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Running the Blockade

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A poster depicting Jews returning to Israel despite British blockades, a.k.a. Aliyah B. The word at the top and on the boat is Ha'apala (הַעְפָּלָה, "Ascension") and the two words at the bottom are חַיִּים ויְצִירָה "Life & Structure"

Princess Leia: This bucket of bolts is never going to get us past that blockade.
Han Solo: This baby's got a few surprises left in her, sweetheart.

A blockade or siege on a city or country dependent on trade is something that can put them in dire straits. No goods can come in or leave, which stifles their economy, and also means they aren't able to get food either. As it drags on, the people will start to get desperate, and look for a means to get what they need.

Often, if they don't have the military might to break the blockade completely, they get some brash individuals willing to run right through it, and hope they can either outrun or outmaneuver the blockading forces, to contact allies. This is known as running the blockade. Chase sequences and close action scenes will probably follow.

Vehicles used in this are usually light and fast, for outmaneuvering mobile units. Heavier ones might be used if there are physical barriers that need to be rammed through, but they are usually too slow to survive a barrage of multiple weapons likely to be found on a blockade.

Often occurs at sea with a Naval Blockade. Compare Leeroy Jenkins.


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    Fan Works 
  • This Bites!: As the Straw Hats near the Sabaody Archipelago, they learn that the Marines have set up a blockade of Navy and privateer ships to stop them or any other pirate crews from reaching Sabaody and thus passing through to the New World. To counter this, the Straw Hats work with the other Supernovas to organize a Dead End race, wherein all those blocked pirate crews run the blockade at once, eventually punching through.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Thirteen Days, after President Kennedy institutes a "quarantine"note  around Cuba, the Soviets, not really knowing what to do, decide to send their freighters through anyway. At least one of them slips past the US Navy at some point before being spotted again.
  • 2010: The Year We Make Contact is set against a backdrop of rising US/Soviet tensions which take a dive when a Soviet ship tries to run a US blockade and is destroyed by missile fire.
  • In Gone with the Wind Rhett Butler starts the Civil War as a gallant hero running goods into the Confederacy. Later, as shortages bite and prices rise, he is looked on less favorably.
  • Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior has Max try to drive through the siege/blockade around the oil refinery but is intercepted and almost killed. At the end of the movie he tries again, driving the fuel tanker.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the Jedi and the Queen escape Naboo through the Trade Federation blockade aboard the Queen's royal cruiser, thanks in large part to the efforts of a certain plucky R2 unit.
    • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Following the Battle of Hoth, Han Solo and Princess Leia have to get through an Imperial blockade aboard the Millennium Falcon, which is complicated by the fact that their hyperdrive is out of order.
    • Averted in Star Wars: A New Hope. While the Corellian corvette used by Princess Leia to transport the stolen Death Star plans in the film's opening moments is known to fans and in some supplementary material as a "Rebel blockade runner" (canonically known as the CR90 corvette), this is an Informed Attribute. There is nothing in the film to suggest that it was ever used to run blockades, and the model's capabilities as established in various Expanded Universe materials make it poorly-suited for such a role, with a relatively slow Class 2 hyperdrive, light armament, and no stealth capabilities to speak of. Other Expanded Universe games, especially Star Wars: Empire at War, depict the model as the Rebels' main anti-starfighter ship.

  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series:
    • "The Mule": Toran pilots his ship through the blockades set up by the Mule's ships around the planet Terminus to escape his invasion of the First Foundation, and again from Haven when he begins his search for the Second Foundation.
    • "Search by the Foundation": Arkady convinces Preem Palver to slip through the Kalganian blockade around the Foundation, arranging for the delivery of desperately needed food at premium prices. He gets caught... by the Foundation fleet, because they're about to launch an attack that turns the tide of the war, breaking the Kalganian blockade. They are nice enough to pay the premium prices anyway once the battle is won, despite the changed strategic situation — especially since Palver carried a message from Arkady for some very influential men.
  • In the book and movie Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler spends most of the American Civil War running the US Navy's blockade, delivering supplies from Europe and elsewhere to the Confederates.
  • In the backstory to A Song of Ice and Fire, lowborn smuggler Davos Seaworth manages to sneak past a Targaryen naval blockade of the besieged castle Storm's End under the cover of night and deliver a load of turnips and onions to the castle's starving defenders, earning him a knighthood from the grateful Lord Stannis Baratheon. The highborn lords and nights disparagingly call him "the Onion Knight" to mock his humble origins; Ser Davos takes the onion as his sigil so that he and his descendants will never forget them.
  • Henrik Ibsen wrote a poem, "Terje Vigen", about a Norwegian sailor trying to run the British blockade of Norway during The Napoleonic Wars. He did not succeed, and was captured. Tragedy ensued.
  • Present in military thriller Victoria, where the secessionists depend on this for essential supplies after the US Navy cuts off their legit trade. One attempt by a Russian freighter to force its way through leads to a major naval incident between American and Russian forces.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • The second season episode "And Now For A Word" has a downplayed example: A single shuttle is sent to run a single-warship blockade of the system jumpgate, because Captain Sheridan doesn't think the Centauri are willing to risk an actual shooting war with Earth over the issue (he's right, but it all ends in bloodshed anyways due to a third party intervening without need).
    • The third season opener had a small Drazi ship racing past Centauri blockade mines to give Marcus a chance to escape and reach Babyon 5. Notably, the Drazi ship doesn't make it, and in fact the pilot knew he wouldn't, but he makes it far enough through the blockade mines to launch Marcus' shuttle so that he can get through to get help.
    • A fourth season episode has Ivanova trying to deal with a bunch of smugglers to arrange for supplies to be brought in through the Earth Force blockade. Most are reluctant since the penalty if they get caught is much higher than it used to be, but she manages to hammer out an agreement that will benefit all sides.
  • Rise of Empires: Ottoman: The Ottomans impose a naval blockade on Constantinople to prevent reinforcements and aid from reaching the besieged city. A convoy of Genoan ships does manage to break through, as the western galleons are much larger than the Ottoman ships and can take a lot of damage without foundering. Mehmet is furious.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In the episode "Nightingale," Harry Kim helps one alien race do this against another during a war.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 space combat Gaiden Game Battlefleet Gothic, Blockade Run is one of the Raidnote  scenarios available to play in the core rulebook. The scenario sees one player try to break through a larger blockading fleet, gaining victory points for each of their ships that they manage to move off the blockading player's table edge.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassins Creed IV, the British navy sets up a blockade around the pirate stronghold of Nassau. Edward Kenway, Charles Vane and Jack Rackham manage to escape by loading Rackham's ship with explosives and blasting a gap in the blockade.
  • Escape Velocity Nova's Auroran storyline normally starts with the player being hired as a blockade runner and then doing multiple supply runs to the Dominance station. Both the Federation and Pirate (really more smuggler, but it's officially called Pirate) storylines have the player hired to bring supplies to several Federation border outposts past Auroran raiders.
  • EVE Online: The strategically inclined players of EVE Online are known to block off systems in order to seize control over territory. There exists a particular class of Industrial ships (used to haul goods) called Blockade Runners to bypass or otherwise break through perilous security, and all four factions have two such models of their respective lines. One has next to no tank but exceptional agility and can equip the exclusive Covert Ops cloak, while the other is a much tankier and slower brick.
  • Knights of the Old Republic spends the entire first chapter with the Player Party looking for a way to get off the Sith-occupied planet Taris, which is blockaded to prevent party member Bastila Shan, a strategically important Jedi Knight, from escaping. They end up breaking into the Sith base to get IFF codes to get past the Siths' computer-controlled guns, and launch as the Sith start an Orbital Bombardment to glass the planet on Darth Malak's order.
  • In Rebel Galaxy, various parties including system militia will sometimes blockade space stations, which drives up the local prices of nearly every commodity. There are also missions and bounties available for running the blockade or breaking the siege.
  • Star Trek Online: Episode "Cardassian Struggle", mission "Operation Gamma" has the Player Character having to break past Jem'Hadar lines at Deep Space 9 and go through the wormhole to contact the Dominion government and get the time-shifted Jem'Hadar to stand down. You're assisted by a diversionary attack.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • When the Jedi and Republic were unable to break the Mandalorian blockade of the Hydian Way, a group of smugglers, sensing the opportunity for profit, came together to start running supplies through it to the increasingly desperate Coruscant. This eventually led to the battle between the smugglers and the Mandalorians which enabled them, and the Republic, to finally break the blockade.
    • During the Battle of Corellia, the Empire forms a blockade around the planet, and General Garza has to contract some smugglers to move troops past it.
  • During the "Vox Solaris" quest in Warframe the Tenno must evade a Spider Tank besieging Fortuna's surface elevator by outrunning it on a hover board they are given.

  • In Crimson Dark the Cirin Alliance planet Farhaven has been besieged by the Republic of Daranir for quite a while. Vaegyr Ward got offworld on a blockade runner, and in chapter 12 the Farhavenites stage a mass breakout with Alliance military and mercenary support.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: When Aang needs to get to get to a Fire Nation temple, he finds a blockade between him and his destination. To get past them, he pulls Appa into a steep dive to build speed and then rushes past, dodging fireballs the whole way. Zuko, following Aang wherever he goes, is about to perform a more traditional run, but Commander Zhao decides to let him through and follow after.
  • In the Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors episode "Blockade Runners", the titular heroes come to the rescue when the evil Monster Minds place a blockade around planet Baz as part of an invasion scheme.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Korra uses the Avatar State to punch a hole in the Northern Tribe's blockade of the Southern Tribe's harbor, enabling Varrick's boat to race through before the astonished Northern sailors can collect themselves.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Given the Separatists' fondness for blockades, the Republic found themselves running them on several occasions, like when they had to get relief supplies to the Twi'leks on Ryloth, past the blockade around the planet.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In the episode "Wings of the Master", the Empire has established a blockade around the planet Ibaar, whose people are being starved into submission. The Rebels attempt to break through the blockade in order to deliver supplies to the starving people, but they fail in their first attempt and take heavy losses before finally retreating. Their second attempt fares much better when the Rebels manage to get their hands on a new prototype B-wing class starfighter colloquially known as a "Blockade Buster". With the help of the B-wing and its main cannon, the Rebels are able to smash the blockade by destroying one of the Imperial light cruisers, opening a gap for the Ghost to break through and deliver the supplies to the planet's surface.

    Real Life 
  • During The American Civil War, blockade runners became essential to the South's survival after the Union blockaded them. Most of the money and arms supplies delivered to the South came from Britain, often crewed by British citizens. Some became quite noted for it, such as the SS Syren, which successfully penetrated the blockade 33 times. Their contribution to the war was significant as they lengthened the war by two years and thereby causing 400,000 more American deaths. Following the Civil War, the U.S. sued Britain not just for damages caused by British-built Confederate commerce raiders, but for turning blind eye to its blockade runners arming the South. However, during the Alabama Claims tribunal in 1872, the U.S. was compensated $15.5 million by Britain only for damages caused by British-built Confederate commerce raiders and not for British arms supplies being delivered to the Confederacy.
  • World War II:
    • Leningrad was blockaded for almost 900 days by the Axis forces. During much of this time, the only way to deliver supplies to the starving city was the so-called "Road of Life" — a precarious path across the frozen Ladoga Lake.
    • Italian and British ships had to run through the enemy blockade, with British convoys from Britain bound to Malta and Egypt facing the Italian blockade and Italian convoys and isolated ships bound to Libya dealing with the Mediterranean Fleet.
    • Germans used warships (especially submarines), their own freighters, and captured freighters under false flags, to run blockades. In cases where Poor Communication Kills, some of these captured freighters were sunk by German U-boats who mistook them for Allied freighters. Britain also ran through German blockade to obtain Swedish steel products needed for its war industry, to the point of developing a class of small high speed vessels for that purpose.
  • During one of France's many wars of religion, the port of La Rochelle was besieged by the royal army but was kept supplied by their English allies. The royal army, commanded by the cardinal de Richelieu (yes, that one) started building a seawall in response. The ships were still able to get through at first, but in the end the wall was completed and the city surrendered.
  • In the beginning of the Cold War, the Soviet Union blocked all land access from West Germany to West Berlin, expecting that this would force the Western Allies to give up control over West Berlin. Instead, the Western Allies ran the Berlin Airlift, which managed to establish a successful supply of West Berlin for several months, making the Soviets give up when they realized their ploy was not going to work.
  • The Siege of Sarajevo lasted nearly four years as the city was surrounded and cut off from the rest of the world by Bosnian Serb forces. The UN had control of Sarajevo's airport as a neutral zone to allow humanitarian aid to get into the city, which gave the besieged Bosnian Army and Sarajevo civilians their only way to get supplies and people in and out of the city for those four years. At first, it was with nighttime runners who would cross the runway in darkness at risk of being run over by planes or being spotted by UN troops; later on, the Sarajevo Tunnel (also known as the Tunnel of Hope) was dug underneath the airport's runway and its exits hidden within houses to facilitate transit to Bosnian-controlled territory outside Sarajevo.