted to utilize a powerful force that had, until that point, opposed both sides in the war: Roman Catholics, mostly of Irish descent. Marginalized for centuries and placed into ghettoes after an attempted revolution in 2698, the Catholics living under both South Anglia and Protectorate of Lancaster were more than happy to rise up and fight against their oppressors. Colonel Marcus Hale, the Coalition commander in charge of Operation Condor, believed that siding with the Catholics would secure victory against the South Anglians. Although a devout follower of the State Church and bigoted toward any Christian who looked to leadership elsewhere, Hale could not rely on additional Coalition support because of the Galactic War and had to work with what was available to him in the region. While the Coalition forces made peace with the Catholics and promised them an independent state from South Anglian territory, Lancaster refused to cooperate with them, and so Hale was forced to work around his allies and arm and train the Catholics with his own resources.
These Catholic militias were to attack the South Anglian spaceport of New Belfast. While Hale had symbolic reasons for picking the target, as it was named after the first victim of a nuclear attack, New Belfast was also a major trading outpost with the United Technocracies. As the United Technocracies had established a fortress, Fort 807, within the city, Lancaster forces refused to attack it. Hale knew that his forces would not be able to neutralize the fortress and secure New Belfast all on their own, and so to bolster his numbers, Hale counted on the Catholic militias to launch an attack against New Belfast after Coalition forces assaulted Fort 807.
In January of 2747, the attack was launched. 500 Coalition Marines, led by Hale himself, landed in the premises of Fort 807. As Fort 807 was defended by 800 Minipax Commandos, the Coalition forces faced very heavy resistance, taking 30% casualties before finally securing the fortress. However, the feelings of success turned to despair as South Anglian troops stormed through the fortress walls from without. The Catholics did not launch their attack, and South Anglian forces were free to launch a counterattack against the Coalition. The fight to retake Fort 807 lasted for three days, as Coalition forces constantly asked for support in vain. On the third day, a detachment of Minipax Commandos landed and finally broke through the Coalition defenses. Fifty Coalition Marines were captured, including Hale and most of his command staff. The captured Coalition forces were taken back to the United Technocracies, where they were tortured for months and forced to admit Coalition involvement in the Second 240-300 War in public before being executed. The United Technocracies claimed that the attack on Fort 807 as illegal aggression and demanded that all Pactist forces retreat from the 240-300 area lest they risk “dire consequences.” The Coalition government, outraged by the torture and execution of Coalition military personnel, refused. On April 8th, 2747, the United Technocracies declared war on the Coalition.
The Sol System was the birthplace of man and the graveyard of empires. For centuries, both prior to and after the Collapse, great powers attempted to take complete control of the system. And until 2739, all had failed. That changed when the Coalition brought its might against the cradle of the human race.
The decision to conquer Earth was made because of a political struggle occurring tens of thousands of lightyears away. Supreme Director Michael Applegate was elected to his office by the Coalition Council as a compromise. Applegate was viewed as a weak man who could easily be dominated by one of the Coalition's many political factions, hence the various factions' agreement to elect him. Applegate was determined to show the Coalition that he was a strong leader who would not let anyone get in his way. He therefore made it his administration's goal to do the impossible: conquer Earth.
The invasion, using the flimsy pretense of defending an American successor state in South America, was successful through the use of uncompromising brutality. Orbital saturation bombardment was used for months before the first landings. The occupation was equally brutal, with mutants and regular humans suspected of harboring anti-Coalition guerrillas killed indiscriminately. Applegate used the war as an opportunity to purge his enemies, but these purges only caused more instability and opposition to his rule, forcing him to resort to war with the Conseil.
In the beginning of the Galactic War, the Sol System was in Coalition hands. Although strategically unimportant, the Conseil desired to take the system for propaganda purposes. However, such efforts had to wait until the rest of the fronts were secure, something which did not happen until decades after the Galactic War's start. In 2771, an entire battlefleet, carrying five army groups, was sent to "liberate" Earth and the rest of the Sol System. The impending Conseil invasion was used by the Coalition to bring local powers, such as the United Martian Directorate and the Saturnian Technocracies, onto their side. The Coalition also redirected Battlefleet Coral Sea, which was intended to launch an attack into Cymaline, against the impending Conseil invasion.
Seeking glory, the Conseil forces under Marshal Patrice Mercier made a beeline for Earth. Coalition forces under Admiral Dietrich Weiss elected to allow the Conseil through, hoping to trap their planetary forces on Earth after they had landed on Earth en masse. However, Weiss underestimated the Conseil force's size, and after three months of fighting the Conseil had secured the entirety of the Eurasian and African continents. The Conseil fleet positioned itself in orbit around Earth and established a major naval base on Luna, preventing Battlefleet Coral Sea from relieving Coalition forces on Earth.
Quickly running out of resources, Coalition forces on Earth under Major Carl Peel issued Directive 85: the militarization of every single asset in Coalition hands. Persecution of mutants was to stop immediately, and they were to be armed to aid in the defense of Earth. Negotiators were sent out to guerrilla groups, promising peace and serious consideration of reforms if they would take up arms against the Conseil enemy. Children as young as seven and men and women as old as seventy were conscripted and armed. Those that resisted were converted into CMIs. Bodies were to be collected from battlefields, so their equipment may be recycled and the corpses themselves reduced to nutritious slurry for the troops. Those that were not fighting were to aid in the war effort, normally through factory work, and disobedience or poor work was grounds for immediate conscription. Peel also issued Directive 86, which called for the utilization of "all available stratagems" in the war. This included frequent raids into Conseil supply depots, the literal cannibalization of fallen Conseil soldiers to alleviate food shortages, and the public torture of captured enemy combatants to destroy morale.
In the meanwhile, Admiral Weiss requested more ships in order to retake Earth, but Columbia Prime refused. The rest of the Coalition Navy was busy elsewhere in the galaxy in campaigns against the Conseil and United Technocracies. Weiss could not move from his current position, or stop his harassment campaign, as otherwise Mercier would be free to use his fleet assets to bombard the remaining Coalition resistance. Eventually, Weiss' impatience overrode his caution, and he decided to send the bulk Battlefleet Coral Sea into battle in 2778. The battle over Earth was one of the greatest in the Galactic War, seeing over fifteen hundred vessels fighting one another. As the battle was fought in relatively close ranges, many downed ships and discharged munitions were captured by Earth's gravity, bombarding the planet with toxic and radioactive materials. This did not include nuclear, chemical and biological bombardment that both fleets indulged in when they had the opportunity.
After the battle, Admiral Weiss used his ship, the George Washington, to end the battle. One of the few John D. Rockefeller-class battleships in service at the time, the George Washington served as Battlefleet Coral Sea's flagship. After destroying much of the Conseil fleet, Weiss attempted to relieve Major Peel's forces by firing the ship's main cannon at the Alps, which had been converted by the Conseil into a fortress. The five hundred-ton coilgun slug obliterated the Conseil fortress and threw up enough dust into Earth's atmosphere to kill almost all plant life on the planet and create a new ice age. With the Coalition gaining orbital superiority, the Conseil were slowly bombed, starved and frozen to death, while Major Peel's forces were bolstered by troops assigned to Battlefleet Coral Sea. In 2779, Earth was once again under the cog and star, but the devastated planet was worthless to the Coalition. Admiral Weiss left a single division to "protect" the planet, and the rest of the Coalition forces were sent to fight the Conseil elsewhere.