Yo! Here we go again with this story about the game of Monopoly sent to me by Rich R. (Youâ€™llÂ never look at the game the same way again!)
Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British airmen found themselves the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape. Now obviously, one of the most-helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map. Paper maps had some real drawbacks â€“Â they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush.
SomeoneÂ in MI-5 (similar to Americaâ€™s OSS) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. Itâ€™s durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads and unfolded as many times asÂ needed, and makes no noise whatsoever.
At thatÂ time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approachedÂ by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort.
By pureÂ coincidence, Waddington was also the UK licensee for the popular American board game Monopoly. As it happened, â€œgames and pastimesâ€ was a category of item qualified for insertion into CARE packages, dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.
Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddingtonâ€™s, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producingÂ escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany, Italy, and France or whereverÂ Allied POW camps were located. When processed, these maps could be folded intoÂ such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.
As longÂ as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddingtonâ€™s also managed to add:
1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass
2. A two-part metal fileÂ that could easily be screwed together
3. Useful amounts ofÂ genuine high-denomination German, Italian and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!
British and American air crews were advised on how to identify a â€œriggedâ€ Monopoly set â€“ a tiny red dot, cleverly designed to look like an ordinaryÂ printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square.
Of the estimatedÂ 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets.
EveryoneÂ who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government mightÂ want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war. TheÂ story wasnâ€™t declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddingtonâ€™s, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony. Itâ€™s alwaysÂ nice when you can play that â€œGet Out of Jail Freeâ€ card!
IÂ realize many of you are (probably) too young to have any personal connection to WWII (December 1941 to August 1945), but this is still an interesting bit of history.