This looks like it might be inspired by this question, but in fact it's been on my to-ask list for months.

In the novel Mockingjay and the film adaptation Mockingjay Part 1, the Capitol and the rebellion led by District 13 engage in various stratagems against each other: "moves and countermoves", in President Snow's immortal words. In what seems to be one of the Capitol's biggest operations, they send a small fleet of bombers to assault District 13 from the air. The bombing goes on for perhaps a day or two, and then the Capitol forces leave again and the people of District 13 are free to venture out.

Why didn't the Capitol engage in a longer assault on District 13?

The most obvious possibility, to my mind, is to besiege the damn place. Get Capitol troops into position all around District 13 and keep them there, keep the population of 13 trapped underground, maybe even jam their communications if possible. This would essentially cut off the hub of operations for the rebellion, and the fighting in the other Districts would then be easy to shut down.

And if for some reason it wasn't possible to deploy ground troops around 13 (though I can't see why it shouldn't be, given the resources that the Capitol clearly have at their disposal), why not simply continue bombing? Not necessarily a continuous bombardment, but send in some hovercraft every few days, irregularly - keep District 13 in a permanent state of red alert, so that they never have a big enough window of opportunity to move their own troops out or allow their population out of the bunkers.

A single attack, no matter how heavy the bombardment, just seems like massive underkill.

  • 4
    Same reason District 13 was left alive in the first place. Nukes.
    – Timpanus
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 20:37
  • 1
    @Timpanus In that case, why did they attack the place at all? Panem was in a state of open war at this point, remember.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 20:41

6 Answers 6


A few reasons that spring to mind:

  • The Capitol doesn’t want to destroy District Thirteen, just subdue it.

    Coin speculates as much when they first get the warning from Peeta:

    “Although we have decades of support for the assumption that further direct attacks on Thirteen would be counterproductive to the Capitol's cause. Nuclear missiles would release radiation into the atmosphere, with incalculable environmental results. Even routine bombing could badly damage our military compound, which we know they hope to regain. And, of course, they invite a counterstrike. It is conceivable that, given our current alliance with the rebels, those would be viewed as acceptable risks.”

    Given the Capitol has detailed (if outdated) plans of the District, they probably chose their strikes carefully, intending to subdue the rebels (e.g. by caving in the residential areas), but not harm their arsenal, because that would be useful later.

    And as we see, they were very nearly successful – a lot of people get to the bunker just minutes before the bombers arrive – without Peeta’s warning, a lot of them would be dead.

  • The Capitol don’t want to draw attention to Thirteen.

    Remember that the Capitol are fighting with propaganda, not just the military. They’ve spent years trying to deny the existence of Thirteen. A large-scale ground invasion and continuous bombing would get people asking awkward questions. They could do without that hassle.

    If nothing else, it would stoke the rumours that there was something in District Thirteen. They don’t want more people heading off to join the rebellion there, if they can help it.

  • They may not have the resources to spare.

    Many of the Districts are in open rebellion by this point. Most of their troops will be maintaining the peace in other districts; taking the fight to Thirteen is expensive and may not be practical. The Capitol have a lot of resources, but they’re not unlimited.

    We know the Capitol have heavily invested in defences – witness the numerous pods scattered through the city. Anybody trying to attack will pay heavily, mostly in blood. It’s plausible (from the point of view of the Capitol strategists) that District Thirteen have done exactly the same – heavily fortified themselves against ground attack. Even with no special defences, you’d be attacking them on their home turf, where they have the natural advantage.

    Taking troops you might not be able to spare, against an unknown enemy, onto foreign turf, doesn’t make for a compelling argument.

  • 2
    Nice. The third point is the most compelling (maybe you should move it to the top?) The first argument doesn't work that well, since a siege would probably be less destructive than a heavy bombing!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 22:26
  • A siege would be more destructive in the end. Once their other resources ran out, District 13 would have no reason to not pop off their nuclear arsenal and watch the world burn. Air power of any sort, particularly ballistic missiles, makes a siege a poor plan.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 14:18

It was mentioned at the end of Catching Fire that all the districts (except for 2 and 12, the latter being obliterated with 800 survivors) were in full-scale rebellion/war against the Capitol's Peacekeepers. Just think, if the entire country was in a state of rebellion against the Capitol, the Capitol would obviously spend resources and efforts trying to hold them back. Most of the rebel fighters were disgruntled citizens living in the oppressed districts, not District 13 soldiers. Try to view this from the Capitol's perspective: If your whole country was in a state of rebellion against your regime, wouldn't this be extremely effective at spreading your troops thin? After all, Panem is a large country in terms of landmass (but not population), so if the whole country is in rebellion, the Peacekeepers would be spread thin. But even if the Capitol invested their full efforts at attacking District 13, they would have less resources to commit to suppressing the other districts, making things easier for the rest of the districts.

  • hi welcome to this Stack-exchange! Your reasoning seems to have merits, you could improve your answer with some book references supporting that indeed that happened.
    – Ram
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 3:18
  • I dunno, you have a point here, but the Capitol seems to have a lot of military strength. Certainly enough to casually organise a bombing attack on District 13. Maybe your point is that they're short on manpower more than weaponry?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 8:16

Even though District 13 was vital to the rebels in terms of weaponry and military backing (in terms of weaponry D13 was on-par with the Capitol), in terms of resources, D13 played no role in supporting and sustaining the Capitol. Since the end of the First Rebellion 75 years prior to the trilogy, D13 has been functioning as a completely independent country, free of Capitol control, and they are excluded from the Hunger Games. By contrast, many other Districts, such as District 11, are extremely vital to the Capitol's sustenance, and since D11 was one of the first Districts to rebel, shouldn't/wouldn't the Capitol be focusing strongly containing D11's uprising as well? Don't get me wrong, D13 was extremely vital to the rebel war effort (the backbone), but the uprisings of the Second Rebellion began in the wake of the 74th Hunger Games, triggered by Katniss and Peeta's open defiance of the Capitol, NOT by D13.

So the bottom line is, the other districts (1-12) are the ones that feed and sustain the Capitol. While D13 played a vital role in the rebellion, they weren't playing any part feeding and supporting the Capitol. And not to mention some of the most important Districts to the Capitol's existence (and also the most oppressed and first to revolt!) such as D11 would be far more important at suppressing than D13. With or without 13, the other districts could revolt just the same (most of the rebel soldiers were militia fighters in D1-12, not D13 soldiers). If all the districts rose up together (as they did at the end of Catching Fire), they would essentially pull the plug to the Capitol's existence. Remember, the Capitol was like a baby, depending 100% on its caretakers (the 12 districts). Without the 12 districts (especially D11, D10, and D9, the food districts), the Capitol is NOTHING! Not to mention their citizens seem to have no real employment (other than partying, entertainment, laziness). If Districts 1-12 (the suppliers of the Capitol) all rose up at the same time, they would be destroying the Capitol's sources of existence. Remember, without the 12 districts, the Capitol is NOTHING! The Capitol citizens don't work to support/feed themselves, and rely 100% on the districts slaves.

District 13 was simply an independent country, providing no support whatsoever to the Capitol-they lived just fine without D13 for 75 years. But without the other 12 districts, the Capitol would be nothing.


You mentioned that a siege on D13 "would essentially cut off the hub of operations for the rebellion, and the fighting in the other Districts would then be easy to shut down."

I wouldn't be so sure about such a statement. The other districts began rebelling and rising up during Catching Fire. By the end of Catching Fire, when Katniss was rescued from the arena, it was mentioned that all districts (except 2 and 12) were in full-scale rebellion. District 11 rebels were said to have seized transportation networks by then.

My point is, the fighting began well before D13 joined in. And it was Katniss' actions in the arena in the 74th and 75th HG that led to unrest, which by the end of Catching Fire turned into riots and full scale rebellion. Not sure what D13 had to do with any of that. They were NOT the ones who started the Second Rebellion, Katniss' actions sparked acts of dissent in the other districts - THEY were the first ones to revolt (the outlying districts such as 8, 10, and 11). You said besieging 13 would cut off the hub of operations for the rebellion and make it easier to shut down the other districts. I don't think so. What role did D13 have in the uprisings and eventually starting the war at the end of Catching Fire? Besides, the rebels were mostly the militia fighters of the districts, not D13 soldiers. The districts' rebellion was initiated by Katniss' actions in the arena, not D13! I'm not sure if D13 had any role to play in the opening phase of the fighting. It was clearly initiated by Katniss and the other districts.

Later, D13 seemed to have played more of a role, through the rebel propaganda and weaponry (the explosives used by rebels to blow up Peacekeepers in D7 and the dam in D5). Additionally, they supplied the districts’ militia fighters with guns (you see Paylor armed with an M1 Carbine in the film, using Machine Guns in the book to shoot hovercraft). In D2, the rebels used D13 hovercraft to bomb the mountains, destroying the Capitol's weapons supply. So D13 assisted the rebels, backed them up, but were NOT the instigators!

The districts’ rebellion was initiated by Katniss. Why, if D13 could influence Panem into civil war, why didn't they do it sooner?

I agree with Nicholas Jones saying that the massive nationwide uprisings would spread the Capitol troops thin! Especially in vital districts such as D11, the food-supplier and a large district, one of the earliest to rise up! Such an important district, yet one of the most oppressed, also most populated, giving them strength in numbers! Wouldn't the Capitol focus hard on suppressing them? Not to mention the other districts.

  • I always thought D13 had its agents in play from an early stage, and even played a role in turning Katniss into a figurehead of the revolution. It wasn't just her and local district revolutionaries, even in Catching Fire. Consider the fact that Plutarch Heavensbee was a D13 mole throughout.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 9:28

Even though the District citizens (in 1-12) are unarmed, they can still put up a fight. For example, in Catching Fire, it was mentioned that the District 8 rebels managed to temporarily throw-off the Capitol's control over them, by taking over their District and killing their local Peacekeepers. Of course, it wasn't long before the Capitol sent reinforcements and air support to bring District 8 back under control, but that was because the revolt had only taken place in D8, and it was NOT YET a mass, countrywide uprising. Even though the D8 citizens were unarmed, they still managed to create an impact, by successfully overthrowing their local Peacekeepers and taking over their District-they temporarily freed themselves from Capitol control. The reason why the Capitol was able to regain control over D8 was through reinforcements.

Now, imagine if EVERY single district in Panem were to do that, which was the case at the end of Catching Fire. If every single district revolted and pried from the Capitol's control, wouldn't that weaken the Capitol's ability to send reinforcements, if your entire country was rebelling? The anger and rage of the District residents can compensate for the lack of weapons and fighting skills. If every single District could rebel against their Peacekeepers, how MUCH MORE difficult would it be for the Capitol to regain control and send reinforcements? If the districts all revolt together, this would spread thin the Capitol's troops. In a situation like this, it would NOT be in the Capitol's best interests to launch a sustained attack on District 13 or send in large amounts of troops to attack. If they did so, this would furthermore weaken their ability to attack and control the other districts. They would probably not have the resources to spare, as another answer said.

  • Can you provide references from the books to support this answer?
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 21:41

The answer is quite obvious.

District 13 has nuclear weapons. If the Capitol tried attacking them for a much longer period of time and caused major destruction, the district could easily resort to launching their nuclear missiles to destroy the Capitol.

In fact, the Capitol's choice to attack District 13 was quite foolish. Even if they did manage to cause a good number of casualties for the district, they should know that they were really playing with fire; District 13 was armed with nukes and could have easily destroyed the Capitol anytime they wanted.

The Capitol was never really safe from another rebellion after the First Rebellion ended. District 13 seceded, and the Capitol hoped that they would die off overtime. But what they never considered was that District 13 had nuclear weapons; if they came to the point of dying out, they could easily launch their nuclear weapons and destroy the Capitol; this would free other districts of its rule.

The bottom line is, if the Capitol did engage in such attacks on District 13 (besieging it), they would risk getting themselves nuked. District 13 was able to force the Capitol to allow them to secede during the First Rebellion because they had nuclear weapons. District 13 could have attacked the Capitol anytime during the 75 years with their nukes, and if they did, the Capitol would be doomed.

District 13 was actually at an advantage; they were living in underground bunkers which could probably withstand nuclear attacks. If they nuked the Capitol, District 13 could continue to exist.

  • 2
    As far as I recall, both D13 and the Capitol had access to nukes, so it was a Mutually Assured Destruction kind of situation. Also, D13 didn't pose much of a threat for a long time. To quote Boggs: "We were in no position to launch a counterattack until recently. We could barely stay alive. After we'd overthrown and executed the Capitol's people, only a handful of us even knew how to pilot. We could've nuked them with missiles, yes. But there's always the larger question: If we engage in that type of war with the Capitol, would there be any human life left?"
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 12:33

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