Battle of the Line

Battle of the Line

In the "Babylon 5" fictional universe, the Battle of the Line was the final battle of the Earth-Minbari war. The Battle of the Line was a desperate attempt by the Earth Alliance to stop a Minbari fleet from reaching weapons range of the Earth and burning the planet. Over 20,000 Human warships (mostly fighters) participated in the battle; this force constituted most of the remaining warships of the Earth fleet. Despite this armada, however, the Minbari fleet easily destroyed most of the defending human warships, and only 200 Earth vessels survived the battle. Incredibly, however, the Minbari - who were on the verge of total victory - suddenly surrendered to the almost-defeated humans with no explanation.

The battle was one of the most important events of the 23rd Century. The effects of the war were felt throughout the galaxy for many years following the war.


Approximately two years before the Battle of the Line, the first contact between Humans and Minbari had ended in disaster. The Minbari's ruling body, the Grey Council, were travelling aboard their Sharlin Class Warcruiser, and detected a convoy of Earth Alliance ships. The Minbari approached with their ship's gunports open, a traditional sign of respect in their culture - the open gunports showed that the Minbari had nothing to hide. Dukhat, the revered Minbari council leader, knew that the Humans would most likely not be aware of this tradition, and ordered the gunports closed. However, the order came too late; the captain of the lead Earth ship, thinking that the Minbari were about to attack (a belief compounded by the fact that the Minbari ship's sensors were so powerful as to interfere with the Earth ship's electronics and prevent them from escaping), panicked and opened fire. This resulted in the death of Dukhat, whereupon the remaining members of the Grey Council voted on whether to declare war against the humans. Due to a tie vote, Delenn, the newest member of the Council, was called upon to cast the deciding vote. Filled with rage at the death of her mentor Dukhat (who had died in her arms), she voted 'Yes', although she later sought to change her vote upon considering that the situation may have been a misunderstanding. However, the war of vengeance by the Minbari quickly became a holy crusade to exterminate humanity.

The resulting war was largely a one-sided affair, as the Minbari were far more advanced in weapons and technology than the humans. Minbari warships and fighters were faster, more maneuverable, and better-armed than their human counterparts, and they were also equipped with an advanced stealth device which made it virtually impossible for human weapons systems to target them. But the humans made the Minbari fight for every inch of space, and the humans displayed an often-suicidal determination to destroy or at least damage their enemy. As a result, the Minbari advance was slow and brutal, with heavy casualties on both sides. One of the few human victories in the war especially angered the proud Minbari, as Commander John Sheridan succeeded in destroying the Black Star, the Minbari flagship. Truce talks were attempted, but these efforts failed when the Centauri, thinking the negotiations were arms sales from the Narn to the humans, sabotaged the efforts.

Finally, after two years of bloody warfare, the Minbari came within striking distance of Earth's own solar system. Despite incredible bravery from EarthForce's pilots and soldiers, the Minbari advantages in technology and weapons had been too great to overcome. Realizing that Earth was the Minbari's next target, the President of the Earth Alliance requested that "every ship capable of fighting" take part in a "last stand to defend our homeworld". However, the President did not believe that the Earth armada could stop the Minbari attack on Earth; instead the plan was to have these ships and their crews buy as much time as possible to allow Earth's civilians to flee into neutral space and survive.


A huge Minbari fleet came out of hyperspace near Earth. Confident they could quickly destroy any human resistance and end the war, the Minbari fleet had bypassed the other Human colonies in the solar system, mainly Mars and Io, to strike at Earth directly. The humans fought valiantly, but they were unable to damage or even slow down the Minbari fleet. The technologically superior Minbari destroyed the human ships with little difficulty; some human fighter pilots resorted to desperate kamikaze attacks to try and destroy the Minbari warcruisers, but to no avail. One of the human fighter pilots, Lt. Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, watched helplessly as his entire squadron was destroyed in under 60 seconds. After his Starfury fighter suffered a critical hit, he decided to ram the nearest Minbari cruiser, and set a suicide course.

As the battle drew to an end, the Earth fleet was virtually annihilated, and the Minbari fleet virtually unscratched. All that remained was for the Minbari fleet to move into close Earth orbit and proceed to burn the planet's surface with their long-range weaponry. But just as Earth’s doom seemed inevitable, the Minbari suddenly ceased fire, and their ships stopped advancing. The Minbari broadcast their surrender. Earth had not only been spared, it had won the war under the most improbable circumstances. There was much speculation as to why the Minbari chose to surrender when their victory was all but assured, but the Minbari’s governing Grey Council never explained its decision, even to its own warrior caste.

Earth losses were enormous. The battle losses were more than 20,000 Starfuries and 1,000 warships, rounding a total of over 200,000 deaths. It is said frequently that were only 207 survivors, but it's not clear if that number refers to Starfuries only, capital ships or both. It is unlikely that the number refers to people since many heavy ships survived, of which the EAS Hyperion alone has more than 250 crew.

Minbari surrender

The Grey Council had gathered at the scene to watch the battle. When Council member Delenn advocated taking a prisoner for interrogation, she was told to choose a target from the quickly diminishing pool of candidates. She pointed at a fighter, which was disabled and brought aboard the ship. The pilot was Lt. Commander Sinclair. Over the next few hours, Sinclair was interrogated. He was brought before the Grey Council, which marked the first time a Human stood in the council chambers. A council member scanned Sinclair with a triluminary. This triluminary was programmed to detect Valen's DNA sequence, and light up if it found even a piece of his DNA.

What the council found stunned them to the very core of their being. When they scanned him with the triluminary, the device reported that he not only had part of Valen's DNA, the device said he was Valen. At first the council did not want to believe this, so they pulled other humans on board and scanned them only to confirm this seemingly impossible discovery.

Because of the Minbari belief in reincarnation, they believed that Sinclair was the current host of Valen's soul. They thought that other Minbari souls were also in human bodies, and that they were harming their own souls through this war, a horrific concept to them. They also felt that what happened with Sinclair was a sign that the humans would become a needed ally in the upcoming Shadow War. They ordered Sinclair's memories of the examination purged, followed by his release. Delenn volunteered to stay close to Sinclair to observe him. The Grey Council ordered the Minbari to immediately cease hostilities, but refused to publicly explain this unexpected move which stunned both Minbari and Human alike.


When Sinclair had tried to ram the Minbari warship, he had passed out after a bright light hit his fighter. When he awoke, he found himself drifting in his damaged fighter, 24 hours had passed since he had blacked out - and he learned that the war was over. Incredibly, despite the destruction of the Earth fleet he had just witnessed, the Minbari had surrendered. For many years he struggled with his feelings - particularly survivor's guilt. Sinclair was also troubled by his failure to remember what had happened to him during his "missing" 24 hours; although he later found that he remembered bits and pieces mainly through flashbacks and dreams. However, he would not begin to make sense of these flashbacks until he assumed command of the Babylon 5 space station many years later.

The Earth Alliance had learned a powerful lesson. An arrogant attitude towards other races and the use of military force had brought the Human race to the edge of extinction. The Earth Alliance learned that there were other races with far more advanced technology than their own, and as a result that they would need to use diplomatic efforts to keep such a disaster from ever happening again. The Earth Alliance also began a determined effort to upgrade and improve its technology, weapons, and warships, with considerable success.

With that thought in mind, the Earth Alliance commissioned the Babylon Project. The Babylon stations were intended as a place where people of different alien races could come and resolve their differences peacefully - they were to be a kind of interstellar United Nations. The first three stations were destroyed during construction by sabotage. The fourth station was completed, but it disappeared in a mysterious time warp right after it became operational.

With assistance from the Minbari, Earth built one more Babylon station. It brought many races together, including Humans and Minbari. The station would serve as a base of operations in the Shadow War. When President Clark attempted to turn the Earth Alliance into a neo-fascist state, Babylon 5 was central in the efforts to defeat him and restore freedom and democracy to the Alliance.

For a number of years after the war, Earth-Minbari relations were somewhat tense. Individuals from both races blamed the other for the death and destruction from the war. However, efforts by some Minbari, especially Delenn, resulted in greatly improving the relations between the two races.

Finally, in 2259, Jeffrey Sinclair was named Ambassador to Minbar. He was the first human allowed to reside full-time on the planet. As the Shadow War began to heat up, many Humans joined with Minbari in the Anla'Shok, or Rangers, including Sinclair, who became their leader (as Valen had been 1000 years before). The cooperation between the two species was vital in defeating the Shadows, and the forming of the Interstellar Alliance.

However, the results of the Battle of the Line caused some strife in Minbari society. A rift developed between the Religious and Warrior castes. The Grey Council did not explain their reasons for stopping the war to anyone, not even their generals. One war leader committed suicide rather than obey the order. The others grudgingly obeyed the order; however the Warrior caste resented the Religious caste for stopping the war after many of their people had died. While the issue was put aside during the Shadow War, it came to a head in the months following the war. Eventually a brief civil war broke out over the issue but, largely through the efforts of Delenn, Lennier, and Neroon, they were able to bring the war to an end. Delenn reformed the government to give the Worker caste a dominant role in Minbari society - feeling that they had been ignored for far too long.

The Minbari also learned that their isolationist policies were partially to blame for the tragic first contact. The Grey Council knew that if they had made contact with the Humans right away it could have been handled peacefully. They knew that to prevent a similar occurrence they had to reach out to other races, and keep an active presence in the galaxy.

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