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The Magellanic War, also referred to as the Zaaroft War or the Punitive Expedition, is an ongoing armed conflict taking place primarily in the Magellanic Clouds with tertiary theatres of war occurring in the Milky War Galaxy. The conflict began on 16 April 3288 when an armed fleet of spacecraft of the Zaaroft Imperium, a heretofore undiscovered spacefaring empire in the Magellanic Clouds, attacked a Republic exploratory fleet. The Republic formally declared a state of war the following day, with punitive military operations beginning soon afterwards.

The conflict is currently being fought primarily between the Central Galactic Union and its allies, assisted by numerous mercenary groups and independent volunteer brigades, and the Zaaroft Imperium. The Zaaroft are recognized to be in contact with rebellious and seditious armed elements in the Republic, which form an internal theatre of operations, in which the remnant forces of the Soviet Republic, the United Suns, and other alien remnant forces are engaged alongside human rebels of communist and secessionist allegiances.

Background

The Great War, waged from 3265 to 3275, saw vast changes in the interstellar situation. By the end of the conflict, the human nations of the Milky Way had unified into a single federation, and conquered the other interstellar empires. A policy of enslavement and resettlement of the non-human population of the Galaxy was enforced, providing greater room for human colonisation and more resources for humanity. Nevertheless, the understanding was that the Milky Way possessed a finite pool of resources and a limited number of worlds capable of inexpensive settlement and colonisation. Exploration of extragalactic regions was deemed an important goal by both the Bureau of Colonial Affairs and the Galactic Aerospace Agency. The immediate area surrounding the Milky Way included the Magellanic Clouds, closely associated dwarf galaxies thought to contain habitable worlds. The Magellanic Colonization Project was began in 3285 as a joint project of the two agencies, later joined by several departments pertaining to scientific research, interstellar exploration, and defence.

The Extragalactic Exploratory Fleet was formed in 3287 and embarked in January 3288 on a thorough exploration of the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was commanded by war hero Grand Admiral Charles Wilkins Taylor. The fleet made a series of Alcubierre jumps from the far rim of the Milky Way to reach the outer edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Along the way, the fleet deposited pre-fabricated jump gates.

Unbeknownst to human civilization, a powerful empire had developed in the Magellanic Clouds and had colonized large parts of the region. This empire, the Zaaroft Imperium, engaged in secret trade relations with far rim states in the Milky Way until their conquest in the Great War.

April Incident

On 16 April 3288, the EEF encountered a patrol of Zaaroft spacecraft outbound from an apparent Zaaroft trade outpost. Attempts by Admiral Taylor of diplomatic negotiation failed to establish peaceful transit, and the Zaaroft spacecraft launched a surprise attack without warning. Many of the Union spacecraft were destroyed in the battle. Over 112,000 personnel died. The remainder of the fleet limped away in an emergency jump. Before doing so, Admiral Taylor reported to the National Security Committee via his flagship's quantum entanglement communicator that the attack had taken place, that the attackers were previously-unknown aliens, and that they had identified themselves as the Zaaroft Empire.

Declaration of War

Within an hour, Chancellor Maximilian presented the transcript of Admiral Taylor's report to the Central Galactic Congress. He requested a declaration of war against this new alien empire. After sixteen minutes of deliberation, the Congress voted to declare war. A document was written and submitted to a procedural vote as an official delcaration the next day. The Ministry of War issued an order for general mobilization on 19 April. Planning began in the Joint Staff, the Forces Command staff, and the Allied Command Staff of the Galactic Alliance.

It was expected that the Union forces would experience considerable losses, and Reserve forces would have to be reallocated to active service. An increase in conscription was ordered by the Ministry of War to offset the expected losses and replenish the Reserve garrisons, with the first groups of new conscripts selected on 1 May.

Initial forces and operations

Through April and May 3288, special operations forces were deployed to the outer rim of the Large Magellanic Cloud to perform reconnaissance. The details of their operations are highly classified. They provided sufficient detail to the Union armed forces to conduct planning for invasion routes. These plans were distributed to the Army Group commanders and Fleet commanders, and the mobilized expeditionary troops were massed at the Far Rim of the Milky Way. The Union military decided upon a "punitive expedition" to attack the Zaaroft colonies with retaliatory strikes and raids. The plan was to draw the known forces of the Zaaroft empire into a massive battle of annihilation through these provocatory raids.

The initial action, Operation Thunderbolt, placed 160 Army Groups, 70 Fleet Marine Forces, 7 Expeditionary Fleets, and 70 Strategic Security Groups into Magellanic territory. The operation saw the capture of 14 known major star systems in the Magellanic rim; generally, each system was assigned 10 Army Groups, 1 Fleet Marine Force, and 5 Strategic Security Groups as its conquering force; 20 Army Groups were held in reserve. Each Expeditionary Fleet split its forces into two invasionary task groups, each assigned to a star system to clear it out prior to the deployment of soldiers. This placed 12.8 billion Army personnel, 5.6 billion Stormtroopers, and 2.5 billion Marines on the ground across 84 worlds. Casualties were minimal, with an average of 6% dead or wounded. Marine and State Security forces took the brunt of losses, with higher rates of attrition; some Marine divisions took losses of up to 32%. The operation was launched on 17 May and captured all of its target worlds by the end of June.

Operation Cyclops and Operation Chariot followed on from this success in July, where another 120 worlds were captured. As with Operation Thunderbolt, the planets were captured relatively quickly and with minimal losses. Part of this is attributed to the tactical use of the Beaumont Doctrine to bombard surfaces indiscriminately before landing soldiers. Modern analysis shows that the Zaaroft had stationed light defenses on their frontier worlds and gradually pulled their fleets back to a defensive "ring" around their core territory. This was not understood at the time, however, and Union forces continued pushing in order to provoke the Zaaroft forces to make a massive attack into a pitched battle of humanity's choosing.

However, the expected battle of annihilation failed to materialize. Union forces captured enemy worlds at a rate of roughly 100 a month, most of them lightly-inhabited agricultural colonies. By the end of 3288, the CGU occupied 704 Zaaroft worlds.

Operation Constant Sorrow

The Union stepped up its mobilization and deployed 130 billion Army soldiers into the Magellanic Front, a tenfold increase from that of Operation Thunderbolt. The general staff initiated Operation Constant Sorrow, a sustained deployment of soldiers and the persistent conquest of Zaaroft worlds over the next three years. Dubbed by the media as an "island-hopping" campaign, Operation Constant Sorrow dramatically increased the number of captured worlds. As the operations advanced beyond the Magellanic rim, they encountered increasingly tougher resistance. The rate of capture increased dramatically. In 3289, another 1,405 worlds were captured by Union forces; 2,021 were captured in 3290; 3,494 were captured in 3291. By the beginning of 3292, the Union occupied over 7,600 enemy planets. This placed an unprecedented number of alien Zaaroft civilians in Union hands; a species of which little was known, and with which humanity had not cultivated a centuries-long relationship, unlike the alien races of the Milky Way.

A conference of government officials, primarily Interior Ministry, Chancellery, and State Security officers, met in January 3292 to draw up General Plan Magellan to deal with the captive Zaaroft population. The government agencies involved with the occupation initiated the evacuation and recalibration of the captive species.

Aera Campaign

The Aera star system was scouted as early as 3289; deep within the middle-belt colonies of the Zaaroft-held Large Magellanic Cloud, its main planet was a 'fortress world' where an estimated one-fifth of the Zaaroft fleet was anchored in orbit. Its other worlds held considerable resource-extraction infrastructure and industrial facilities. With the success of Operation Constant Sorrow in seized world after world, the Union war staff undertook plans to capture Aera and destroy a considerable portion of the Zaaroft fleet. It was not quite the battle of annihilation desired, but it would have to do. Union planners hoped for a repeat of the Battle of Khoz in the Great War, and structured the invasion to be similar to the Khoz Campaign.

Union forces deployed at the edge of the system on 16 July 3292 and advanced gradually inwards, destroying spacecraft and orbital stations as it moved in. Several Zaaroft capital ships fled the battle rather than fight, though many remained behind. The Union fleet overwhelmed them and neutralized the enemy space defences after a bitter battle that lasted through 22 August. Union forces invested themselves around Aera IV, the main planet, by 25 August. After orbital defences were established and the fleet undertook initial bombardments, the CGU Army, Marine, and Security Forces units deployed to the surface on 1 September. Air and nautical assets were then deployed to support the ground invasion.

The Zaaroft conducted an effective guerrilla campaign, going to ground and destroying resources rather than allow Union forces to utilise them. With knowledge of the terrain and infrastructure, they struck from the jungles and urban areas. Zaaroft field forces were destroyed in encirclement campaigns. However, despite some structural similarities to the 3267 Battle of Khoz, the Zaaroft defensive forces declined to commit to a direct confrontation. Annihilation of their armies through encirclement became an unlikely prospect as most of their combat forces were deployed as guerrillas and saboteurs. The initial battle for the planet was completed by 22 December. However, the pacification phase of the campaign lasted through late 3293. Air forces committed to the nuclear bombing of several contested cities rather than let them fall to the enemy; chemical and incendiary weapons were used in vast amounts as a defoliant, to flush the enemy out of hiding in the woodland.

The planet was declared pacified on 25 December 3293. Over 1 billion Union soldiers had been committed to the fight, with total number of dead, wounded, and missing estimated at 152 million.

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