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U.S. Wargaming Grows Up: A Short History of the Diffusion of Wargaming in the Armed Forces and Industry in the Postwar Period up to 1964
By Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi
The author an
independent scholar living in Atlanta. She has a PhD in the history of
science. She is currently finishing a book on the techniques for planning
to fight, terminate, survive and reconstruct from a thermonuclear war developed
at RAND in the 1950s.The book, entitled "The Intuitive Science of the
Unthinkable: Herman Kahn, RAND, and Thermonuclear War" will be
published in 2002. This article is a short appendix to a chapter
on war-gaming and man-machine simulation at RAND from the book
One of the surprising findings of this research was how rapidly the practice
was accepted by the various services. In less than a decade, war-gaming moved
from being a little known adjunct to operations research to attain the status of
a controversial, but popular exercise established in every service command and
The immediate precursor for Navy cold war simulation gaming were the few
games played by operations researchers in the Antisubmarine Warfare Operations
Research Group (ASWORG) and at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory during WWII.
In the first instance, a machine game was devised to simulate submarine
aerial surveillance and tactical evasion.
In the second case, a mining warfare game was created by Ellis Johnson,
chief of the Naval Ordnance Laboratory’s countermeasures section.
Gaming was nonetheless not regarded as an important technique of wartime
naval operations research.
It was, however, a long-standing tradition at the Naval War College,
which had conducted map games since the late 19th century.
More importantly, unlike the other services, it continued to play manual
wargames in the immediate post-war period. While these practices were called
“map exercises,” in 1953 the term “war game” was reinstated at the Naval War
College with the inauguration of a program to develop a strategic game. In May
1955, the Naval War College instituted an annual week-long strategic game, an
event which preceded the establishment of the service-wide Navy War Games
program and the War Gaming Department at the School by several years.
The “School of Naval Warfare Strategic Game” was a manual wargame which
pitted the super-powers, Blue and Purple, against one another in global
political and military conflict. Naval War College game director
Francis McHugh explained, “It [was] a two-sided educational game with the
emphasis on decision-making at the national level.”
The development of the machine-simulation, the Navy Electronic
Warfare Simulator (NEWS), was conceived at the end of the war as a substitute
for the manual games at the Naval War College. Early in 1945, the construction
of a combat information center “trainer” at the University of California was
brought to the attention of officers in the Bureau of Ships, who passed on the
idea to the Naval War College. By November 1945, the Chief of Naval Operations
authorized the Bureau of Ships to begin the development process on a navy
Originally it was envisioned that the simulator would employ
electromechanical means for moving forces, establishing contacts and
disseminating intelligence, and would include appropriate communication
facilities. Thus, it would eliminate such cumbersome board techniques as filling
out move forms, plotting moves, juggling screens and curtains, etc., and permit
time to be handled as a continuous rather than a discrete variable.
The NEWS was ready for the academic year 1957-58. The game was a two-sided,
one-map game with three major parts: maneuver and display, damage computer,
which was installed in 1958, and communications.
While the Command and Staff Department of the college began to play game
on the NEWS, the annual strategic war game continued to be manually played until
As a sign of its growing significance, in June 1959, a formal War Gaming
Department was established at the Naval War College. The following year a week
long wargaming course became required for all fleet officers, which focused on
the capabilities as well as the limitations of fleet gaming on the NEWS.
Even though the NEWS had been intended for training, McHugh
noted that “it became apparent -- even during the design and installation phases
-- that the NEWS was a valuable tool for exploring actual naval operations.”
It was understood that war-gaming could provide training and operational
information much more economically than outlays for actual task force
Consequently, when the Chief of Naval Operations established the Navy War
Games Program in May 1958, the NEWS was regarded as the chief resource for
examining fleet and force exercises and plans in advance of actual operations.
A separate computer analysis division was also part of the program, which
focused on a naval air defense war game played on digital computers.
In 1960, the Marine Corps introduced wargames at its Marine
Corps School in Quantico, VA. The
Landing Force War Game was a two-sided, rigid, manual research game. Its purpose
was to analyze and develop tactics and new weapons systems.
The Marine Corps Educational Center also utilized an Amphibious Assault
Trainer, in which “the student can see the entire amphibious operation in
Air Force Gaming
If we turn to Air Force gaming, again we see the pattern of
gaming on the margin of operations research during WWII, and coming into central
focus in the late 1950s.
More important to the history of Air Force gaming was its long-standing
familiarity with flight simulators. In 1951, the Air Force
contracted with the University of Chicago to create the Advisory Board for
Simulation, (which was later renamed the Institute for System Research,) in
order to explore design requirements of flight control systems.
Throughout the decade and into the next, simulation laboratories were set
up by the Air Force and its contractors to aid in systems engineering problems,
and train pilots and astronauts.
Mathematicians at the RAND Corporation devised the Air Battle
Model I, (ABM) which was a simulation of global nuclear war.
It was tested in the summer of 1955 at the Air War College at Maxwell Air
Force Base in Alabama. According to
Peter Perla, the game was “notorious for [its] inability ... to deal with the
attack and defense of navy carrier battle groups.”
The ABM was transferred to the AF Director of Plans in December 1957,
which contracted with the civilian contractor, Technical Operations Research,
Inc. to finish the design work.
In 1957, Tech/Ops established the project office OMEGA in order to
translate the experimental design of the first model into a functional
simulation for staff officers.
That same year, the Air Force established the Air Battle Analysis Center,
a headquarters-level gaming office. (And, like the Navy, the Air
Force introduced wargaming into its curriculum at the Air Force Academy.)
Given its reliance on a weapons systems complex, the Air Force
was at the forefront of computer gaming. An article in the Air University Quarterly Review
of Winter 1956-57 commented, “Indeed the speed with which these weapons
could react, each to the other, seemed to indicate that only a machine with vast
memory and instant response could be expected to indicate a successful counter
strategy in sufficient time to be useful.”
Within a year of this article’s publication, the Air Force unveiled the
SAGE system, which did indeed seem to promise the automation of a nationally
coordinated, computer-dependent defense. SAGE nicely demonstrates the
intertwining history of computer development, machine and computer gaming,
evolving business management practices with its theory of organizational
control, and industrial automation in this period. Perhaps the
most significant Air Force project for its effect on American defense and the
economy in the 1960s, SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) was inaugurated
in June 1957.
It was a network of digital command and control computers located
throughout the nation. The SAGE system
monitored radar intelligence in Canada and the United States, tracking friendly
air traffic and, potentially, unidentified incursions into North American
airspace. Synthesizing radar information, it could automatically
determine flight speed and location, and tag potentially hostile incoming
bombers for defensive assault. It was a gigantic application of the first
generation of high-speed computers with magnetic core memories.
The development of SAGE employed most of the country’s existing cohort of
programmers, and further particularized the division of labor among them.
(Analysts at the non-profit System Development Corporation (a RAND
spin-off) devoted approximately 1,800 man-years devising SAGE’s programs.
The application of SAGE systems technology to commercial
concerns was not lost on business journalists. A Fortune reporter, Gilbert
Burck noted that, “SAGE simulates a large business system with strategically
located division offices, all bound together by an information-and-control
Recall that from the years 1957 through 1964, computer manufacturers
faced the challenge of persuading corporate managers that data processing
technology could function as more than bookkeeping devices. IBM salesmen and
systems engineers dedicated themselves to demonstrating the staggering
computational, simulatable, synthesizing and coordinating potentials of their
machine. Burck’s article, “‘On Line’ in ‘Real Time’” is a representative example
of the brief historic moment in which it was necessary to frame (in the most
appealing way possible) the new technologies of continuous information
transmission, data storage and recovery in light of the equally avant garde
systems approach to corporate management. Burck made use of one of
the prevailing leitmotifs of the
historical moment, namely the antagonism between primitive experience with its
“guesses and hunches” and the indomitable power -- not to say omnipotence --
afforded to the rational, systems-oriented, computer-reliant manager.
the business has become “computerized,” and the records of its “transactions”
over the years have been stored in the machine’s memory... ... [the manager]
knows precisely what has happened and why, what should be happening and why, and
he has an excellent notion of what is likely to happen, and what is the best way
of forfending or capitalizing on it all. He can rely less and less on guesses
and hunch and more and more on analysis.... the machine can help him expand and
elevate his native intuitive powers to new levels.
Given the public mood regarding automation, the notion of enhanced human
cognitive power wrought by the computer easily shifted to the fear of automated
decision-making. Burck reassured his audience that the SAGE system was a paragon
of man-machine complementarity. “One big lesson it teaches, aside from the fact
that it puts the whole business on line in real time, is how to manage the
symbiosis of man and machine. SAGE matches the two easily and
naturally, letting the computer help rather than take over...”
In addition to the SAGE system, the Air Force made use of
computer games for research into optimum targeting strategy. In the summer of
1960, a series of computer wargames were played at the AF chief of staff level
to investigate the outcomes of a Soviet first strike, and an American first
strike, with differing target lists. The result confirmed
arguments that had begun to be aired by defense analysts at RAND and other sites
since the late 1950s -- namely, a strategy which avoided cities and concentrated
solely on the defense installations of the enemy was the least catastrophic,
most successful means of waging nuclear war and surviving.
Like the Navy, the Air Force employed the spectrum of the modes
of gaming as a means of training simulators from field exercises to computer
games. In the early and middle years of the 1950s, the Strategic
Air Command (SAC) and the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) staged joint
annual wargames. One enthusiast remarked that these exercises achieved the
“ultimate in short-range war-gaming.”
Probably no game involving actual force deployment is purer, more easily
evaluated in terms of system efficiency and training, nor offers greater realism
to the participants. Staffs at all levels are exercised against an
opponent whose capability and intentions are not, perfectly at least,
known. The presentations are authentic;
the decisions are authentic up to the point of simulated weapon release (CONAD)
or beyond (SAC).
The Air Force contractor, the RAND Corporation, played a significant role in
the development of war gaming, first by pioneering techniques, as well as
helping to diffuse them to the Air Force and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the
State Department, to universities and to corporations. RAND explored every mode of war-gaming
described above, and in many ways set the standard for the practices of other
research groups and those to follow later. Among the first wargames played at
RAND in the early 1950s was a an exercise called “COW”, which had been designed
by mathematicians. It was a multilateral cold war game involving
20 players (representing 20 states). The game was played with reference to a
mathematical model of international relations. An entry listing
RAND’s wargaming activities for the Army’s STAG Directory affirmed,
“Despite grossly unrealistic features, it demonstrated the possibility, in
principle, of applying scientific modeling methodology to a field as vague as
the political arena.”
Dissatisfied with COW’s quantitative idiom, several behavioral
scientists began experimenting with role-playing crisis games. Four political
exercises were conducted at RAND between February 1955 and April 1956, involving
a large number of staff analysts. The experience was so compelling that RAND
analysts gave briefings about political exercises to the Air Force and JCS, to
scholars, and to the State Department. This stimulated wide interest in the
technique, and subsequent role-playing games were tried out in many
In 1954, RAND constructed a war gaming facility, Project SIERRA,
to explore Air Force strategy in limited war. The Project SIERRA wargames were
two-sided, manual games that incorporated economic and political variables into
the consideration of strategy, tactics, and logistics.
Over the decade, more than fifty limited war games were played in the
RAND also conducted a great many rigid strategic games. SAW was
the first such game. Played in 1948 and 1949, SAW was an elaborately ambitious
exercise. “The outcome was determined by gross budgetary and weapons
allocations. ... [Moreover] it considered ground and naval action in addition to
air operations.” The
follow-on to SAW, STRAW (circa 1953), was a less comprehensive game.
An atomic air warfare game, STRAW explored the economic effects of
bombardment to cities and industry. STRAW was played at the Air
War College. Its successor, SWAP (circa 1959), was subsequently introduced into
the curriculum of the Air Force Academy.
In the early 1950s, RAND analysts played map exercises as part
of the Air Force Penetration Studies, which concerned themselves with a standard
operations research problem, how to increase the attrition of the enemy oncoming
bombers with optimal air defense. This work to the development of
the Penetration Study Model, a computer game which was “essentially an
aggregated air defense model coded for computing machines, capable of evaluating
large scale strategic attacks on an enemy.”
Thousands of trials of the model were run on RAND’s digital computer.
Following upon that, RAND analysts developed the Air Defense Model, which
estimated attrition in strategic air attacks. This evolved into the Air Battle
Model, a computer game that was ultimately adopted by the new Air Battle
Analysis Division of the Air Force in 1957.
RAND analysts also originated a number of computer simulations
that approximated automated strategic planning. FLIOP, Flight Operations
Planning model, was a simulation designed for SAC, which determined the optimal
flight plan for any individual mission. On the basis of FLIOP and
its successor models, in 1961, RAND began the development of STRAT (Strategic
Air Planner) for SAC, which would generate “a rough-cut strike plan for the
total strategic forces, using the IBM 7090 computer.”
Other computer simulations developed by RAND included MUSTARD and QUICK
COUNT, which calculated civilian and fallout casualties, respectively. (MUSTARD
and QUICK COUNT were employed in the computer studies of the comparative
advantages of city versus counterforce targeting, referred to above.)
Finally, RAND was at the forefront of man-machine simulation.
Two simulation laboratories were built in successive order in the 1950s which
explored the training and R&D potentials of fully realistic analogue
environments. The Systems Research Laboratory was inaugurated in 1952 by a teams
of behavioral scientists to investigate the optimal training methods for
improving group performance. The environment of the lab duplicated
an anti-aircraft defense center. It was a one-sided game in which the players,
the participants who role-played CONAD officers, tracked simulated radar signals
of incoming overhead flights into North American airspace, identified hostile
aircraft, and routed orders to defensive forces. The series of tests at the
laboratory were so successful, that the Air Force spun off the group into a
separate non-profit corporations, the System Development Corporation, whose
purpose was to translate the findings of the man-machine experiments into
ongoing training programs.
The Logistic Simulation Laboratory was directed to hypothetical logistics
environments for the proposed ICBM missile forces of the near-future. Rather
than training, the laboratory experiments were directed towards determining the
most effective management structure for future logistics operations.
The Army was the direct beneficiary of the Naval Ordnance
Laboratory’s operations research and gaming program during the war. After the
war, the director of the Navy Laboratory, Ellis Johnson, was appointed to found
an operations research group to serve the Army. Unlike the Air
Force’s main operations research group, RAND, which was a civilian contractor,
the Army established its Operations Research Office (ORO) as an adjunct to the
Johns Hopkins University. In 1950, a physics professor at George
Washington University who was consulting with ORO, George Gamow, created a
manual game called Tin Soldier, (played from 1951 to 1954.) Gamow is credited
with devising the first mathematical war game used for analytical as opposed to
tactical operations research.
Alfred Hausrath, the one-time director of military gaming for
the Research Analysis Corporation (RAC), the successor civilian contractor for
the Army, recounted the details of a little known simulation developed at the
ORO in 1948. (The simulation also served as a model for a Naval
anti-aircraft guided missile system.)
Staff members of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins
University worked in conjunction with the ORO in its design. What resulted was a
computer game. Hausrath asserted that
its successor model, a study of the air defense of North America, which was
inaugurated in 1953, was the first computer simulation in the history of
ORO also originated the first digital computer game, CARMONETTE I,
(played from 1956-60.)
Given its importance to the host of computer games of the 1960s
and thereafter, it is worth taking a brief look at CARMONETTE. CARMONETTE stood
for Computerized Monte Carlo Simulation. There were a series of
CARMONETTE games, the first was a single tank/anti-tank battle; CARMONETTE II
included infantry (1960-65); CARMONETTE III added armed helicopter support
(1966-1970); CARMONETTE IV added communications and night vision.
CARMONETTE simulated the activities of individual soldiers in a company-
or battalion- sized battle. The basic combat options were deciding whether to
move or stay still, to prepare to fire, to fire or not to fire.
It compounded the individual trajectories of each soldier into an
integrated picture of the battle. The operations researcher Richard Zimmerman
commented, “The major problem is to design a model of battle which can simulate
typical or critical combat actions to test the effectiveness of the proposed
Writing the program for CARMONETTE was exceptionally difficult, game
designers were compelled to tailor the possible combinations of moves to a small
set of alternatives representing the most likely or most compelling options. The
results were extremely rough. Zimmerman cautioned that computer games would
necessarily require the supplementation and error checking provided by field
experiments, “which themselves [were] at best, ‘reasonable’ approximations of
He concluded that tactical war gaming and field experiments should be
regarded as “complementary components” of military research.
In August 1952, a conference was convened at Fort Monroe,
Virginia to future explore ORO’s potential for assisting the Army’s R&D
program. The techniques of war-gaming were advanced as an
effective method for research and planning purposes. “The concept
of analytical war gaming crystallized; possible the idea was born at this
conference.” Furthermore, it was decided that games designed for
different levels of the command hierarchy should be conducted in order to enrich
the service understanding of the range of warfare.
Another Army-university contract was let to The George
Washington University’s Human Resources Research Office (HumRRO). HumRRO’s task
was to develop wargames for training staff officers. “It was decided to
concentrate on procedures which could be used to teach the decisions which must
be made after combat, or movement toward combat, has been initiated. Gaming
material used at the Command and General Staff College was provided and the
staff began to work up examples of new ways to present this material in a game
The Continental Army Command (CONARC), Combat Development
Section, created its own operations research corps, the Combat Operations
Research Group (CORG) as a field office of the ORO, from 1952 until October
Wargaming was introduced into combat development in 1954 with the
development of a separate division for War Gaming. Its first exercise was a
“pretest” of a massive field maneuver in the continental US (Sage Brush.)
The War Games group gamed the war-plan of the opposing side in order to
try out unexpected moves. This first combination of combining
war-gaming and field exercises was highly successful. The Deputy Commanding General of the War
Games Division, Lt. General Gordon Rogers wrote, “Upon conclusion of the
exercise, the maneuver director ... stated that future field exercises should
not be undertaken until they had been thoroughly war gamed in advance...”
The success of pretesting Sage Brush set the
pattern for CORG’s subsequent practices of combining gaming with controlled
field experiments. For example, in 1953 a field experiment was
conducted specifically in order to provide data for a CORG game called SYNTAC.
Hausrath remarked, “Here was an example of a game that established a requirement
for field tests. The field tests in turn yielded data that enabled the game to
solve problems not previously within the capability of operations research
The result became a standard resource for subsequent conventional war
games. SYNTAC continued to be used to examine tactical problems
through the middle 1950s, eventually acquiring computer support, making it the
first Army computer-aided research game.
The ORO created another gaming operation in order to generate
data for its Intelligence Division, called INDIGO (Intelligence Division Gaming
Operation). INDIGO I was played in the spring and summer of
1958. The data generated during the game took two years to
process. While INDIGO had originally been developed in order to generate
intelligence data, it subsequently became modified into a general use tactical
game called TACSPIEL.
TACPIEL was a “flexible, two-sided, free-play, manually operated, rigidly
assessed, computer-assisted, division-level war game.”
It was oriented towards problems of ground combat such as “mobility,
fire-power, communications, logistics, combat surveillance and target
acquisition means, and air attack and defense.”
In September 1961, the Army established the Strategy and Tactics
Group (STAG), under the supervision of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military
Operations. STAG was a headquarters level gaming organization
devoted to operational planning. Its games were generally mathematical, and
often played on or in conjunction with computers.
On the other side of the gaming spectrum, the Army also carried on the
tradition of gaming with miniatures. The Combat Development
Experimentation Center (CDEC) constructed “one of the world’s largest terrain
Following the practice of pretesting field exercises with gaming, gamers
at the CDEC planned the details of data collection during field exercises at the
Army’s field laboratory, Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. The terrain model
was a replica of the field laboratory. Hence it was hoped that
there would be a close fit between the gaming experiments and their realization
in the field. Moreover, at the end of the field exercises, the gamers would
duplicate the scenario and replay various points of the game “for reexamination
of critical and questionable areas.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff and NATO Gaming
In spite of the many echelons of gaming in the various services,
in 1961 the Joint Chiefs of Staff established its own Joint Gaming
Agency. A JCS official commented,
Joint Gaming Group was activated as a direct result of a recommendation made by
a joint study group working on some complex general war problems. After
examining various other analytical methods, the study group concluded that war
gaming of the particular problem areas under investigation was required in order
to evaluate the area more comprehensively. It was felt that Service war gaming
was not sufficiently responsive to JCS policy and control.
In its first year, while the JGA mostly requested games staffed by service
personnel, the joint group did take part in the political crisis exercises
conducted during the Berlin crisis. In 1962, the JCS did begin the
practice of ordering war games in response to specific requirements for data.
“War games ... at the JCS level [were] used to analyze hypothetical situations
as a part of studies more widely than to test actual plans.”
The gaming group was divided into three departments: General War, Limited
War, and Cold War. “This organization was an acknowledgment that the Joint
Chiefs of Staff interests in war gaming reached from one end of the conflict
spectrum to the other.”
The following year, the group was reorganized as the Joint War Games
Agency, and doubled its staff from 15 to 34 persons.
The general war division in conjunction with the Joint Strategic
Target Planning Staff inaugurated an annual game of the current American
strategic war plan. In order to simulate the Soviet side of the encounter, the
JCS established a Red Planning Board, which devised a hypothetical first strike
The Red Planning Board consulted with analysts at the Defense
Intelligence Agency, the National Military Command Systems Support Center, the
Services, and the unified and specific commands. In light of the background
materials supplied by these sources, and with reference to “assumed Red national
objectives as approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the
Red planning board created a number of different first-strike war plans from
which the annual game would be devised.
Whereas the general war division commanded a great deal of
support and was lauded as providing a substantive contribution to planning and
analysis, the limited war division did not fare so well, nor was considered
quite as effective. Rear Admiral Van Arsdall, Jr. commented, “This situation is
directly traceable to the inherent uncertainties, the large number of variables
and diversity of the forces involved in limited war situations, and the emphasis
throughout the late 1950s on analyses of general nuclear wars.”
In the summer of 1962, the JSC authorized the development for a limited
war game that could simulate land, sea, and air theater forces.
The Army’s Strategic and Tactical Analysis Group was tasked to
develop manual games for operational analysis in theater commands.
This resulted in the Master Battle Model, TBM-63, in 1963. TBM-63 was
directed towards planning joint operations by the Joint Staff or Joint War
Gaming group, however it was far too complex to yield useful and consistent
We must also briefly mention NATO war games. The
US Army established a Special Weapons School for NATO forces in Oberammergau,
West Germany as an adjunct to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
(SHAPE). This training center was focused on training forces to fight in an
atomic war. In 1953, the school developed an Atomic Air-Ground War
Game. Hausrath explained, “The game was to demonstrate some basic principles of
tactical air operations in land warfare keyed to the tactical use of atomic
weapons delivered by piloted aircraft in a limited or localized situation. Close
coordination of air and ground forces .. was stressed in the game.”
The game was intended to train NATO forces how to attack enemy army units
and airfields with tactical atomic weapons while “keeping from being
annihilated.” (Hausrath added laconically, “An official report
describing the purpose and nature of the game included the statement: ‘No
significance is to be attached to the outcome of this game.’”)
Finally, it is worth noting that in addition to simulating
combat as such, specialized logistics
games were conducted by the various services to train, evaluate, or plan for
force support functions. The members of RAND’s logistics
department designed an “inventory management” game called MONOPOLOGS in
1954. The Army staged an annual logistics game including field
exercises called LOGEX at Fort Lee from the early 1950s on.
Similarly, the Army Management School, which had been established in 1954
at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, employed a series of logistics games in its
curriculum: FORT IRWIN (1958), FORT ROOT (1959), FORT SIMULATION (1960), the
last item of which was programmed for the computer in 1961. In 1957, the
Army civilian contractor, RAC, established a group specifically devoted to
gaming logistics. By 1964, the logistics group had grown into a
full-scale Logistic Simulation Division, focusing on manual games and computer
Army logistics games spanned the various objectives of gaming, assessing
current stock levels in warehousing and queuing games, training logistics
officers, and planning future supply and management structures for possible
operations or weapons systems.
The Army’s other civilian research group, the ORO (which was still in
operation, but parallel to RAC in function,) also staged logistics game, such as
LOGSIM-W, which was a simulation game jointly designed by ORO consultants and
officers of the Army Logistics Center at Fort Lee, Virginia in 1958-59.
Hausrath remarked, “MONOPOLOGS, FORT SIMULATION, LOGSIM-W and SIGMALOG
represent games which were meeting grounds between the military... and business
and industry with its newly developed interest in the gaming technique.”
Indeed, war-gaming was enthusiastically adopted by corporations
and business schools almost at the same moment that the technique began to
diffuse throughout the services in the late 1950s. RAND’s inventory game,
MONOPOLOGS appears to be one of the first logistics games to capture the
imagination of business leaders. When in 1956, the American
Management Association sought to translate war-game design into business games,
it hired as consultants and designers some members of the RAND logistics
department. The AMA assembled a research group consisting of its own officials,
the RAND consultants, operations analysts from management consulting firms, and
programming experts from IBM. The group called upon the war gaming
staff at the Naval War College for instruction and suggestions.
With help from IBM, the AMA group designed a model of idealized business
transactions, which consisted of a series of formulae that captured the decision
structure relevant to the growth and maturation of a firm. The resulting game,
called “The Top Management Decision Simulation,” was programmed for an IBM 650
computer, and presented to 20 corporation presidents in May 1957.
Very soon after, a computer-assisted game was created for the AMA Academy
for Advanced Management, which was featured in the AMA Management Development
Seminar and the Executive Decision Making Program. By March 1958, 350
corporation executives and 50 scientists and business school professors had
played the game, and had declared themselves to be enthusiastic admirers of the
Like, war-gaming in its many modes of simulation, the story of
business gaming is one of a vogue, and extraordinarily rapid diffusion.
While the AMA game achieved an almost instantaneous fame, it was a
computer-assisted game. Corporate executives clamored for a wholly
manual, i.e. non-computer game. G. R. Andlinger and his associates
in McKinsey and Company, Inc. anticipated this need. Beginning in
1956, his team began to explore translating operational role-playing game design
into business scenarios, resulting in the “Business Management Game,” which was
released in 1957. In an article in the Harvard Business Review , Andlinger
Business gaming is the first promising attempt to provide this experience
by simulating the real-life operations of a business and forcing the
participants to cope with the same kind of problems that face the top management
of a company....Operational gaming is essentially simulation and thus provides a
framework for making trial-and-error decisions rather than for evolving an
He explained how simulation could impart valuable skills to the
player. “It forces an over-all point of view...The need to
exercise judgment an make decisions without ‘complete’ information is a powerful
stimulus to mental discipline, decisiveness, and a healthy willingness to take
Indeed, the integrative experience afforded the by game was precisely the
quality singled out by a Vice-President of Sylvania’s Electronic Systems
Division, who remarked, “ I believe one of the real values of the course is that
it forces me to do more thinking about the interrelated aspects of my position
and its responsibilities.”
Just as war-games were used for training officers at their bases
and in the war colleges, business games were introduced into the curriculum of
business schools. Thus, also in 1957, professors at the business school at the
Carnegie Institute of Technology, devised the “Carnegie Tech
Management Game” for use in the graduate curriculum. Similarly, that same year,
professors at the Graduate School of Business Administration at UCLA designed
the “UCLA Executive Decision Game.”
In this same period, just as the armed services gradually began
to make use of simulations as part of their evaluation and planning practices,
-- in addition to training, --
a few corporations began to experiment with gaming and simulation studies as
a component of their operational planning. For example, as early
as 1953, Lockheed established a systems planning department in its headquarters
which employed electronic computers for such engineering tasks as computing
trajectories, working out optimal designs for space vehicles.
Within the decade, Lockheed’s Missiles and Space Division
achieved some notoriety for its management games “that simulate[d] the business
environment of the space industry; [in which] management teams represent[ed]
imaginary competitive companies whose decisions [were] weighed by an
appropriately instructed IBM [computer].”
Likewise, in 1958, General Electric began to build a simulation
laboratory which would duplicate all the operational tasks of a production
division, i.e., “forecasting, production scheduling, inventory taking,
distribution, and marketing.” The state-of-the-art IBM 704 computer was
programmed to compute “more than a thousand interacting variables -- things like
prices, costs, stock levels, new orders, sales.”
By 1966, GE’s simulation laboratory had become so integrated into its
general planning procedure that a Naval Institute article that defended “the
validity of war game analysis” commented casually, “Gaming before production has
become accepted as an essential tool to management planning in much of
Some numbers will bear this out. Hausrath gives the
• A Remington Rand Univac Survey reported that by August 1960, executives in
95 companies reported that business games were in use at their firm.
• The Boeing Airplane Company had incorporated games into its training
program, by mid-1959, more than 2,000 management trainees had played a business
• In 1960, more than 3,600 employees had played Minneapolis-Honeywell’s
in-house exercise, “Top Brass Game; 250 executives had played the Pillsbury
• By mid-1961, more than 15,000 lower and middle-level managers in the Bell
Telephone Company had played the American Telegraph and Telephone Company’s
financial management game.
• Moreover, executives went to the Army Management School for
training: in September 1960, 600 men played the Army’s logistic simulation
LOGSIM; 264 others played the game FORT SIMULATION.
Moreover, the STAG Directory of gaming organizations both within
the armed forces and the private sector listed the following corporations that
had established gaming facilities by 1961: Bendix Systems Division; The Boeing
Company; Booz-Allen Applied Research, Inc.; Burroughs Laboratories; Chrysler
Corporation; General Dynamics/Electric Boat; General Dynamics/Fort Worth;
General Dynamics/Pomona; HRB-Singer, Inc.; Hughes Aircraft; Lockheed Missiles
and Space Company; Martin Marietta Corporation, Denver Division; Martin Marietta
Corporation, Orlando Division; North American Aviation, Inc; Republic Aviation
Corporation; Sylvania Electric Products.
Brewer and Martin Shubik, The War Game: A
Critique of Military Problem Solving, Harvard University Press, Cambridge,
Brothers, “Operations Analysis in the United States Air Force,” Journal of the Operations Research Society
of America, Vol. 2, no. 1, February 1954.
Burck, “‘On Line’ in ‘Real Time’”, Fortune, Vol. 69, no. 4, April 1964.
Burck, “The Boundless Age of the Computer,” Fortune, Vol. 69, no. 3, March 1964.
Donald C Curran, “Educational War Games Played on the Navy Electronic Warfare
Simulator” in Murray Greyson, ed., Second
War Gaming Symposium Proceedings, Washington Operations Research Council,
Washington DC, March 16, 17 1964.
Daniels, “The User’s Viewpoint on the Creation and Application of a Large
Simulation Model,” in John Overholt, First War Gaming Symposium Proceedings,
November 30, 1961, Washington
Operations Research Council, Washington DC, February 1962.
John B Davis, Jr. and Dr. John A Tiedeman, “The Navy War Games Program,” Proceedings of the US Naval Institute,
Engel, “Operations Research for the U.S. Navy Since World War II,” Operations Research, Vol. 8, no. 6,
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Greyson, ed., Second War Gaming Symposium
Proceedings, Washington Operations Research Council, Washington DC, March
16, 17 1964.
Fryklund, “War ‘Waged’; Air Force Computers Back Theory of Hitting Only Military
Targets,” Los Angeles Times, Sunday
January 15, 1961.
Hausrath, Venture Simulation in War,
Business, and Politics, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1971.
McHugh, Fundamentals of Wargaming,
United States Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, Third Edition, March
Morganthaler, “The Theory and Application of Simulation in Operations Research”
in Russell Ackoff, ed., Progress in
Operations Research, Vol. 1, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1961.
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A. Knopf, New York, 1984.
Paxson, War Gaming, RM-3489-PR, RAND,
Perla, The Art of Wargaming, Naval
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“Simulation as an Aid to Model Building,” Journal of Operations Research, Vol. 3,
no. 1, 1955.
Rosenberg, “The Origins of Overkill,” International Security, Vol. 7, no. 4,
States Army, Strategy and Tactics Analysis Group (STAG), Directory of Organizations and Activities
Engaged or Interested in War Gaming, Defense Documentation Center for
Scientific and Technical Information, Cameron Station, Alexandria Virginia, no
date but probably 1962.
Zimmerman, “Simulation of Tactical War Games,” in Charles D. Flagle, William H.
Huggins, Robert H. Roy eds., Operations
Research and Systems Engineering, The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore,