Get out of jail free…

…but don’t collect $200 

This story is not one of my personal experiences!  It’s a recapitulation of a story that I read in a commercial publication or a magazine, I can’t remember which.  I’m repeating what I remember of the content, but not copying it.  It’s a fascinating revelation of strategy, which couldn’t be known until the war was over. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  It’s a good story for the children of the WWII survivors.

After commencement of the Second World War in 1941, British and American prisoners started finding themselves as involuntary guests of the Third Reich. Both the English and Americans searched for ways to aid their servicemen, to escape prisons, and find their way back to their homeland.  One of the most valuable aids would be a map. However, maps were not available to prisoners. Such things could easily be detected, then confiscated, plus result in a punishment for the prisoners.  Escapees needed not only maps, but also the location of safe houses on their way along the escape routes.  Paper maps had drawbacks because of size and the noise they made when opening and closing them.  If they get wet, they turn into mush.

Some people in the British MI-5 agency (similar to the American FBI, but British) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk.  It’s durable, can be scrunched up into tiny wads, then unfolded as many times as needed without making any noise whatsoever. One manufacturer in Great Brittan, headed by John Waddington, a British subject, perfected the technology of printing on silk. His company was happy to help for the war effort.

Monopoly at the time was very popular in Great Britain, France and Germany.  Games were allowed in care packages for the prisoners of war in Germany, through the International Red Cross.  Under the strictest secrecy, the American and British group began mass-producing escape maps, which folded in tiny dots that could fit inside of the Monopoly pieces.  They also manufactured a small magnetic compass in the form of a playing piece, and a two part metal file that could easily be screwed together. Useful amounts of genuine high denomination German, Italian and French currency were hidden within the piles of Monopoly money.

British and American aircrews were advised, before taking off for their missions, how to identify the rigged Monopoly pieces, and how to access the maps therein. Almost one third of the 35,000 Allied POW’s, who successfully escaped the Nazis, were able to use the Monopoly maps and currency in their escapes. Each piece that had been rigged was identifiable, if you knew what to look for. It was a little red dot that resembled a typical printing glitch on the boards. Uncanny and clever.

The persons, who helped to make and use these items, were sworn to secrecy. After the war, the creators and suppliers were finally honored in a public ceremony for making it possible to “get out of jail free”.  Remember that “move” and the card on the Monopoly board?  It worked!

This is a short story, known only by a few, but will be remembered by the escapees forever.

Kriegsgefangene amerikanische Soldaten