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The Monopoly Secret Weapon

Updated on March 9, 2010
Monopoly
Monopoly
An Estimated 750 Million People Have Played Monopoly
An Estimated 750 Million People Have Played Monopoly

Monopoly The Game

Almost everyone has played Monopoly, the game of financial domination. Most people are familiar with Park Place and Boardwalk, the two most expensive properties found on the Monopoly board. Today, there are numerous versions of the original version of Monopoly including a Star Wars version and a version offered by McDonald's each year where players collect Monopoly properties to earn prizes. Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow who patented the game in 1935. It is published by Parker Brothers.

Since 1935 it is estimated that 750 million people have played Monopoly worldwide making it one of the most successful board games in History. Games Magazine inducted Monopoly into its Games Hall of Fame.

However, Monopoly has a place in history aside from its prominence as a Board game. During the second World War the game of Monopoly was used a secret weapon by Allied forces against the Nazis.

During World War II Millions Of These Tiny Maps Were Produced
During World War II Millions Of These Tiny Maps Were Produced

Monopoly The Weapon

At the outbreak of World War II, England ordered the production of millions of tiny maps that its soldiers could keep in small places like ciggarette packs. The maps were to be used by the soldiers if they were captured so if they escaped they could find their way to safety. Millions of these maps were produced out of tissue paper and they were distributed accordingly. They were small in scale that depicted a large area. Maps were made of Norway, Sweden and Germany.

Recently Discovered Documents Show The Monopoly Plan In Action
Recently Discovered Documents Show The Monopoly Plan In Action

The Plan In Action

However, when British soldiers were captured by the Germans their personal belongings were confiscated including the maps the soldiers carried with them. In 1941, the British Secret Service devised a plan to get around this problem.

The British Secret Service partnered with John Waddington Ltd., the company that produced the game Monopoly in England. The company had also just perfected the process of printing on silk and was already in the process of producing silk maps for the soldiers to carry with them on the battlefields. The Silk maps were desired because they are not ruined by rain and make no noise when they are unfolded. The plan called for Waddington to place the maps inside Monopoly games.

Soldiers Received More Than These Pieces.  In Their Version Were Metal Files, Money and Silk Maps.
Soldiers Received More Than These Pieces. In Their Version Were Metal Files, Money and Silk Maps.

Get Out Of Jail Free

Waddington put the plan in action. The company created a secure room to create the the special edition Monopoly games. The other employees in the factory had no idea what was occurring. Inside that room, additional playing pieces were created. Alongside the car, thimble and dog, came metal files, magnetic compasses and silk maps. Further, some of the Monopoly money was replaced with real money.

This all worked because of the rules of war written for prisoners of war. Prisoners of war were allowed to receive care packages from home as long as they were delivered by the International Red Cross. The Red Cross, who was in on the plan, delivered thousands of packages across Europe during the war. The Game of Monopoly was a part of these packages.. Soldiers knew that there care packages were "special" if a red dot appeared on the Free Parking Space.

The manufacturers of Monopoly are only now receiving credit for the actions they took in World War II.
The manufacturers of Monopoly are only now receiving credit for the actions they took in World War II.

War Hero

The International Red Cross kept track of where the Monopoly games were delivered in order to ensure that the Soldiers received the correct maps of the Country they were in. However, it is impossible to determine how many soldiers received the maps and used its contents to escape. There are stories from soldiers claiming such.

Waddington, Parker Brothers and Hasbro never got credit for the actions it took to help the war effort. Evidence of their involvement were just recently discovered and to the company's credit, they never divulged any information about the Monopoly plan. But it is easy to say that the soldiers who received the game in POW camps appreciated their get out of jail free cards.

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    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for reading

    • profile image

      hanah shin 5 years ago

      i love the game monopoly it is fun creative and great to play at family game night.Thank you for whoever made this game.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I both read and listened to interviews of soldiers saying they got them. I don't think it was ever that succesful however, but the fact that they tried is what counts.

      Thanks for stopping by

    • profile image

      harold Lee 5 years ago

      A great story, but sadly the best parts are untrue. There were many aiding instruments such as silk maps and compasses but these were never employed in monopoly games. The Red Cross would never agree to this idea as that would severly undermine their vital food packages. By the way the dog token playing piece was only introduced in monopoly in early 1960s, well after the war. You can google and read my response to a similar article in muurkrants monopoly site. Harold Lee researcher

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I know there are a few sets in England. But don't believe me, here is an ABC news stories about it. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/monopolys-hidden-...

    • profile image

      Michael Jezard 7 years ago

      OK,

      Graet reading and very cool.

      But why can't I find a single example of this particular and very special Monopoly set anywhere. You'd think it would be worth a lot of money and someone would be selling, somewhere.

      I AREALLY hope this is true, so if anyone can prove its existence, let me know (michael@jezard.net)

      Otherwise this is just another urban legend

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comments.

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 8 years ago from Olney

      What a fantastic story it makes me proud to be a Brit.

      https://hubpages.com/education/The-Monopoly-Secret...

    • bengriston profile image

      bengriston 8 years ago

      What an intriguing story from the war. I had never heard about this before.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      No doubt the British came up with some pretty cool ideas.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      Yeah I learned a lot by watching stories like this on PBS and History Channel. Pretty cool stuff and the British were experts at coming up with clever ways to outsmart the enemy, the Americans didn't take long to follow suit. Too bad Roosevelt didn't listen to Churchill more.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment.

      I had no idea either. Hard to tell how good it worked but it was worth trying.

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 8 years ago from ma

      Thanks for sharing. Like everyone else, I had no idea. I hope the Monopoly guy saved lots of people.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for reading. I thought it was a great story too.

      Ghandi, not even close. He was a great man. I am just a guy with a giant eye.

    • profile image

      L. Andrew Marr 8 years ago

      That is actually amazing. Wow. Who would have guessed that 'Monopoly' was a secret weapon.

      Also, I would just like to say, for some reason your pic remind me of Ghandi.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      THanks for reading

    • profile image

      Twin XL 8 years ago

      What a fascinating story! Thanks for posting.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I agree, very inventive. Thanks for the comment.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 8 years ago from United States

      This was completely fascinating. It's amazing what takes on a different use in a struggle the size of a World War.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Monopoly has always been one of my favorite games, and this story is like icing on the cake! Love it.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      This story is really cool! I played the game once in a while, but I was never lucky enough to win...usually I went bankrupt LOL....

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment. I couldn't find any pictures of the actual boards, but thought the story was very cool.

    • grynn profile image

      grynn 8 years ago from United States

      Amazing story. Can't believe I hadn't known about this sooner. Are there any pictures of these special playing boards and what they contained? I would love to see them.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for reading.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      I never knew that - fantastic story! Thanks very much for sharing it.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      This was a very interesting story to learn. Stratego Grand Champion? Wow, I sometimes get Park Place, but not usually

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      Again you have discovered a hidden gem of history and shared it with us insightfully.  I was a Monopoly man in my youth before becoming a Stratego Grand Champion.  On the road with the band we played Risk regularly until the wee hours.  Thanks. I enjoyed the story. 

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks DM.

      So with the bug the game became more like RISK?

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      bgpappa, what a cool story. I was the car then the car got lost now when we play I am often a small stone. I remember some Monopoly games that got pretty wild, with people stomping off in a huff when opposing team mates formed alliances. Once, my mother put someone's house on a bug, and the bug wandred all over the board, so the house seemed to move about on it's own.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks Hawk.

      I had never heard of this either and found it a great story. I was always the thimble. Why, nobody else wanted it.

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      I never knew this, how creative. When we used to play this game, I always had the car.