The Earth-Minbari War began in 2245 when Earthforce expeditionary fleet damaged and destroyed vessels in the Grey Council's fleet, killing Dukhat.
The Human fleet commander misinterpreted the Minbari warrior caste's tradition of approaching a ship with gun ports open as hostile action and fired on the Minbari vessels without provocation, from the Minbari's point of view.
The war lasted for two years and ended, in 2247, with the unexpected Minbari surrender at the Battle of the Line.
Hoping that they could prove to the Minbari they were a power not to be trifled with, Earth launched a strike against a Minbari mid-range military base. Earth's intentions were to strike with a fleet of forty starships and destroy the Minbari base, thus proving to the Minbari that they were powerful, and force the Minbari to the bargaining table.
This was to be the first major battle of the war. The Earth fleet entered the Minbari star system of ShLekkTha (Vega) and slowly entered weapon range of a waiting Minbari fleet. The Minbari fleet consisted of only twelve War-Cruisers, to the Earth Alliance's forty starships, which consisted of Heavy Cruisers and Dreadnoughts. Despite being well within range of the Minbari's weapons, the Minbari ShLekkTha fleet allowed the Earth vessels to close into range and fire the first shot. The battle lasted only twelve seconds. In these twelve seconds the Minbari destroyed every one of the attacking Earth vessels, allowing only one fighter to survive, so it could return home to tell its people of their impending doom.
While Earth ships had enough firepower to cripple or destroy Minbari vessels, the Minbari warcruisers were equipped with highly advanced stealth systems which prevented Earthforce warships from achieving target lock.The Minbari, on the other hand, had no such problems, and had weapons capable of destroying their enemies in single hits. In addition, their ships had considerably greater maneuverability and acceleration. Furthermore, Minbari sensor systems were capable of overloading the shielding on Earthforce power systems, rendering their jump drives inoperable - thus eliminating the possibility of escape.
Victories were few and far between, the Alliance losing an average of five ships for every Minbari ship destroyed. The only battles won by the Alliance were Pyrrhic victories, as the cost in ships and manpower always averaged a 3 to 1 loss in the Minbari's favor
Despite suicidal bravery on the part of Earthforce, the Earth Alliance found itself being annihilated, losing soldiers at an appalling rate, with the war itself progressing in favor of the Minbari. Attempts to acquire effective weapons from friendly powers such as the Centauri Republic were rebuffed for fear of the Minbari turning on them for aiding their enemy. While other races like the Narns were willing to do business secretly, the supplies available were insufficient for Earth military needs
The war was brutal, yet precise. The Minbari pursued a strategy of swift advance, jumping into a system in force, crippling whatever Earth Alliance military assets were present, then moving on to the next system, leaving the civilian targets intact. After they had driven to Earth and destroyed the last of the Earth Alliance's defenses, they would burn the planet, and proceed back out into the Alliance, destroying every human planet until no humans would be left alive. This was, for the Minbari, a war of genocide.However, the humans made the Minbari pay a steep price in blood for every step forward. In the Battle of Scimtar, a damaged Earth cruiser deliberately rammed a larger Minbari warcruiser, destroying both ships in the process. At the Flinn Colony, ground-based human weapons forced the Minbari to land soldiers on the planet, and massive hand-to-hand combat raged across the planet's surface. In the end every human on the Flinn colony was killed, but the Minbari suffered heavy casualties in the fighting.
There were secret contacts through hyperspace transmissions, and a meeting was arranged between human and Minbari representatives, with the support of the Narn diplomatic corps. The peace attempt failed when Centauri warships ambushed the meeting; the recriminations over that event should have sealed Earth's fate, as both the Minbari Government and the Earth Alliance presumed that the disruption of the peace talks were related to internal factions unfavorable to the peace, and, for pure inertia, the hostilities went on, more ferociously than before, up to the inevitable conclusion.