How Monopoly Helped POWs Escape During World War II

The Monopoly game first appeared on the market in 1934 and has been a symbol of the American way throughout its history. When World War II threatened democracy, Monopoly came into “play” in an unexpected way and from an unexpected source. Thanks to the Geneva Convention, Germany accepted care packages for the prisoners of war it had captured throughout the war. These packages were then distributed by organizations such as the Red Cross. For the British in particular, the game became escape kits in disguise. The British Secret Service and the UK licensee of Monopoly, John Waddington, Ltd., got together to create ways to surreptitiously include items that could lead to a successful escape. Each Monopoly kit contained a compass and metal file disguised as playing pieces. Additionally, German, French and Italian bank notes were hidden under the Monopoly money, and a silk map was concealed in the playing board itself. The Royal Air Force were told what to look for on the Monopoly packages should they be taken prisoner. They key: a small red dot on the Free Parking space.