Third Battle of Tiamat
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This article is about the FPA–Imperial War battle. For the Gaiden arc, see Legend of Galactic Heroes Gaiden.
|Third Battle of Tiamat|
The 11th Fleet attacking the Imperial formation
|Date:||February 795 UC (486 IC / 3595 CE)|
The Third Battle of Tiamat (Japanese: 第三次ティアマト会戦) marked the third major battle in the Tiamat Starzone during the first Alliance–Imperial War. An Imperial fleet under Fleet Admiral Gregor von Mückenberger launched an offensive into the space beyond Iserlohn Fortress was met by a combined force of three Alliance battlefleets. Despite initial Alliance successes, the Imperial reserves under Vice Admiral Reinhard von Müsel turned the tide of the battle with a well-timed counterattack, inflicting devastating losses on one of the Alliance fleets and forcing the other two to retreat.
Order of battle
- 5th Fleet, Vice Admiral Alexandre Bucock, flagship Rio Grande
- 10th Fleet, Vice Admiral Ulanhu, flagship Bang-goo
- 11th Fleet, Vice Admiral Willem Holland, flagship Epimetheus
- The Mückenberger Fleet, Fleet Admiral Gregor von Mückenberger, flagship Wilhelmina
- The Müsel Fleet, Vice Admiral Reinhard von Müsel, flagship Tannhäuser
In December 794 U.C., the Galactic Empire assembled an expeditionary fleet, scheduled to launch on the 30th anniversary of Kaiser Friedrich IV's taking the throne. This was aimed in part at diverting attention from a lack of domestic accomplishments, in part to retaliate against perceived Alliance aggression (particularly the Sixth Battle of Iserlohn), and to avenge the shame of the Imperial defeat at the Battle of Arlesheim. While Fleet Admiral Gregor von Mückenberger opposed the decision at first, he nonetheless led the offensive.
(It is perhaps a minor note that von Mückenberger's father had been killed in the Second Battle of Tiamat, some fifty years earlier)
Shortly after New Year's, von Mückenberger's fleet of 35,400 ships departed the capital, after a review ceremony which the Kaiser attended. Among the subordinate officers of the fleet was newly appointed Vice Admiral Reinhard von Müsel, who saw the operation as an opportunity to gain further renown and successes as part of his grand ambitions.
The fleet proceeded to Iserlohn Fortress, where to Reinhard's dismay it became clear that the Imperial fleet's operational planning was poorly thought out, presuming an easy Imperial victory.
Word of the Imperial attack quickly reached the Alliance via Fezzan. The Alliance deployed patrol units to monitor the Iserlohn Corridor and alert them to the approach of the expeditionary fleet. Due to logistical complications, supplying this fleet proved difficult for the Alliance, which chartered civilian shipping to move supplies to the front.
Fleet Admiral Lobos, in overall command of Alliance forces near the front, was stingy with escorts to protect the transports, since he anticipated needing to keep his forces concentrated for a major battle. This had disastrous results when raiding Imperial cruisers penetrated into the Allied rear and attacked their supply convoys, resulting in the destruction of many of the merchant ships and the Alliance cruiser Grand Canal.
Meanwhile, planning for the Allied fleet response to the expected Imperial attack continued, led largely by Vice Admiral Holland of the 11th Fleet. Holland was a physically imposing man and an extremely aggressive commander, as well as something of a megalomaniac. He viewed this operation as merely the first step on the road to an Alliance conquest of the Empire, and saw himself as the natural choice to lead this conquest- as a natural successor to the great Alliance admiral Bruce Ashbey.
Holland planned to pounce upon the Imperial forces and annihilate them in the Tiamat Starzone before they could penetrate deeper into Alliance space. This was generally accepted by the high command, as it was a good choice for interception of the invading force. Along with Holland's 11th Fleet, the vanguard of the Alliance response would consist of the 5th Fleet and 10th Fleet, commanded by Vice Admirals Bewcock and Ulanhu, respectively. Additional reinforcements from the 4th and 6th Fleets were being organized subject to approval from the National Defence Committee. In all, the Alliance mustered 33,900 ships.
These preparations continued up to the time when the Imperials launched the attack.
By the time the Imperials left Iserlohn in February 795 U.C., the Alliance was already in position to intercept. Of the three fleets of the vanguard, Bewcock was the senior admiral, but Holland insisted on his right to engage in his own tactics without interference, claiming that "If you force me into contrived coordination with other fleets, it will only kill my fleet's strength, and in the end, benefit the enemy." Holland demonstrated that he was extremely optimistic about the Alliance's strategic prospects, fully intending to overcome the Imperial fleets and take the Imperial capital at Odin. Bewcock was extremely sceptical, but Holland dismissed his criticisms- and Bewcock himself- as old and outdated.
The Imperial and Alliance fleets came into contact in fairly predictable formations; von Mückenberger opened fire from a range of eleven light-seconds. Von Mückenberger, not wishing to rely on the young von Müsel, left his fleet in the rear of the Imperial formation. Von Müsel saw this as an opportunity to play the role of the Imperial reserves in the event of a crisis, reaping political benefits.
As the two fleets exchanged long range fire, Holland ordered the 11th fleet to charge the Imperial formation alone. He dismissed objections about the effect on the Alliance formation, saying "I'll show decrepit old people with inflexible brains that lining up ships and exchanging crossfire isn't the only way to fight a battle!"
The Imperials tried to their fire against the 11th Fleet, but Holland's forces proved agile and evasive, eluding the main concentrations of Imperial fire and breaking through the beaten zone into close range. Holland's reckless, amorphous, and energy-intensive fleet manoeuvres threw Imperial coordination out of gear, breaking the Imperial front line- ships even collided trying to get out of the way of the Alliance advance. This drew intense derision and criticism of both sides from von Müsel, who noted that their supply lines were growing overextended.
Von Müsel concluded that the correct response was to fall back before Holland's attack and launch a counterstrike "when the opposition reaches the limit of its activities." However, the end was not yet in sight, and the battle "appeared to be headed for stagnation, and was in the midst of an intense exchange of fire."
Von Müsel's response
As Holland's ships became more entangled with the Imperial formation, von Müsel began to fall back. Holland interpreted this as evidence that the enemy was breaking up, and pressed the attack even more aggressively. Meanwhile, Bewcock, commanding the rest of the Alliance fleet, was prepared to exploit Holland's success if the Imperials should fall apart entirely as a result of Holland's unconventional actions. On the other hand, Bewcock was also beginning to wonder if Holland was being drawn into a trap. The possibility of a trap was even more thoroughly on the mind of Vice Admiral Ulanhu of the 10th Fleet, who noted that "If the Imperial fleet has even one commander with any foresight, he will withdraw from the midst of this chaos and wait for an opportunity to counterattack." Ulanhu counselled that they should restrain Holland before he blundered into an ambush. However, Bewcock concluded that it was impractical to restrain the 11th Fleet, though he tried to warn Holland and order him to withdraw in any case.
In the event, Bewcock was right; the withdrawal orders were ignored. Holland's overconfidence boomed into megalomania as his tactics succeeded, even when Bewcock clearly threatened a court martial for Holland's insubordination, and Holland continued his pursuit of the confused Imperial fleets rather than falling back to consolidate his forces. However, the Imperial main body continued to respond to Holland's chaotic movements in kind, resulting in further confusion and disarray and preventing the bulk of von Mückenberger's fleet from counterattacking effectively themselves.
Von Müsel ordered his fleet to prepare for an "artillery attack:" a concentrated long range barrage from all ships' weapons against a single portion of the enemy fleet. At this point, 11th Fleet found itself stopped, "having reached the limit of their activities." While the precise meaning of this is perhaps unclear- fuel supplies or confusion among Holland's immediate subordinates are possible explanations- the effect was obvious: 11th Fleet stopped advancing and the Imperial main body was able to break contact with them temporarily, leaving von Müsel with a clear line of fire into the Alliance ranks.
Before 11th Fleet could resume the offensive, von Müsel launched his counterstrike. The "artillery attack" concentrated on the centre of Holland's command, including his own flagship Epimetheus, with devastating effect. Holland was killed instantly. After a second artillery attack three minutes later, 11th Fleet broke up in disarray.
Kircheis advised von Müsel to refrain from pursuing the Alliance fleets, with the implication that the glory of chasing the stragglers could be reserved for others, now that von Müsel had won the credit for deciding the outcome of the battle with his well-timed counterblow. The Alliance 5th and 10th Fleets were able to cover the 11th Fleet's withdrawal by presenting a solid defense against Imperial pursuit, prompting von Müsel to acknowledge the talent both enemy commanders possessed. Having accomplished their objective, Imperial forces withdrew from the Tiamat system as additional Alliance reinforcements arrived.
The Allied 11th Fleet was greatly reduced in strength and in need of extensive rebuilding, and it was some time before this fleet could take the field against the Empire again. Holland's responsibility for the disaster was recognized as he did not receive the customary two rank posthumous promotion - as Ulanhu noted afterwards, "it seems Willem Holland failed to become a hero."
The arrival of Allied reinforcements (presumably the 4th and 6th fleets mentioned earlier) led the Imperials to withdraw, but their objective of achieving a propaganda success by defeating an Alliance fleet was accomplished.
Von Müsel made a name for himself during this battle, his first large-scale fleet command- though the success of his artillery attack could be dismissed as luck, the fact remained that he had turned the tide of the battle and turned an Imperial defeat into a victory in just a few short minutes. His promotion to full admiral was all but decided by this. The Kaiser confirmed this promotion, granting von Müsel the rank of Admiral and honorary positions in the Imperial military at the unprecedented young age of 19. In addition, the Kaiser assigned him the experimental battleship Brunhild for a flagship, a gift which von Müsel found most pleasing.