"An Oral History of the Great Space War"
/2 Excerpt from ‘Last Stand over Desolation’- A Strategic Overview of the Naval Battle of V335 and a review of Elai Naval Tactics.” RADM (Ret) Victor Khrushchev UEAN, Former commanding officer of the UEAN Indefatigable and UEA Naval Academy Commandant.
/3 The fighting in System Victor 335, better known to the general public as ‘Desolation’ has entered into the lore of the United Earth Alliance and cemented its place in our military history.
/4 While there were many acts of valor in both space and ground based combat in that early stage in the war, it is important to remember that there are two sides to every conflict.
/5 The Elai, while outgunned and outclassed, fought heroically and desperately to cover the retreat of their forces from the planets surface. This is their story.
/6 For clarity, this work is presented as accounted in a series of interviews from the perspectives of the surviving commanders on both sides, and clarified by the author as needed.

Part One: Prelude to Battle
/7 Interview:
Commander Jerry Halstead UEANR (Ret) , former commander of the UEAN Destroyer ‘Slash’.

Wintersville, Ohio, Earth. November 5, 2256
/8 Commander Jerry Holmbeck is a thin, emaciated man. His eyes are sunken, but flash bright blue when he speaks. He sits in a wheelchair, with a blanket over his lap and a thick cardigan to ward off the November winds.
/9 When he speaks, his voice is surprisingly clear, a commanding baritone that belies his fragile physical condition.
/10 “We jumped into the system as part of the screening force. The force was myself in the Slash as DESDIV One Commander, and Mitch Doyle in the Bolo as the DESDIV Two Commander. That gave us nine destroyers, and the ‘Thera’ which was a fast frigate.”
/11 He paused, and shook his head. “No, don’t ask me why they named it after an island who’s sole claim to fame was blowing up and killing everyone on it. A dumb premise for a warship name, but it was named by the Greek government,they march to the beat of their own drum."
/12 He shook his head. "Anyway, we went to war with the ships they sent us. “ The man sipped the cup of coffee in front of him and looks out over the quiet suburban neighborhood in front of him.
/13 The leaves on the trees have turned to golden yellow and are starting to fall, lying in a thick carpet on the sidewalks and blowing when the aircars slide silently by.
/14 After a moment, he suddenly spoke again, “Right after we jumped in, the two destroyer divisions fanned out, per doctrine. We were scanning on all bands, frequencies and had every spare rating with eyes on scopes trying to locate the Elai fleet.” He pauses and shook his head.
/15 “We found them, or what we THOUGHT was their main battle fleet about a third of the way between the jump point and the belt. Boy, were we wrong about that. ” He paused, took a sip of his coffee and pulled his cardigan closer against the cool November air.
/16 “So, we push a jump drone back through the point, telling the battlecruisers and heavy cruisers to pop through, that we have sighted the main Elai fleet. A few minutes later, they jump into the system. Rear Admiral Cargill& the ‘Pursuit Force’.” The man shook his disgustedly.
/17 “So, Cargill is in the Formidable…” Catching the interviewers expression, he added.
/18 “Yeah, THAT Formidable. Just cause it’s a legendary ship doesn't mean it always has legendary commanders, right? I can say that now. I’m a pensioner. What’s the Navy gonna do to me? Take my legs away? Ha!”
/19 He rapped his leg, producing a dull, hollow noise as his knuckles hit the plastic of the prosthetics.
The man grinned and continued.
/20 “So, in the grand fighting spirit of the Earth Alliance Navy, and dunderheaded Admirals everywhere, Cargill orders a charge. And I don’t mean a methodical fleet approach; I mean a wild ass, ‘Go-get-em’, balls to the wall, damn the torpedoes type of charge.”
/21 The man made a contemptuous noise. “Dumbass. What did he think this was? The old wet navy?”
/22 He paused for a second,then added,“What do they call those mechanical dolls that those racing dogs used to chase? A rabbit? It was like that. The Elai apparently knew WAY more about us than we did about them. They knew we’d chase ‘em- all they had to do was provide a rabbit.”
/23 He looked up, watching a child weaving wildly on a bike go by on the street. He smiled, then spoke again without looking at the interviewer.
/24 “We had ‘em on technology. Gun for gun, with experienced captains their heavy cruisers probably had a decent chance against our lighter ships. Same with their heaviest battleships against our cruisers. Desolation should have been a slaughter.”
/25 The man turned his gaze from the peaceful street and looked the interviewer in the eyes. “What we didn’t have ‘em on is smarts. See, the Elai aren’t as advanced technologically as us." He leaned forward, his piercing eyes locked onto the interviewers.
/26 "Our mistake was in thinking that they because they weren’t as technologically advanced as us that they weren’t as SMART as us.”
/27 Heaving a deep sigh, the man sipped from his coffee cup, fell silent for a moment. Suddenly he continues.
“Mines. It was mines first." He looked down at his cup then back up.
/28 "Not to really hurt us, you know. It was to piss us off and get us good and mad so we’d chase them. We lost the Riposte, and the Katana to mines right away. Once we knew where to look, they were easy enough to see. It looked like a hasty minefield, dropped in desperation."
/29 He shook his head again. "Which is, of course what they wanted it to look like. We radioed back to the pursuit force and then changed course to avoid them. We went ‘up’ and DESDIV Two went ‘down’. Space is all relative, you know. We basically went around it.” He half smiled,
/30 “So, the Elai ships are hauling ass for the belt when one of the big ones, their equivalent of a battleship, has a drive signature change. The sensor readings indicate she’s blown part of her core coolant system.
/31 So that ship slowed and so did a bunch of their other units, not wanting to leave her behind." He drained the coffee cup. "Again, it made sense. We wouldn't leave a damaged ship behind, why would they?"
/32 He set the empty coffee cup on the rail of the porch and grimaced. He reached down to his wheelchair and pushed a button then continued,
/33 “So anyway, Admiral Cargill, may he eternally suck vacuum, orders us to slow to one third so the Pursuit Force can catch up. Didn't want us 'Getting cut off and destroyed when we got there first.'." The anger is clear in his voice.
/34 "Now, this is completely in violation of pursuit doctrine. We were the fleet screen force! We’re supposed to run into trouble first!”
/35 His thin hand balled into a fists as he recalled the next series of events. His voice was steady and even.
/36 “So, we slow to one third and link up with the Pursuit Force, then we all go after this apparent damaged battleship of theirs which incidentally, is making juuuuust enough speed to stay out of the Pursuit Forces engagement envelope. Convenient." He shook his head again.
/27 "Jenna, my XO, mentioned that. She worried that it might be a trap. I considered it too, but when I called Cargill on the Formidable, one of his staff pukes told me that they considered the possibility low and to carry out my orders. So we carried out our orders.”
/38 He shakes his head, and falls silent. A nurse clad in navy blue scrubs comes out and sees the empty coffee cup. With a smile, replaced it with a fresh one, and a small paper cup with several pills in it. He thanks her, tosses the pills back, washing them down with coffee.
/39 “Anyway, I guess you know what happens next. We get about fifty thousand klicks from the edge of the asteroid belt, and they open fire, and they are accurate. Like WAY more accurate than the Naval Intel said." His voice is dry and flat.
/40 The Formidable took a couple hard hits right away and started venting coolant and atmosphere. Few seconds later, the Empress Xiang blew the hell up, then the Tripura. Bunch of the other cruisers and battlecruisers got shot all to hell." With a wry look he added,
/41 Apparently the battlecruisers despite the pre-war theories, could NOT withstand Elai main battery fire.”
He sniffed, and fished a battered handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his nose, then absently tucked it away.
/42 “Well, we were in a pickle. I mean, not us. The Elai weren’t stupid. Who’s gonna waste rounds on a destroyer? But the big boys were getting lit up. So Cargill orders a torpedo run so they can break contact.”
/43 He shakes his head grimly. “That’s when we earned our pay. The eight remaining ships of the screening force burned hard towards what we can see now looks like every capitol ship in enemy space and dump every torpedo we have available.”
/44 He smiles grimly. “We didn’t see it, of course, but apparently we got a buncha hits. Knocked out a quite a few small ships, put a few dents in the big ones,and bought just enough time for the Pursuit Force to get turned around and get moving the hell outta there.”
/45 The smile faded. The former officer gets a distant look on his face. His voice seems sad and distant.
/46 “Somewhere about then we got hit amidships. Probably a round from a cruiser main gun.Knocked our engines offline, took out gravity, weapons,sensors, almost everything.I ordered the crew to the lifeboats and the core ejected, but it blew about fifty clicks away from the hull.”
/47 He looks down at the scarred backs of his hands. “Hell of a blast, and a hell of a dose of radiation. I was thrown into a console, cracked my head and was out of the fight." He shrugged.
/48 "I guess a couple of my sailors dragged me to a lifeboat. I woke up in the Fleet Hospital on Tau Ceti missing my legs, half my crew and with some pretty bad radiation burns.”
/49 He looked out at the winds whipping the leaves in the quiet street. “Tell you the truth, I don’t know if what we did made a huge difference. I know we…” His voice broke.
/50 “I mean, I tried like hell. All I know for sure is that my crew was counting on me to get them home, and I failed them.“ He looks down at his emaciated body and blanket covered legs, and folds his hands, and lapses into silence.
/51 AUTHOR’S NOTE: Commander Jerry Halstead died three days after this interview was conducted. He is survived by his wife Angela and his two children, Cory and Danica.
/52 His decorations include the Navy Cross with a V device, the Fleet Meritorious Service Medal with a starburst cluster, and the Purple Heart. He is interred in the veterans section of the Cross Creek Cemetery, in Wintersville, Ohio in the Old United States. He was 37.
/53

///END///

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