How History’s Most Popular Board Game Helped Defend The Free World

By the end of World War II, more than 35,000 Allied POWs had escaped from German prison camps. And more than a few of those escapees owe their breakout to a classic board game:

During World War II, the British secret service hatched a master plan to smuggle escape gear to captured Allied soldiers inside Germany. Their secret weapon? Monopoly boxes. The original notion was simple enough: Find a way to sneak useful items into prison camps in an unassuming form. But the idea to use Monopoly came from a series of happy coincidences, all of which started with maps.

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To produce these silent maps, the Brits turned to John Waddington Ltd., a company that had recently perfected the process of printing on silk and was already manufacturing silk escape maps for British airmen to carry. What else was Waddington known for? You guessed it—being the licensed manufacturer of Monopoly outside the United States.


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