Captain Benjamin Sisko discusses Operation Return with his colleague Jadzia Dax
The Federation forces engage the Dominion
Operation Return was the combined Starfleet and Klingon assault against Dominion and Cardassian forces in the Bajor sector, launched in mid-2374. The objective of the mission was the recapture of Starbase Deep Space Nine, which had been captured in the opening battle of the war. It is considered one of the most pivotal battles of the Dominion War.
The massive Dominion fleet, some 1,254 ships, outnumbered the Federation forces by more than two to one, and had time on its side. The minefield around the wormhole preventing Dominion reinforcements was due to be destroyed within eight hours. The Federation was put at an extreme disadvantage to prevent the minefield's destruction with that time with a full frontal assault.
The Federation opened fire with its fighters, attempting to draw the Galor class ships away from the main lines. Gul Dukat remained patient with his forces. After about three hours of Federation strafing runs at his ships, Dukat ordered the ships to follow and attack the fighters, carefully opening a hole in his lines.
Sisko ordered the rest of the fleet to launch a full-scale attack on the Dominion's center and exploit this hole. At this point, the battle became chaotic with capital ships firing point blank on one another. With the ships so widely dispersed among the Dominion fleet, inter-ship communication soon began to break down. When the Dominion began jamming comm frequencies, the battle became a total free-for-all, with ships fighting on their own.
For Starfleet, it quickly became a losing proposition. Unable to concentrate their fire and break Dominion lines, the Federation fleet soon began to take staggering losses. The USS Defiant herself was near destruction when a large force of Klingon warship decloaked and slammed into the Dominion's starboard flank. General Martok and Commander Worf had finally convinced Chancellor Gowron to lend his support. The additional firepower of the Klingon forces tipped the balance of the battle in the allies' favor. Once a hole was opened, the USS Defiant slipped through and made a course for Deep Space Nine.
Although the Dominion forces began to collapse, Gul Dukat was confident. Several thousand Jem'Hadar warships waited on the other side of the wormhole and once the minefield was destroyed would make their way to the Alpha Quadrant. The USS Defiant arrived at Deep Space Nine just as the minefield was destroyed. With no options left, the Defiant entered the wormhole for a last stand against the enemy.
In the wormhole, a incredible event occurred nothing short of a miracle. The Bajoran Prophets spoke to Captain Sisko - their Emissary. Though enigmatic, the Prophets indicated that they wished Sisko to continue speaking for them. They did not want Sisko to sacrifice his life against the Dominion. Arguing the Dominion posed a grave threat to Bajor, Sisko implored the Prophets for assistance. The Prophets intervened as the massive Dominion fleet simply disappeared.
Once the Defiant exited the wormhole, she opened fire on Deep Space Nine. With the station's defenses down and with the imminent arrival of 200 allied ships, the Dominion was forced to evacuate the station.
Stunned at the sudden turn of events, Gul Dukat sought out his daughter Tora Ziyal. She confessed that she was part of the Bajoran resistance that sabotaged the station and was immediately shot by Damar as a traitor. Enraged, devastated, and in the midst of a mental breakdown, Dukat remained on board the station as the Dominion forces left.
With the station lost, the Dominion forces made a full retreat to Cardassian territory ending the battle.