Battle of Wolf 359
The Battle of Wolf 359 took place in 2367 in the Wolf 359 system, some 8 light years from Earth, between the forces of the United Federation of Planets and the Borg Collective. It is recorded as one of the most destructive battles in Federation history prior to the Dominion War.
Prelude to Wolf 359
On stardate 43989.1, the USS Enterprise-D arrived at Jouret IV, after contact with the New Providence colony was lost 12 hours earlier. The colony was found to have been completely destroyed, literally scooped from the planet's surface.
Admiral J.P. Hanson and Lieutenant Commander Shelby of Starfleet Tactical arrived to investigate the disappearance. An away team determined that the colony was wiped away by weapons similar to those found on the Borg cube encountered by the Enterprise in System J-25. Starfleet immediately began preparations for a possible Borg invasion.
Admiral Hanson returned to Starbase 324 to discuss strategy with Starfleet Command. Starfleet imposed a fleet-wide standing yellow alert, and warned all Federation and allied outposts. That evening at 1900 hours, the USS Lalo departed Zeta Alpha II on a freight run to Sentinel Minor IV. At 2212 hours, Starbase 157 received a signal from the Lalo, reporting contact with a cubical object. The signal was cut off mid-transmission, and no response was received to further hails.
Upon receiving this information from Admiral Hanson, the USS Enterprise set a course for the Lalo's last known location. With Starfleet reinforcements at least six days away, the Enterprise was on her own. En route to the coordinates, contact was made with the unknown vessel: a Borg cube. News was relayed to Admiral Hanson, who had begun to assemble a fleet to combat the invasion. The Borg demanded that the Enterprise captain, Jean-Luc Picard, beam himself aboard their vessel, for an unspecified purpose. After a brief exchange of fire, the Enterprise retreated into the Paulson Nebula, the Borg vessel close behind.
Hiding in the dust cloud, the Enterprise and her crew prepared for the inevitable conflict. Attempting to force the starship out, the Borg launched magnetometric-guided charges into the nebula, causing minor damage to the Enterprise. Picard ordered the ship out of hiding, and in the ensuing attack, Picard was captured by the Borg, who then left at high warp, en route to Sector 001 and the core of the Federation.
The Cube maintained its course, with the Enterprise in hot pursuit. William Riker, as acting Captain, planned to force the Cube out of warp in order to attack it using the Enterprise's deflector dish. An away team led by Lieutenant Commander Shelby was sent over to the vessel, and succeeded in disabling the Borg's warp drive. In the process, it was discovered that Captain Picard had been assimilated by the Collective; he had been transformed into a Borg drone with the designation Locutus of Borg. Having temporarily disabled the Cube, the Enterprise launched its deflector weapon.
The Cube easily shrugged off the Enterprise's assault, with the unwilling aid of Picard's knowledge, and resumed its course to the Sol system. The Enterprise was forced to stay behind, having suffered extensive damage to its navigational deflector and warp core. In the meantime, Admiral Hanson and Starfleet Command had hastily assembled a fleet of 40 starships, with more on the way. The Klingon Empire was in the process of dispatching warships to assist, and the possibility of requesting Romulan support was considered.
Around stardate 44002.3, the Cube entered the Wolf 359 system. Locutus hailed the assembled fleet, ordering them to disarm and escort the Cube to the Sol system. Immediately thereafter, the fleet engaged the Borg.
The USS Melbourne was the first ship destroyed, with its saucer section partially vaporized while approaching. The USS Saratoga was quickly neutralized thereafter. When the starships Yamaguchi and Bellerophon rushed to rescue their trapped sister ships, they too were destroyed along with numerous other starships entering the combat zone.
After bare minutes of combat, the fleet was faced with utter defeat. Admiral Hanson attempted to rally the remaining ships to launch a last-ditch assault, but his ship was destroyed shortly thereafter, the admiral presumed dead.
Ultimately, 39 starships were lost with a total loss of more than 11,000 lives. Many of them were assimilated. Only one starship managed to escape the disaster.
Following the battle, the cube resumed course towards Earth, completely undamaged. The Enterprise, having finally completed repairs, raced to catch up to the Borg. Using the recaptured Locutus and his link to the collective mind, the Enterprise crew managed to plant subversive commands to deactivate and destroy the Borg ship in Earth orbit.
Although the outcome of the invasion could have been much worse, the result of the battle was nothing short of disaster. With so many starships assigned to long-range missions of exploration, Starfleet was left with fewer ships for defense duties in the Federation core systems, weakening their relative position with neighboring races, including the Cardassian Union.
Commander Shelby took command of a special task force to rebuild Starfleet's strength. Construction of new starships was accelerated, but it took several years for Starfleet to return to previous deployment levels. Perhaps more importantly, Starfleet's entire philosophy began to tend towards more offensive, combat-ready starships. Previously controversial designs with heavy armaments, such as the Defiant class, gained more support.
Although most of the major battles of the Dominion War seven years later were fought on a much greater scale, Wolf 359 itself will be remembered as the incident that broke decades of near-total peace for the Federation and heralded a tumultuous decade of conflict to come.