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|Battle of Caernarvon IV|
|Part of Dominion War|
|Result:||Tactical Federation victory|
The Battle of Caernarvon IV is often forgotten next to the larger battles of the Dominion War such as Operation Return, First Chin'toka, and Second Chin'toka, but it was an important early battle of the war for three important reasons. First, the Caernarvon system occupied an important strategic position between the Ninth and Third Fleets based at Starbase 375 and the Klingon Expeditionary Fleet. A swift Dominion strike taking the Caernarvon system would have allowed Cardassian and Jem'Hadar fleets to split the allies, threatening the defeat in detail of the Federation/Klingon forces. Second, Caernarvon IV possessed a moderately large, for a frontier outpost, civilian population comprised heavily of scientists, some of whom were engaged in research potentially sensitive to Federation interests. Lastly, the Battle of Caernarvon IV, along with other operations, served as an important distraction, helping to pave the way for Captain Sisko's raid on the primary Dominion ketracel-white storage depot in the Alpha Quadrant. (Star Trek: Sutherland: "Absent Friends")
- USS Sutherland, a Nebula-class starship.
- USS Renown, an Excelsior-class starship under the command of Captain T'Mas.
- USS Bozeman, a Soyuz-class border cutter under the command of Captain Morgan Bateson.
- USS Scamp, an Albacore-class border cutter under the command of Captain Boris Rodenko.
- USS Belize, a Miranda-class starship converted into an attack transport under the command of Captain Leland Richards.
- The Sutherland's two runabouts, Loire and Rhone were also tasked to participate in the battle.
Captain Shelby's orders were to evacuate the civilian population of Caernarvon IV and to hold the system until either relieved or instructed to withdraw.
Her arrival in system several hours before the Dominion forces made their appearance allowed Captain Shelby the opportunity to prep the field of battle. She mined the Oort cloud and asteroid belt, using Mk 23 torpedoes and photon torpedoes as mobile mines. The Mk 23 torpedoes, while ineffective against the more powerful shields of the Cardassian and Jem'Hadar cruisers and frigates, were able to cripple or knock out any of the smaller and more vulnerable attack shuttles and transports. She then hid the Scamp along with the runabouts Loire and Rhone in the asteroid belt with orders to attack any vessels disabled by the mines. Renown and Sutherland would then serve to tie up the larger enemy warships while Bozeman would cover the withdrawal of the civilians via shuttlecraft to the Belize once the transporter buffers on the ground were activated. Lieutenant Nyota Dryer was then placed in command of a ground contingent supplied by all five starships and was tasked with the mission of covering the withdrawal of the civilians from attack by Dominion ground forces.
A Cardassian/Jem'Hadar assault force consisting of four Galor-class cruisers, at least eight Cardassian frigates, two Jem'Hadar attack fighters, and two Cardassian assault transports with full complements of troop landing shuttles warped into the Caernarvon system as the Sutherland task force was carrying out its evacuation of the civilian population. As planned, several of the Cardassian attack transports and shuttles were disabled or destroyed either by Shelby's minefield or by the attacks of the Scamp and the runabouts. The Scamp's triumph was, however, short lived as Cardassian frigates turned on the border cutter and its escorts, severely damaging the Loire and the Scamp with Rodenko losing over half his crew and destroying the Rhone with the loss of all hands.
As anticipated, the Galor-class ships, along with several of the frigates, targeted the Sutherland and Renown. After destroying one Galor in a coordinated attack with Sutherland, the Renown fell under intense fire from a Galor accompanied by at least four frigates while the two other surviving Galors occupied the Sutherland. After severely damaging one of the attacking Galors as well as destroying at least one attacking frigate, the Renown fell to the Cardassian's concentrated assault, suffering catastrophic damage with the loss of all hands. Witnessing the death of the Renown, Captain Shelby ordered the destruction of the Galor that had killed the Excelsior-class ship and its crew and then turned to face the remaining Cardassian forces. Determined to go down fighting, the Sutherland destroyed one of the two Galors it now faced as well as at least one frigate before the Nebula-class starship's shields finally collapsed. Withdrawing with her surviving bridge crew to the auxiliary control room, Captain Shelby, having decided that surrender was not an option, made ready to repel boarders and, if need be, to destroy her ship to prevent its capture by the Cardassians.
Two other smaller, yet, equally important, battles took place simultaneously as the battle between the larger warships was being waged. The first battle involved the Bozeman and its efforts to protect the shuttlecraft carrying the evacuated civilians to the Belize. From his hiding place at the north magnetic pole, Captain Bateson spotted two small Jem'Hadar attack fighters zeroing in on the shuttlecraft. Moving swiftly, the Bozeman intercepted the Jem'Hadar Bugs, destroying one before the two attack fighters could react. The other fighter, as Bateson had hoped, turned away from the shuttles to attack him. Through skillful tactics and piloting, the Bateson was able to occupy the enemy craft, keeping the Jem'Hadar's attention focused on his ship as the civilian withdrawal continued. His actions, however, carried an expensive price tag as the Bozeman suffered severe damage with Bateson losing over a quarter of his crew.
The second battle was a ground action fought on Caernarvon IV as Cardassian and Jem'Hadar troops attempted to overrun the defensive positions set up by Lieutenant Dryer. Like her captain, Lieutenant Dryer took full advantage of the time she had before the arrival of the Dominion forces to prepare the ground for battle. She set up a minefield and two lines of defenses to slow up the attacking troops, hopefully giving enough time for Doctor Murakawa to evacuate the last of the refugees. Although taking heavy losses from both the mines and the concentrated defensive fire put out by the Starfleet forces, the Dominion forces succeeded in forcing Lieutenant Dryer to fall back to her final line of defense as Doctor Murakawa was preparing to board the last of the evacuees on to the shuttles. Realizing that an attempt to withdraw her forces back to the shuttles would probably result in the Cardassians and Jem'Hadar either capturing or destroying the evacuating shuttlecraft before they could take off, Lieutenant Dryer ordered Dr. Murakawa to leave with the last of the evacuees. As the doctor reluctantly complied with Lieutenant Dryer's orders, the lieutenant prepared to meet the final assault of the Dominion forces, falling, along with the rest of her troops in the ensuing attack.
Just as the battle on the ground had ended and the battle in space appeared to have been decided, a Klingon fleet led by the battlecruiser T'Ong arrived on the scene, forcing the severely depleted Dominion forces to withdraw. Relief had arrived, Caernarvon IV was held, but a terrible price in blood had been paid.
Although she and her task force had taken severe losses, Captain Shelby not only bought the time needed to evacuate all the civilians from Caernarvon IV, including the all-important scientists and their families, but also deprived the Dominion forces of their narrow window of opportunity to divide the allied forces. She, and the other captains and their crews, gave Starfleet and the Klingon Defense Forces the time needed to firm up and deepen their defensive lines as well as contributing indirectly towards the success of Sisko's raid by occupying the attention of the Dominion.
As a result of her showing courage above and beyond the call of duty, Lieutenant Nyota Dryer was posthumously awarded the Starfleet Medal of Honor. Captains T'Mas, Bateson and Rodenko were each awarded the Starfleet Medal of Valor, with T'Mas receiving her award posthumously. Captain Shelby, besides being awarded the Medal of Valor, was also awarded the Karagite Order of Heroism. Captain Richards received the Starfleet Silver Palm for his efforts in the action. Numerous other awards and decorations were issued to many of the participants of the battle as well.
Caernarvon IV created a special bond forged in the shared experience of all those who participated in that battle in a manner similar to that shared by the men who had fought at Bastogne during the Second World War on Earth. This bond transcends the normal bonding between crews on ships as well as the traditional rivalries between service branches. On the anniversary of the battle, each of the captains who had participated in the battle hold remembrance dinners to honor their compatriots who had fought and died that day. While not as famous as Operation Return or First and Second Chin'toka, the Battle of Caernarvon IV was an important early battle of the Dominion War and, in its bloody price tag, it was also a harbinger of things to come.
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