Get Out of P.O.W. Camp Free?

A few weeks back we linked to a blog post describing the optimal strategy in the game Monopoly.

This fascinating article by Brian McMahon describes how the game of Monopoly was used during World War II to aid in the escape of Allied POWs.

(Is it just me, or does it seem from reading the story that this was an incredibly risky strategy — the Monopoly boxes contained maps that showed where Allied safe-houses were located within Nazi controlled areas. Wouldn’t it be a disaster if some of these maps were confiscated by the Nazis? Allied soldiers who were going off to fight were being told to look out for the specially-marked Monopoly boxes. All you needed was one traitor or P.O.W. to confess under torture, and the Nazis would know to intercept the Monopoly games.)

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COMMENTS: 28


  1. Toni says:

    If I were stuck in a Nazi POW camp, it’s a chance I’d be willing to take. I’m sure it was nothing like Hogan’s Heros.

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  2. Toni says:

    If I were stuck in a Nazi POW camp, it’s a chance I’d be willing to take. I’m sure it was nothing like Hogan’s Heros.

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  3. HM says:

    Interesting post about Allied use of monopoly games. Here is what the strategy piece about monopoly misses: there are a fixed number of houses in the game, so buying the houses to prevent your opponent from being able to do so is a valuable strategy. While the author represents that three is the optimum number, this is variable depending on where opponents are in their development. If they have property with no houses but not enough cash to build hotels, it can be worth ‘monopolizing’ the houses.

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  4. HM says:

    Interesting post about Allied use of monopoly games. Here is what the strategy piece about monopoly misses: there are a fixed number of houses in the game, so buying the houses to prevent your opponent from being able to do so is a valuable strategy. While the author represents that three is the optimum number, this is variable depending on where opponents are in their development. If they have property with no houses but not enough cash to build hotels, it can be worth ‘monopolizing’ the houses.

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  5. Rico Suave says:

    Ironically enough, Steven, the Nazis were honorable enough to honor the Geneva Convention and not torture its POWs.

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  6. Rico Suave says:

    Ironically enough, Steven, the Nazis were honorable enough to honor the Geneva Convention and not torture its POWs.

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  7. Stephen says:

    The United States doens’t torture either, right? Let’s replace the word “torture”, with “acceptible non-torture interrogation techniques”.

    His point about a traitor still stands pat regardless. And I know its a different era, but you take a drafted 18 year old young man, and he’s in prison camp and scared, maybe he thinks he can get out if he offers up some piece of bargaining information. Treason has taken place under less extreme circumstances than Nazi prison camp.

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  8. Stephen says:

    The United States doens’t torture either, right? Let’s replace the word “torture”, with “acceptible non-torture interrogation techniques”.

    His point about a traitor still stands pat regardless. And I know its a different era, but you take a drafted 18 year old young man, and he’s in prison camp and scared, maybe he thinks he can get out if he offers up some piece of bargaining information. Treason has taken place under less extreme circumstances than Nazi prison camp.

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  9. TruePath says:

    It would make sense if you assume the maps were only maps of the area that listed useful (but non-secret) like train stations, communication lines then if the Nazis discovered the maps they wouldn’t allow them to seize any hidden resources.

    In this case the cost of detection is virtually zero so why not pass these out. As far as being discovered you could be more helpful by telling only your actual pilots (and not spys who if caught were not covered by the geneva contention)

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  10. TruePath says:

    It would make sense if you assume the maps were only maps of the area that listed useful (but non-secret) like train stations, communication lines then if the Nazis discovered the maps they wouldn’t allow them to seize any hidden resources.

    In this case the cost of detection is virtually zero so why not pass these out. As far as being discovered you could be more helpful by telling only your actual pilots (and not spys who if caught were not covered by the geneva contention)

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  11. Enrico says:

    Germans did not torture any POWs, and in fact airmen were treated better than according to the Geneva conventions, due to the sense of honour of Mr. Goering, a former fighter pilot.

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  12. Enrico says:

    Germans did not torture any POWs, and in fact airmen were treated better than according to the Geneva conventions, due to the sense of honour of Mr. Goering, a former fighter pilot.

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  13. Martin Seebach says:

    The article says that all troops sent to the front were told about the Monopoly games – and since 35.000 escaped, likely many more were caught.
    But it would take only one to squeal to shut down the whole operation.. Sounds risky to me, but it’s not like I have a better idea.

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  14. Martin Seebach says:

    The article says that all troops sent to the front were told about the Monopoly games – and since 35.000 escaped, likely many more were caught.
    But it would take only one to squeal to shut down the whole operation.. Sounds risky to me, but it’s not like I have a better idea.

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  15. frankenduf says:

    the original plan, which was scrapped, was to send each POW a chocolate cake, with a gun in it, and 6 chocolate chip cookies, with a bullet in each

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  16. frankenduf says:

    the original plan, which was scrapped, was to send each POW a chocolate cake, with a gun in it, and 6 chocolate chip cookies, with a bullet in each

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  17. Patrick says:

    For the posters commenting that Allied POWs held by Germany fared fairly well, this only holds true for the Western Allies. For example, Polish and Russian POWs often experienced brutal and barbaric treatment, not to mention a massive amount of summary execution. While Germany did follow the Geneva convention with respect to Western POWs, it largely ignored Geneva with respect to its Eastern POWs. (The USSR had not yet ratified Geneva III, which covers treatment of POWs, by the time of the war, but that did not let Germany off the hook: Geneva III binds signatories to adhere to the rules unless its non-signatory opponent is not in adherence.)

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  18. Patrick says:

    For the posters commenting that Allied POWs held by Germany fared fairly well, this only holds true for the Western Allies. For example, Polish and Russian POWs often experienced brutal and barbaric treatment, not to mention a massive amount of summary execution. While Germany did follow the Geneva convention with respect to Western POWs, it largely ignored Geneva with respect to its Eastern POWs. (The USSR had not yet ratified Geneva III, which covers treatment of POWs, by the time of the war, but that did not let Germany off the hook: Geneva III binds signatories to adhere to the rules unless its non-signatory opponent is not in adherence.)

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  19. bhessert says:

    A Link from The Onion:
    Monopoly Releases Special ‘Regular Monopoly’ Edition
    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/monopoly_releases_special

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  20. bhessert says:

    A Link from The Onion:
    Monopoly Releases Special ‘Regular Monopoly’ Edition
    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/monopoly_releases_special

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  21. Drew says:

    Placing “contraband” such as escape tools into packages delivered under the auspices of the International Red Cross would have been a violation of its rules. Had the Germans discovered such contraband hidden inside Red Cross packages they would have been well within their rights to withhold further deliveries to Allied P.O.W.s.

    I believe that the real story is that the escape tools were hidden inside packages sent by other (fake) charities concocted by Allied intelligence services for such purposes.

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  22. Drew says:

    Placing “contraband” such as escape tools into packages delivered under the auspices of the International Red Cross would have been a violation of its rules. Had the Germans discovered such contraband hidden inside Red Cross packages they would have been well within their rights to withhold further deliveries to Allied P.O.W.s.

    I believe that the real story is that the escape tools were hidden inside packages sent by other (fake) charities concocted by Allied intelligence services for such purposes.

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  23. Marie says:

    I am not a proponent of torture, however, your article seems to assume that torture would cause someone to spill valuable information.

    Opponents of torture often claim it does not “work.” Again, I don’t support it, but I imagine it does “work.”

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  24. Marie says:

    I am not a proponent of torture, however, your article seems to assume that torture would cause someone to spill valuable information.

    Opponents of torture often claim it does not “work.” Again, I don’t support it, but I imagine it does “work.”

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  25. psb says:

    #2,

    “If they have property with no houses but not enough cash to build hotels, it can be worth ‘monopolizing’ the houses.”

    Your post implies that a player could, if he had enough money, just buy a hotel outright if he has sufficient cash for it, even if there are no houses available. That is actually not true. Technically speaking, you need to trade in 4 houses + cash for 1 more house to get a hotel.

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  26. psb says:

    #2,

    “If they have property with no houses but not enough cash to build hotels, it can be worth ‘monopolizing’ the houses.”

    Your post implies that a player could, if he had enough money, just buy a hotel outright if he has sufficient cash for it, even if there are no houses available. That is actually not true. Technically speaking, you need to trade in 4 houses + cash for 1 more house to get a hotel.

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  27. Lauren says:

    #2, what do the rules of Monopoly have to do with P.O.W.’s using the game box to store maps? (And #13 is right about the 4 houses + cash = 1 hotel)

    I’m sure that using the boxes were very risky, but sometimes you just take what you can get, especially if you’re a P.O.W. If someone had slipped the info to the Nazi’s then the prisoners would have found some other way to store their maps.

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  28. Lauren says:

    #2, what do the rules of Monopoly have to do with P.O.W.’s using the game box to store maps? (And #13 is right about the 4 houses + cash = 1 hotel)

    I’m sure that using the boxes were very risky, but sometimes you just take what you can get, especially if you’re a P.O.W. If someone had slipped the info to the Nazi’s then the prisoners would have found some other way to store their maps.

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