1st Royal Division
During Operation BULL RUN - the Star League invasion of the Taurian Concordat - the conquest of New Vandenberg by the Star League Defense Force was one of the bloodiest campaigns to be waged. Under the command of Field Marshal Amos Forlough, the SLDF dispensed with even the rudimentary efforts at reducing bloodshed when it launched the planetary attack on the 12th of January 2588. Whereas other worlds had been given a thirty-day period in which to surrender, Forlough ordered the First and Second Fleets to commence an immediate and continuous orbital bombardment of the planet. For forty consecutive days, SLDF WarShips bombarded the surface of New Vandenberg. The second most important world in the Concordat, New Vandenberg had a population in excess of a billion, along with a huge Taurian Defense Force garrison in comparison to other worlds, and a massive manufacturing base. During the first forty days, as SLDF WarShips saturated the planet with weapon strikes, SLDF aerospace fighters dropped a total of more than two hundred thousand tons of ordnance on the planet - the majority of it incendiary weapons. After the first twenty days, not only was the population continuing to hold out, but it was also obvious that the garrison had left the bases the SLDF knew about and were waiting for Forlough's forces. Forlough responded by expanding the SLDF navy's actions to include the defoliation of the entire continent of Brittain, using a mixture of WarShip bombardment, incendiary bombs and chemical defoliants, but by day forty, New Vandenberg continued to resist.
With little choice other than to put troops on the ground, Forlough ordered the SLDF I, II and IV Corps into action, deploying all three corps to cleared landing zones across Brittain, with targets assigned across the continent. I Corps landed on the 23rd of February to seize the city of Harmony and immediately came under attack. Harmony was the location of the massive BattleMech production facilities operated by Vandenberg MilTech, the predecessor to Vandenberg Mechanized Industries, and the Taurians used the factories as cover to attack the SLDF troops with an asymmetric mix of elite anti-'Mech jump infantry, hovercraft, VTOLs and conventional aircraft. Despite being reinforced by the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Striker Regiments, the First Royal Division was only able to hold their position for twelve hours before having to retreat. When a second attack failed after a week of fighting, despite being reinforced by the Third Division, Forlough ordered the entire factory complex destroyed via orbital bombardment.
The senior Taurian Defense Force officer on New Vandenberg, Colonel Alana Bar'Dyness, had done everything she could to prepare her world for the inevitable SLDF attack. Massive underground bunkers had been constructed across the planet, both to house the garrison and millions of anticipated refugees; while some bunkers were military fortifications, others held entire factory complexes, hospitals, schools and shelters, and the garrison was ready for a year-long siege. While I Corps was bogged down around Harmony and taking far higher than anticipated casualties, II Corps and IV Corps were faring little better - giving Forlough more cause for concern. Forlough had planned on a quick victory on New Vandenberg to bring a swift resolution to the war, and responded in a similar fashion to that he'd used in other campaigns; he ordered his troops to inflict massive casualties on the people of New Vandenberg, in an attempt to break their will to resist. Under Forlough's orders SLDF units deployed chemical weapons and nerve agents across New Vandenberg on the 3rd of March, while launching nuclear attacks at key targets. Several days later, the TDF retaliated in kind, and both side took massive casualties, although the SLDF was better prepared to live and fight under such conditions than the civilian population.
By the end of March, Forlough's troops controlled the majority of Brittain, and he brought in XI Corps as reinforcements to fuel a push against the continents of Saille and Vandrae. Both were long, brutal and bloody marches, and by the end of May SLDF casualties were so high that Forlough pressed the available forces from the Federated Suns Auxiliary Corps - consisting of three regiments of the Avalon Hussars and three regiments of the Syrtis Fusiliers - into action as soon as they arrived. By this point, the battle for New Vandenberg already resembled a disaster recovery operation as much as it did a military campaign; half of the assault troops were manning refugee camps, while the other half was digging through the remains of destroyed cities, trying to find TDF bunkers and garrison forces. Forlough tried to keep morale up amonghis forces as replacements arrived from Terra, but thousands were dying, thousands more were being evacuated as casualties, and the new recruits were little more than lambs to the slaughter as the TDF continued to resist.
News of reinforcements from the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns arrived in mid-June, and Forlough planned to put these experienced reinforcements into battle quickly; then the reinforcements arrived - three 'Mech regiments from the Davion Brigade of Guards accompanied by five veteran infantry regiments - Forlough discovered that they were under the command of General Elias Pitcairn, a veteran AFFS and Davion Guards officer who had led the pseudo-mercenary AFFS forces that had so ably assisted the Outworlds Alliance in resisting the SLDF for years, both during and after Forlough's tenure as commanding officer of Operation UNION HOLD. Hot-tempered at the best of times, Forlough ordered the immediate arrest of Pitcairn and all of the Davion Guards forces, something he lacked the resources to actually accomplish, leading to a tense stand-off as the SLDF and AFFS fleets in orbit maintained a careful distance from each other while Pitcairn attempted to assure Forlough that he was committed to supporting the SLDF operations against the Concordat. On the 7th of July, Pitcairn withdrew from the New Vandenberg system, leaving his troops as reinforcements for the AFFS Auxiliary Corps, but Forlough continued to send angry demands to both Commanding General Dangmar Lee, commanding officer of the SLDF and First Lord Ian Cameron demanding the arrest and execution of Pitcarin - and First Prince Alexander Davion of the Federated Suns.
While Forlough was distracted by Pitcairn, his subordinates continued to prosecute the campaign against the TDF, with more success than when Forlough had been directing day-to-day operations. The SLDF continued to grind down the defending forces, fighting the final major battle of the campaign on the 23rd of August, when the First and Third Striker Regiments surrounded and captured the last few surviving companies that constituted all that was left of the 122nd Concordat Chasseurs near New Vandenberg's south pole. For the SLDF, the conquest of New Vandenberg was the single costliest operation of the war to date; more than five thousand troops had died in direct combat against the TDF, with many more dying as a result of attacks using weapons of mass destruction, and more than five times as many had suffered wounds so severe and debilitating as to prevent them ever returning to combat duty, and many died from wounds during the following months. I, II, IV and XI Corps could only muster approximately forty percent of their pre-conquest combat strength, while the AFFS Auxiliary Corps was at approximately sixty percent strength, having joined the battle later.
As severe as the SLDF casualties were, the consequences of the invasion were far worse for the population of New Vandenberg. Every major city was in ruins, as was every industrial center that hadn't moved underground. Somewhere between fifty and a hundred million civilians were dead, while hundreds of millions more were homeless, and the population had been rendered absolutely incapable of supporting themselves due to the devastation wrought by Forlough's forces. The Bureau of Star League Affairs had to take over administration of the planet as the population lacked the resources to operate their own government, and the thousands of relief workers and tens of thousands of tons of supplies the Bureau had arriving within weeks paled into insignificance in the face of the desperate needs of the population. Forlough's actions on New Vandenberg left the population of the planet undergoing decades of rebuilding, work that continued well into the twenty-seventh century.
Forlough didn't escape unscathed from New Vandenberg; although he put off complying with recall orders to Terra issued by Commanding General Lee for as long as he could, knowing what those orders portended, he returned to Terra in January 2590, by which time his replacement had arrived on New Vandenberg. Faced with the likely prospect of humiliation at the hands of First Prince Alexander Davion and the Star League Council, Forlough chose to retire.
|Commanding Officers of the 1st Royal Division|
- Historical: Reunification War, p. 164, "Lieutenant General Nicholas Cameron, SLDF (Ret.)"
- Historical: Reunification War, p. 89-91, "Charon's Express"
- Historical: Reunification War, p. 145-147, "Taurian Concordat Front (2586-2596)"
- Historical: Reunification War, p. 91, "The Reaper Is Relieved"
- Historical: Reunification War, p. 143, "Taurian Concordat Front [2586-2596]"