Battle of Harvest
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This article is about the second battle of Harvest in 2526. For other conflicts at Harvest, see Battle of Harvest (disambiguation).
The Battle of Harvest, also known as the Second Battle of Harvest, was an engagement in the Human-Covenant War between the United Nations Space Command and the Covenant, taking place in the Epsilon Indi system. Following the loss of the human Outer Colony of Harvest to the Covenant in 2525, the UNSC assembled a battle group to retake the planet on March 1, 2526. Led by Vice Admiral Preston Cole, UNSC Battle Group X-Ray was ultimately successful in destroying the Covenant forces due to superior numbers and a last-minute tactical maneuver, but suffered heavy casualties in the process.
Having lost a third of the battle group's strength against a single Covenant warship, the empire's strength was now clearly assessed to the UNSC. Having been promoted to admiral, Cole would return to Epsilon Indi with the Third Fleet under his command, meeting the Covenant's Fleet of Glorious Interdiction at Harvest for an extended campaign over the planet.
In February of 2525, the Unified Earth Government Outer Colony of Harvest was discovered and attacked by the Covenant. The planet was partially glassed by the Covenant cruiser Rapid Conversion, though many of Harvest's residents managed to escape their own destruction by fleeing the Epsilon Indi system aboard freighters. In response to the loss of contact with Harvest, the unarmed scout ship CMA Argo was sent to the planet to investigate. When transmissions from the scout ship suddenly ended, the Harvest situation was deemed highly important and a Colonial Military Authority battle group—Battle Group 4—was dispatched to Harvest, fearing that insurrectionist forces had taken control of the agriculture world. Upon arriving at the system, Battle Group 4 was immediately attacked by a Rasus-pattern interdictor. Only CMA Heracles was able to escape destruction and limp back to Reach in the Epsilon Eridani system several weeks later with word of the hostile alien threat.
On November 1, 2525, the UEG's United Nations Space Command was ordered to full alert. In response to the alien threat, the UNSC's Central Command moved to create a battle group of forty warships to retake Harvest. Retired Vice Admiral Preston Cole was selected by Central Command to lead this force; a "fallen hero" that lived a scandalous retirement, Cole served as an easy scapegoat if CENTCOM's counterattack on the Covenant failed. Additionally, Cole was considered to be a brilliant commander during the Insurrection that was willing to sacrifice himself and anyone under his command to complete his task. On November 2, 2525, Lieutenant Commander Jack Hopper and Lieutenant Demos visited Cole and convinced him to lead the battle group. Reinstated as a vice admiral of the UNSC Navy, Cole was given command of Battle Group X-Ray in December of 2525, conceived as the largest assembled fleet at that point in human history. By November 12, 2525, Cole begun preparing himself for the battle. He reviewed data and reports from previous encounters with the Covenant at Harvest and Chi Ceti IV, and realized that Covenant energy shielding would prove to be troublesome in battle. Cole was given the Valiant-class super-heavy cruiser UNSC Everest as his flagship. After ensuring that his crew was battle-tested and competent, he requested numerous modifications to Everest. The artificial intelligence Sekmet was chosen as Cole's shipboard AI on Everest.
On March 1, 2526 at 0120 hours MST, the forty-warship strong UNSC Battle Group X-Ray arrived near Harvest in the Epsilon Indi system. Moving towards the planet, the battle group descended below Harvest's planetary plane and detected a single, stationary Covenant super-destroyer near the planet. Increasing velocity, Vice Admiral Preston Cole plotted a parabolic course to allow the battle group to engage the Covenant warship through a slingshot maneuver around Harvest. Now accelerating towards the ship, Cole ordered the battle group to fire upon the hostile vessel at will. As the UNSC warships fired their Magnetic Accelerator Cannons and hundreds of Archer missiles at their target, the Covenant super-destroyer's powerful energy shielding prevented the ship's nanolaminate hull from taking any damage. Fully realizing the effectiveness of the Covenant warship's energy shielding, Cole assessed that an overwhelming attack from Battle Group X-Ray's entire armaments needed to be used against the super-destroyer to disable its shielding.
The super-destroyer responded to the attack by firing its pulse laser turrets to destroy two UNSC destroyers—UNSC Lance Held High and Sacramento. As the battle group fruitlessly attempted to destroy the Covenant ship by using nuclear weapons, the super-destroyer obliterated five more destroyers: Austerlitz, Campo Grande, Midway, Tharsis, and Virginia Capes. Though a subordinate officer attempted to order a retreat, Cole belayed the order and the battle group continued on its slingshot course around Harvest. As Cole ordered Battle Group X-Ray into a new trajectory towards the Covenant ship, he ordered the battle group to fire their entire armaments upon the super-destroyer. When the UNSC ships approached the Covenant vessel, the super-destroyer began to fire upon the battle group. However, Battle Group X-Ray's warships fired a salvo of MACs upon the super-destroyer, followed by the battle group's entire complement of Archer and Shiva-class nuclear missiles. While the Halcyon-class light cruiser Constantinople and Troy were destroyed and the prow of Lowrentz was damaged by the Covenant ship's plasma armaments, thousands of Archer and Shiva missiles impacted upon the super-destroyer. Another salvo of Covenant plasma destroyed Excellence, Maelstrom, and Waterloo, but the remaining, undamaged twenty-seven warships of Battle Group X-Ray had recharged their MACs. As the second salvo of MACs disabled the Covenant super-destroyer's shielding, the battle group fired its remaining missiles upon the ship's hull, destroying the super-destroyer.
Directly after the destruction of the Covenant super-destroyer, Cole had Battle Group X-Ray veer away from the remains of the alien ship and begin searching for survivors of the thirteen UNSC warships lost in battle. With the loss of thirteen ships in contrast to the Covenant's one super-destroyer, Cole realized the disparity between UNSC and enemy losses "did not bode well". Regardless, the Office of Naval Intelligence's Section II propaganda exaggerated the victory to encourage enlistment with the UNSC Armed Forces; initially the foe was claimed to be an insurrectionist weapon platform that had captured Harvest's communications satellites, but this was later recanted. After the battle, Cole returned to Earth where he was promoted to admiral. The Covenant were undaunted by their defeat. The High Prophet of Regret ordered for the "Victory of Epsilon Indi" to be celebrated through fasting and prayer; Kig-Yar and Unggoy food rations were eliminated for the following three work periods, while Sangheili and Jiralhanae were ordered to spend two rest periods in public prayer. Those who "failed their duty at the Victory" were publicly executed.
After the battle, UNSC leadership eventually decided to reveal the Covenant to the public. After Cole's success at Harvest, ONI's Strategic Response Unit decided to put Cole in charge of a large majority of the UNSC Navy with the intention of using him as a scapegoat if the Covenant proved to be unstoppable. Now hailed as the "Hero of Harvest", Cole was given command of the Third Fleet and proceeded to lead a series of naval engagements against the Covenant between 2526 and 2532, sometimes referred to as the "Cole Campaigns". As the Covenant continued to swarm the Outer Colonies, Rapid Conversion had finally returned to Covenant space. In response to the human threat, the High Prophet of Regret organized the Fleet of Glorious Interdiction to return to Harvest, led by Arbiter Ripa 'Moramee. With both sides still unaware of the true military strength and size of their opponent, the Harvest campaign begun as the UNSC attempted to permanently remove the Covenant from Harvest. Cole returned to lead UNSC forces at Harvest, but his fleet became entangled in a vicious siege as they continued to battle the Covenant in the five-year long campaign in the Epsilon Indi system. After many years of fighting, the UNSC was able to eventually defeat the Covenant at Harvest for a second time. By 2552, the Battle of Harvest was recognized as a Pyrrhic UNSC victory, a battle that grimly proved the strength of the UNSC's newfound foe.
The presence of forty UNSC ships against one overwhelmingly powerful enemy vessel strikes a remarkable resemblance to the Battle of Wolf 359 from the Star Trek universe, in which a fleet of forty Federation starships engaged a single Borg cube. However, the outcomes of these battles differ: the Federation lost all but one of its vessels yet caused no damage to the cube. This very well may be a deliberate Star Trek reference.
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