Schönheit was a human colony located in the Hurst System. It was discovered and colonized sometime in the mid-25th century, primarily by peoples of German ancestry. Schönheit has been described as a lush, garden world, hence its name, which is in fact the Deutsch word for 'beauty'. It was a popular holiday destination for tourists in the Inner Colonies, being largely unpopulated and having outstanding natural beauty. Schönheit's primary export, like several other other farming colonies, was corn, though it did possess a number of manufacturing plants that created weapons for the military. As it did not have a particularly large population compared to other colonies, the Office of Naval Intelligence used the vast areas of forested land as testing grounds for various weapon systems before they were ready for use in the field, most notably components for MJOLNIR armour that were eventually shipped offworld for use.
Though it had a history of being a largely stable and productive colony, Schönheit suffered tremendous upheaval after mass food shortages in 2504 that led to a violent rebellion against the Unified Earth Government. Led by members of Schönheit's local parliament and the planet's Colonial Militia, who sought to forcibly halt food exports with the eventual goal of full independence. What ensued was a six-month campaign as the UNSC responded with a large military force that occupied Schönheit while the rebels were dealt with. The escalating violence shocked many in the Inner Colonies as the local rebels, working with members of the notorious United Rebel Front, led to thousands of civilian deaths. Though the UNSC's forces held the numerical and technological advantage, their inability to attain complete victory over the insurgents drew a great deal of criticism, leading to peace talks that ended the conflict in spite of projections that the rebel leadership would have likely been captured or killed within months. Though a dark period in the planet's history, the Schönheit Rebellion would soon be dwarfed by larger rebellions throughout the Outer Colonies, leaving many of the pardoned rebel survivors unpunished.
Battle of Schönheit
In June of 2545 following the human defeat at the Battle of Actium, a Covenant fleet arrived in the Hurst System and despite being detected by the planetary defence fleet were able to break through the human lines and land, establishing a foothold on Schönheit. The battle for the planet raged on for two weeks, with the UNSC's forces fighting a spirited, though losing, battle against the Covenant armies. The UNSC forces were able to evacuate a majority of the civilian population, though in doing so lost over 60% of the fleet protecting the planet. By early July, Covenant forces had routed most of the groundside defences, though they had taken heavy losses due to various hit-and-run attacks and ambushes, as well as the presence of the SPARTAN-II Sigma-Beta Team, who had been present on Schönheit when the attack began.
While most of the surviving UNSC troops retreated or were evacuated, the Covenant pressed on, while their fleet in orbit began to glass certain parts of the planet. The Covenant Invasion of New Hamburg, the capital city of Schönheit, marked the end of the battle as a whole. As the defenders fought fiercely for the falling city, Lambda Base, ONI's research station, was attacked. The Spartans of Sigma-Beta were tasked with extracting critical data from the facility, as per the Cole Protocol. They did so, destroying the base with explosive charges as they retreated. However, the overwhelming Covenant forces proved almost too much for the Spartans, two of whom were declared MIA as only their team leader escaped the planet, getting outsystem in a waiting Prowler. With all virtually all opposition destroyed, the Covenant then glassed the rest of Schönheit, killing those who survived and leaving the world a barren husk.
The world was quickly abandoned by the UNSC after it was glassed, and was written off as another victim of the Covenant's ruthless advance into human space. However, nine years later a survey ship encountered a looping message that warned people to stay away being broadcast from Schönheit itself. Furthermore, the speaker identified himself as a SPARTAN-II, Pierre-127. This caught the attention of the Office of Naval Intelligence, who had assumed the Spartan to have died in the attack. As the message clearly stated his departure from the UNSC, ONI dispatched a strike team consisting of two SPARTAN-II's and seven Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. Their mission was to investigate the source of the message and if necessary, assassinate the rogue Spartan.
In the ensuing mission, codenamed Operation: ASHES, the team would encounter a large force of former Covenant soldiers defending a Forerunner facility under the command of Sur 'Ranak, a Sangheili leader with a bloody history in the war. The facility seemed to be slowly restoring the glassed planet around it, with trees and grasslands beginning to emerge within the vast glasslands. Within the next twenty-four hours, the entire Covenant force was destroyed, along with the majority of the facility and Pierre. The incident remained classified by ONI due to its very sensitive nature and Schönheit was deemed unfit for human settlers. A research team was set up in the remains of the facility to look over what was left. It was not until years later that Schönheit was finally resettled after a large terraforming operation, though the site was still closed off to the public.