uk_flag_small_2.gif (3593 bytes)       


WWII  Tissue Escape Maps

        The history of the production of tissue maps during World War II is shrouded in more secrecy than that of the cloth maps mainly because the tissue maps were intended to be smuggled into POW camps.  The maps were sent into the camps either by airmen who had been captured or by MIS-X and MI 9 who hide the maps in aid packages mailed to POWs purportedly by legitimate relief societies, which were actually fictitious organizations made up by MIS-X and MI 9.  Because this enterprise was kept highly classified during the war and for many years afterwards, and because many of the documents are still classified, little information is available to the public regarding the tissue maps.

        Nonetheless, the MI 9 officer Clayton Hutton, who initially was responsible for the production of British cloth escape maps, also seems to have played a significant role in the production of tissue paper maps.  In his book Official Secrets,[1] Hutton relates that before he successfully produced silk escape maps he attempted to find a suitable paper material, but was initially unable to find a material that meet his requirements: (1) very thin as not to take up much room, but still durable, (2) crease resistant so it could be folded without the ink rubbing off at the folds which otherwise would render the information on the creases illegible, (3) rustle free when it was unfolded and used so it would not cause undue attention.

        After production of the silk maps began, Hutton relates that an acquaintance of his arranged for the interception of a Japanese ship that was carrying a large load of paper described as being made from mulberry leaves.  The paper proved to be extremely durable; it could be soaked in water, crumbled in a ball, and then smoothed out.  Hutton was also able to devise a method to hide the maps between two pieces of brown paper, which when placed in water would cause the brown paper to separate from the tissue paper.  The tissue map could be pressed flat and dried. The tissue maps were issued to RAF pilots and hidden in personal uniform objects such as belts and hollowed out boot heels, or the maps were smuggled through mailed parcels into German POW camps hidden in a variety of objects, such as game boards, hollowed out shaving brush handles and pencils, and pasted inside the outside layers of individual playing cards.[2]  To maintain secrecy, Hutton states that he referred to paper maps as "pork sausages" when submitting his invoices to the Treasury for reimbursement.[3]

        In the summer of 1943 as more American airman became POWs in Europe, MI 9 and MIS-X (ETO) decided between themselves that MI 9 would supply the escape aids, including maps, to be packed in aid parcels containing American items furnished by MIS-X (ETO).[4]  For example one set of parcels included calendars with the picture of "The Landing at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, 1620" purportedly sent with best wishes from The Mayflower Fellowship Society (London Branch), a fictitious organization.[5]  When the packages were ready for mailing, MIS-X (ETO) would cable MIS-X (Washington) to send a secret coded message to the American POW escape committee located in the destination stalag.  One example message read, "Supplies for escape committee in handles both bats in package to Sgt. Tunstall."  The escape committee would then attempt to intercept the package when it arrived in camp before being received by the addressee.  Various sources indicate that the prisoners were quite successful in intercepting the packages while working in camp offices in the presence of their guards.  Other sources indicate that German authorities were aware that these items were being smuggled into the camps.

        MIS-X and MI 9 also agreed that when MIS-X (Washington) eventually set up operations to procure escape items in the US, the parcels could be packed and mailed directly from America by MIS-X (Washington).[6]  MIS-X (Washington) did exactly that and Lloyd Shoemaker�s book The Escape Factory[7] chronicles the activities of that organization, of which he was a member.  The records of MIS-X (ETO) reflect numerous tissue maps were obtained from MI 9 and mailed to American POWs in relief parcels from June 1943 through April 1944.

        The Army Map Service (AMS) also produced tissue maps on rice paper.  It is assumed the maps were intended to be sent in parcels to POW camps in Germany by MIS-X.  The Escape Factory makes reference to tissue maps being sent to POWs by MIS-X (Washington), but unfortunately does not identify who printed the maps.[8]  Further, the author has been unable locate any official records of AMS identifying the maps produced or their quantities although records for voluminous records were located for paper and cloth maps produced by AMS.  Nonetheless, copies of some of the rice paper maps are in the custody of the US National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland.  Photos of some of the maps produced by AMS are linked to the table below.


[1]  Clayton Hutton, Official Secrets, Crown Publishers, New York 1961.

[2]  Clayton Hutton, Official Secrets, Crown Publishers, New York 1961, pp. 21-22, 27-35.

[3]  Clayton Hutton, Official Secrets, Crown Publishers, New York 1961, p. 61.

[4]  Memorandum to Chief of Military Intelligence Service (Attention: Colonel Catesby ap C. Jones), MIS-X (Washington) from Colonel John W. Castles, Executive Officer, G-2 (ETOUSA), June 28, 1943, Subject: Packages to Camps (Secret).

[5]  Memorandum to Chief of Military Intelligence Service (Attention: Colonel Catesby ap C. Jones), MIS-X (Washington) from Colonel James M. White, Executive Officer, G-2 (ETOUSA), January 11, 1944, Subject: Packages for P/W (Secret).

[6]  Memorandum to Chief of Military Intelligence Service (Attention: Colonel Catesby ap C. Jones), MIS-X (Washington) from Colonel John W. Castles, Executive Officer, G-2 (ETOUSA), June 28, 1943. Subject: Packages to Camps (Secret).

[7]  Lloyd R. Shoemaker, The Escape Factory, St. Martin�s Press, New York 1990.

[8]  Lloyd R. Shoemaker, The Escape Factory, St. Martin�s Press, New York 1990, pp 39, 57, & 84.

Tissue Maps Produced by Army Map Service

(Click photo for larger picture)

Sheet Side 1 Scale Size




19½" x 26"


Danzig Harbor


15" x 7"




10" x 14"




19½" x 23"




19½" x 23"




17" x 16"




20" x 23"




17½" x 16"


Port of Gdynia


13½" x 11"




18" x 22½"




21" x 22½"




10" x 13½"




21½" x 25½"


Stettin Harbor


11½" x 12½"




20" x 23"


Tissue Maps Produced by British MI 9

In Per Ardua Libertas, a sixty-seven page booklet produced by MI 9 and given to American intelligence officers when they visited MI 9 in 1942, includes several photographs of one-sided and two-sided tissue maps produced by MI 9.  The booklet indicates that numerous tissue maps were printed covering areas of Europe and North Africa.  (Click here for a tissue map of  Germany.)

Escape Maps
Blood Chits

© Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.