The Endgame: When Cards Were Used as Part of War Strategies


Who doesn’t enjoy playing card games with friends and family? However, did you know that the same playing cards have played a very crucial role in some of the wars fought across the globe?

Yes, the same deck of cards that we fancy has been a part of some of the most significant wars that have shaped our world. Amazed? Let’s take a look.

World War II – Cards as Escape Maps

World war is the worst kind of war there can be, still we have had two: we hope that such a horrible thing never happens again.

Humankind thrust everything it had into the World Wars and most of the technological breakthroughs happened either during the war or immediately after the war was over.

However, even during times like those, with all the bombs and the shelling going on, guess what the most radical idea could have been?

It was the ingenious way in which the allied forces decided to use playing cards as a means to escape from a prison camp in the case of a soldier ending up getting captured.

During the time, the allied forces teamed up with the playing card manufacturer USPCC to design and produce cards that soldiers could carry with them into war with an escape map hidden within them.

Each deck of cards had a part of the map neatly tucked in within the two paper panels. Soldiers could soak the cards in water and peel them off to reveal a part of the map.

Once the process was performed with each of the cards in a deck, they could then be aligned to show the entire escape route on a map.

Well, who could ever think that something we use as gaming equipment was once not only responsible for entertaining soldiers on the frontiers, but also helped them escape during times of crisis.

The Vietnam War Cards as a Symbol of Death

The Viet Cong forces were very superstitious, and the US forces discovered that. Since war is more than just fighting with guns and bullets, the Americans thought of using psychological warfare with the opposing force.

The Viet Cong considered the Ace of Spades a symbol of death, and the American forces came up with a crazy idea of creating and distributing decks of cards consisting of only the Aces of Spades to its soldiers.

The soldiers would then wear a card on their helmets to scare off the Viet Cong forces. Whether this trick worked or not is still open for debate; however, it’s interesting even to think that something as harmless as a playing card was once used to scare an entire army!

The Gulf War The Ace of Spades

What do you do when you have a long list of wanted men and don’t want your soldiers to forget their names and faces if they encounter them on the field?

Simple. Give your soldiers a deck of cards that have pictures and information of the wanted men. And, that is exactly what happened during the USA’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The US army used its tested old trick that it had used in the US Civil War, World War II and the Korean War and gave each of its soldiers a deck of cards with the pictures and information of the 55 wanted men, with Saddam Hussein shown as the Ace of Spades.

It was believed that the soldiers, who would often play cards during downtime, would get familiar with those men while playing cards with fellow soldiers by having to look at the cards constantly.

We all have heard about and played rummy games, but how many of you had thought that they could play a part in the wars?

Pretty tricky to fathom, we guess. However, now you know that cards have indeed stuck with people through thick and thin, not only as a means of entertainment but also as a part of strategies in wars!

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Keep playing, keep winning!

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