During World War II, the War Department made many  "Field Manuals", which are issued to soldiers for everything from how to operate a rifle to radio equipment, first aid etc. 

Maybe, you didn't know that there was other types of Manuals, like "Informal Games for Soldiers" (TM 21-221), made by the War Department too. This manual published on 13th December 1943, contained 84 interesting and in some cases, unusual, games that could be played by soldiers for relaxation. Each was described and illustrated. Included: Games of a baseball type, net games, football and soccer type games, basketball type games, vigorous activities for restricted areas, combative games and relays for indoors and outdoors. As Therese Oneill points out in her article "8 surprisingly fun games Uncle Sam told soldiers to play in 1943", the games were intended to occupy mind and body, manage stress, and subtly provide tactical training. Which might explain why so many games involved tackling and beating your fellow soldiers. But other, less physical games translate great from the barracks to the backyard. It was an excellent resource for camp activity or sports directors.

The manual had 56 pages and included 84 games with illustrations, as it has been mentioned before. It was divided into seven chapters: 1) Game Leadership; 2) Games of Baseball Type; 3) Net Games; 4) Games of Football and Soccer Type; 5) Games of Basketball Type; 6) Vigorous Activities for Restricted Areas; and 7) Relays for Indoors and Outdoors.

Here we five of them, with its description and illustrations:

  1. KICK BALL: 

  • Players: 9 to 12 on a side.
  • Equipment: Soccer ball and bases.
  • Area: 45 feet between bases. 30 feet from pitcher's box to home plate.
  • The Game: The pitcher rolls the ball to the batter who kicks it. Put-outs are made by — a. Batter kicking three fouls. b. Fielder catching any fly ball. c. The ball beating the runner around the bases to home plate. After kicking the ball, the runner circles the bases. The runner must make a home run. On a fair ball, not caught on the fly, the fielder throws the ball to the pitcher who then throws to either the first or third baseman. The ball then must reach home base via the first, sec- ond, and third basemen in that order or via the third, second, and first basemen. The basemen must be standing on their base before they can relay the ball to the next base. Three outs con- stitute an inning and nine innings a game.
  • Scoring: If the batter succeeds in beating the ball around the bases, he scores a run for his team.


  1. CAGE BALL: 

  • Players: 10 to 40 on a side.  
  • Equipment: Net 8 feet high.
  • Area: 40 feet by 80 feet. For smaller groups, area 30 feet by 60 feet.
  • The Game: Players of each team count off so that the serve will proceed in regular order. The ball is volleyed back and forth over the net. A player may hit or juggle the ball as many times as he chooses while it is within reach on his side of the net, and as long as he remains in his same relative position and does not move forward to 12. SHOWER BALL. the front line. Only the serving team scores points. A server continues to serve as long as his team scores points. The server stands behind the back line and throws the ball to another player of his team who assists it across the net. All serves must be assisted or the side loses the serve.
  • Scoring:  A game consists of seven points. A point is scored by the serving team when the receiving team bats the ball out of bounds or allows it to hit the ground. If the serving team fails to serve the ball over the net, fails to return a volleyed ball or bats the ball out of bounds it loses the opportunity to continue to serve. 

  • Players: Teams of equal numbers up to 200 men on each side.
  • Equipment: 4 to 8 soccer balls depending upon the number of men on each side. One soccer ball may be provided for each 20 to 25 men on each side.
  • Area: A field 60 yards wide and 100 yards long.
  • The Game: The balls are placed in the middle of the field about 10 yards apart. There should be a referee for each ball. The teams line up on their own goal lines, and on the signal rush forward and attemx>t to kick the ball across the opposite goal line. No player may kick, trip, hold, or rough unnecessarily another player at any time. For a breach of these rules the offender is put out bf the game and his team penalized by giving the ball to the opponents for a free kick at the point where the offense was committed. No player may touch the ball with any part of his arm below the elbow. A free kick is awarded the opponents at the spot of the foul for this violation. On all free kicks the opponents must be at least 5 yards from the ball at the time of the kick. When a ball goes out of bounds, the first player recovering it puts it in play again by throwing it in at the point where it went over the side line. This throw-in must be made with both hands overhead and both feet on the ground.
  • Scoring:  Every time the ball goes over the end line it counts one point for the offensive team. The game continues for 30 minutes and the team with the greater number of points at that time is the winner. Whenever the ball crosses the goal line it is immediately dead and out of play. The game continues until all the balls are dead and out of play. When this occurs the balls are placed in the middle of the field and play is re- sumed as at the start of the game.

  • Players: Any number equally divided into two teams.
  • Equipment: None.
  • Area: Any fairly level area, 85 feet in width is recommended.
  • The Game: Mark two safety lines not more than 40 feet from center line. Midway between the safety lines, form players in two teams facing the leader. Each line of players is about 5 feet apart. One line is "Crows", the other "Cranes.** When the leader calls "Crows", the "Crows" nm for their safety line attempting to reach it before the "Cranes" can tag them. If the leader calls "Cranes", the "Cranes" run and the "Crows" chase them. If the leader calls "Craw- fish", no one runs. The leader should use decep- tion and precede his call with a "crrr" sound so that ^e men will not know what is coming.
  • Scoring: Each team receives a point for every member of the opposite team tagged before that team reaches safety. Each team loses a point for every one of its men running the wrong direc- tion or rimning on the call, "Crawfish." Each team loses a point for every one of its men who does not run upon a call. The team with the most points after a 10-minute period wins the game.

  • Players: Approximately 20.
  • Equipment: None.
  • Area: Any fairly level area.
  • The Game: Divide group into two even teams facing each other about 15 feet apart. . Have each team coimt off. When the leader calls a niunber, the two players having that niunber go to the center hopping on one foot with their arms clasped behind their backs. The two players then "fight" each other attempting to knock the other down, to force the other to put his other foot on the ground, to make the other unclasp his hands, or to force the other past his lines.
  • Scoring: Each winner receives a point for his side. Ten points win the game.

You can also get the whole book in the follow link: 


Informal Games For Soldiers (TM 21-221) - War Department | mentalfloss.com

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