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Washington D.C. Invasion

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"This is insane! You can't possibly hold Washington, much less conquer the entire United States. I know. I've TRIED!"
Cobra Commander to Serpentor, G.I. Joe

So, you've got your villain, and his evil army. You've assured they're evil, but you're not sure whether the audience finds him threatening. Or, you're trying to reverse years of Villain Decay. One way or another, you need to give your baddie some serious villain cred. So what do you do?

Invade Washington, D.C., of course! One second, the army's just rocking up on the outskirts, and the next, the Big Bad's already asking the defeated defenders to Take Me to Your Leader!

It seems that every villain, whether they be Russkies with a grudge or a nutty supervillainess, has their crosshairs aimed firmly at the center of American political power. While this is often justified, just as often (or possibly more often) the villain has no reason to attack Washington more than any other city, and may often be setting his evil plan back a step by attempting to kill off the only people who can surrender to him.

A Sub-Trope of Invaded States of America, Capital Offensive and sometimes Creator Provincialism. Related to Monumental Damage. See also the trope image for Dirty Communists. Contrast with Aliens in Cardiff.

In Real Life DC traffic is so bad that any invasion by ground would be quickly stalled by the circles and roundabouts, which was their original intended purpose. To date, only two (technically three) forces have ever managed to hold the Capitol by invading it: Great Britain (and Canada) in the Burning of Washington during the War of 1812, and the insurrectionists during the January 6, 2021 Storming of the Capitol.

Also note that no such fictional invasion ever took place under the term of Theodore Roosevelt. Coincidence? We think not!


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Amazons Attack! primarily took place in DC, although the Amazons invaded other parts of the US as well.
  • Captain America: The climactic fight of Captain America: Reborn, where Steve Rogers returns from the dead and dramatically kills the Red Skull supposedly for real this time, takes place in Washington. Because naturally.
  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! saw Waspington, DC (Washington's Earth-C counterpart) attacked on several occasions by villains.
  • In the sequel to Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, the US government gives us possibly the most suicidal example of the "we can exploit this dangerous creature's powers" trope in all fiction - resurrecting Freddy and Jason. The result? Freddy declares himself President Evil, with a Deadite army (that they'd also had on hand) led by Jason storming Washington.
  • Supreme: Prior to his escape, Korgo the Space Tyrant appeared in front of The White House, challenged Bill Clinton for a duel (aghast at the poor combat capabilities of "William Clint's Son" compared to those of his father, the High Plains Drifter), defeated him and declared himself next president of USA and Hillary Clinton his wife. Don't worry, Hillary scared him off.
  • The climax of Superman: Red Son has Superman lead the invasion into Washington personally.
  • Wonder Woman Volume 1: While the Saturnian Empire's initial invasion plans were not directed at D.C. when those are called off and the Empire forms a treaty with the US. Instead Eviless' own little invasion targets D.C. She's framing the Saturnian ambassador for it in an attempt to destroy the new alliance.

    Fanfiction 
  • Coreline Operation Endgame: The second act of the story follows the heroes as they try their best to stem a massive invasion of DC by CHIMERA (an epic Villain Team-Up army composed of groups like COBRA, SPECTRE, the Decepticons and the Legion Of Doom. Think the Great Offscreen War of Old Man Logan). Even with multiple reinforcements requested and several of the heroes being a veritable One-Man Army, the best they can do is Hold the Line long enough for the President to be safely evacuated (and deny CHIMERA one of its biggest targets).
  • In The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum, the PER working in collusion with the Solar Empire launched an all-out assault on Washington DC to take out the heads of America's military (as the USA was one of the few countries that hasn't been too seriously affected by the barrier and provides much of the backbone of earth's military response to the empire's xenocidal campaign). The end result has the American president take the Nuclear Option.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, ProtoMan plans this in episode 9, but it doesn't happen due to Wily's interference. Wily then steals his idea to use in episode 11.
  • Like its canon namesake, Tiberium Wars features a Nod invasion of GDI-held DC, centered around the (unsuccessful) attack on the Pentagon. Unlike in canon, the fic stretches this into a fifteen-chapter epic involving massive-scale urban warfare, thousands of tanks, and super-commandos on each side — including Renegade's Havoc.
    • Of course, "super-commando" fails to measure up to Havoc's level of awesome when he retakes the occupied White House with nothing but a few GDI soldiers he picked up in the chaos and a couple of stolen Nod vehicles. And a large quantity of explosives.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) starts with a spaceship landing on the National Mall. Not an invasion, but no one told the Army. The remake moves the film to New York.
  • Earth vs. the Flying Saucers: The final battle takes place in Washington D.C.
  • When King Ghidorah takes control of the other Kaiju and has them begin destroying the world in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Ghidorah along with Rodan flies north from Mexico to personally invade Washington D.C., and his hurricane completely floods the city to the point where battleships can sail through the streets when the military arrive to combat him.
  • The most famous scene in Independence Day has the aliens destroying the White House, though they were simultaneously attacking many other cities as well.
  • Invasion U.S.A. (1952) has "The Enemy" raid D.C. near the end to try to decapitate the United States' leadership; they're driven back, but not before killing the Senator character in the film.
  • In Mars Attacks!, Washington DC suffers Monumental Damage, including the classic "tipping the Monument over" gag. Hilariously, they filmed what appears to be an actual tenement whose front wall had been demolished in one of the less salubrious parts of town, making the residents appear to be living in a dollhouse when the invasion ends.
  • The 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen features an invading terrorist force sympathetic to North Korea overthrowing the White House and kidnapping the president.
  • In Rampage: President Down, Bill Williamson 400 feet from the White House uses a sniper rifle to kill the President, Vice President and Secretary of Defense. In the ending, it's implied that anarchists who sympathize with Bill killed off everyone else in the White House in order to fulfill Bill's plan of cleansing and regaining control of the nation.
  • DC is hit in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and there are a few nods given to the last time a Transformers series showed the Decepticons attacking the capital of the USA
  • Inverted in The War Of The Worlds (1953), where Washington is the only major capital not to be attacked by the Martians.

    Literature 

Authors

  • Shows up in Harry Turtledove's Alternate History works a few times.
    • In The Guns of the South, Robert E. Lee captures Washington DC to effectively end the "Second American Revolution" (this timeline's American Civil War).
    • In Timeline-191, Washington DC is surrounded and threatened by Confederates in the "War of Secession" (this timeline's American Civil War), then shelled in the Second Mexican War in 1881, and shelled and captured again during the Great War. Unsurprisingly, the Union government has long since decamped to Philadelphia out of artillery range, and Washington is described as a cold city of monuments only kept in place to prove a point.
    • The Race in Worldwar don't bother invading Washington DC—they just nuke it. This is considered a Moral Event Horizon for many who had previously collaborated with the Race (whose only other nuking to this point was an attack on Nazi Germany's capital Berlin). The Race themselves didn't see how it was any different, as objectively speaking it wasn't, but of course, Americans are going to care much more about an American city. Propaganda films made much of a horror-inducing scene of the city turned to glass and panning to reveal the melted stub of the Washington Monument.
    • The Nazis of In the Presence of Mine Enemies likewise nuke Washington DC during World War III, after the U.S. stayed neutral through World War II.

Individual Works

  • Dave Barry's review of Independence Day notes that the aliens' first mistake is attacking DC, as they seem to think attacking political centers will somehow make the government less effective. Similarly, millions of Americans take to the streets to celebrate that there are no more income taxes to pay.
  • As in the Real Life War of 1812, the British forces in The Rivers of Warnote  attack Washington, DC in a punitive raid. However, in this Alternate History Sam Houston was present to help rally the troops to defend the Capitol Building, effectively turning the British attack from a major propaganda victory to petty arson when they settle for torching other buildings after being bloodied badly and driven away in their attempt to assault the Capitol Building.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon culminates in DC, where the Big Bad tries to nuke the White House.
  • In the Backstory of City of Heroes, Nemesis attacked Washington DC near the end of World War II, and even managed to stage a ceremony where he was sworn in as Emperor of the Americas before heroes drove him out.
  • Pulling off one of these is the ultimate goal of the Confederate player in the Civil War Generals series.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • In a fairly early mission briefing for the first Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn's NOD campaign, Kane's right-hand man sends your forces to Washington DC to attack the Pentagon, against Kane's wishes. He doesn't get enough time to regret this, and the attack is called off.
    • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, both the Soviet and Allied campaigns have two missions each take place in and around Washington — RA2 was when the series started to get campy and Troperiffic, so the triteness of the premise can be excused. The first Soviet mission has you destroying the Pentagon en route to occupying the city, while the eighth Soviet mission involves attacking General Vladimir's base near and capturing the White House. On the Allied side, the third mission Subverts the trope in that the player's task is simply a smash-and-grab of the President to be evacuated by helicopter before he can be psychically-compelled to surrender the US to the Soviets, while the sixth mission technically fits the trope insofar as Allied forces are the ones staging an invasion to recapture Washington and kick the Soviets out.
    • In Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars, the first act of the Nod campaign is a multi-stage invasion of DC and the environs, with special attention paid to the White House and Langley AFB. The first act of the GDI campaign is kicking the aforesaid invasion back out of the city, starting with the Siege of the Pentagon.
  • The Conduit takes place almost entirely in Washington D.C. at the start of such an invasion. The sequel, Conduit 2, has a level where you return to the city at the peak of the invasion.
  • D.C. is one of the cities you can attack in Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!!
  • The second-to-last mission of the American campaign in Empire Earth II is a scramble to defend Washington from an attempted Military Coup by cybernetically-enhanced troops who are opposed to large cutbacks in military spending.
  • Fallout: While Washington D.C wasn't invaded by ground troops (aside from the chinese infiltrators using the Mama Dolce's restaurant as a hiding place even before World War III broke out, who can still be found there as Ghouls 200 years later), the city was by far the most heavily targeted during the Great War - the area is called the Capital Wasteland for a reason. While some landmarks such as the Washington Monument, the Capital Dome, and the Lincoln Memorial still exist, albeit damaged, the White House is outright gone, with only an irradiated crater in it's place. After the Lone Wanderer rediscovers the Purifier, Washington is invaded again, this time by the Enclave, hoping to use it to launch their conquest of America.
  • The first missions of Jungle Strike are set in Washington DC, and the bad guys send tanks and missile trucks to destroy the famous landmarks and invade the White House. You are the only person doing anything at all about it.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos: In the first mission, President Michael Wilson fights his way out of The White House and through a secret bunker to launch Air Force One through the Washington Monument's moon pool as Vice President RICHAAARD! Hawk invades the city, though Washington D.C. is one of the last major cities Michael retakes.
  • Modern Warfare 2 plays with this trope. The Russian invasion encompasses all of the East Coast states (starting with Northeastern Virginia), and Washington is only assaulted relatively late into the invasion, persumably after the Russians managed to break through the other states in their way. Either that or the Player Character simply wasn't sent there yet. Fittingly, the final battle of it is you storming the White House. America winning it was the turning point in the invasion, but prior to it things were so bad the military was going to level the entire city.
  • The final level of Octogeddon involves the titular giant octopus destroying Washington D.C. and The White House.
  • An invasion of Washington is the best possible ending of Panzer General.
  • One possible win condition for the Soviet side of the Cold War campaign in Rise of Nations is a conventional invasion of the Eastern Seaboard territory (the Americans' capital territory), where the player starts from New England and whose goal is to capture and hold Washington.
  • The intro of Shattered Union shows DC suffering a nuclear attack by terrorists backed by a hostile Russia. Afterwards, when America falls into a second Civil War, the European Union expeditionary force seizes the ruins of the city and the surrounding Chesapeake Bay region in order to restore order. You yourself, of course, can fight in and around the city.
  • Tom Clancy:
    • H.A.W.X.'' features a PMC launching a multi-pronged attack on the USA. One of their main goals is to kidnap/kill the President, so of course, they invade Washington DC. Good thing the HAWX Squadron are there to repel them!
      • They actually do manage to blow up the White House, but the First Family was currently on Air Force One. Which Artemis quickly tries to shoot down, and whom the HAWX have to defend.
    • In EndWar, since it's the American capital, Washington DC can be invaded.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the teaser for the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode, "The Siege of Starro" (Part One) we see would-be conqueror Per Degaton and his army of robots attacking Washington. They are defeated by the Justice Society of America.
    • Much of "Darkseid Descending!" takes place in an occupied Washington, D.C., which Kalibak is using as a beachhead for Darkseid's invasion of Earth.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Technically, the Skrull invasion hits the entire planet, but the final battle between the Avengers and Veranke takes place outside Congress.
  • This happens quite frequently in Futurama, so that President Nixon and Captain Brannigan have gotten so used to surrendering that they will sometimes do so at inappropriate occasions on accident.
  • The episode "Arise, Serpentor, Arise" from G.I. Joe, which featured Cobra seizing the capitol, and Serpentor using the Lincoln Memorial as a throne room. (He brought in a gold throne, and sat it in the statue of Lincoln's lap.)
  • Dr. Wily tries this in one episode of the Ruby-Spears Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) cartoon.
  • The episode "Atlantis, Arise!" from The Transformers. Featuring highlights such as the Autobots having to melt the masonry of the Washington Monument back together (somehow), and Megatron ripping the Abe Lincoln part of the Lincoln Memorial off the chair so that he can use the chair as a throne.
  • South Park's third season episode, "The Red Badge Of Gayness" has Cartman attempt to pull this off by playing the role of Robert E. Lee in a historical re-enactment and riling up the Confederacy re-enactors just so he can win a bet with Stan and Kyle. He almost has Bill Clinton ready to surrender until Stan and Kyle come in dressed as Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln in order to end the re-enactment as a Union victory.


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