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The Monopoly Secret Weapon

Updated on March 9, 2010
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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