Blue Flag Challenge Play


Monte Ball’s recollection of a famous Blue Flag Challenge Play in 1958.

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The Gray Army was losing, no doubt about it... Attacking on the second day of play, the Grays were far behind the Blues in both scoring and challenge points. In fact, few Grays had scored twice by the time lunch was served. Because the afternoon period of play would be shorter than the morning session, there seemed every likelihood of the Blue War Machine winning by a large margin. Not even the choice of Herman's peanut butter and jelly or bologna and cheese sandwiches could cheer up a disconsolate Gray counselor staff. During that lunch break, however, General Monroe Baldwin had a brainstorm. He observed that, toward the end of the morning's play, Blue scouts were following the Gray attacking parties as those turned away from plugged gates and headed toward gates that might be open. The trailing Blue scouts shouted advance warning of an attacking party, giving Blue gate leaders time to bring in their own scouts and to call for reinforcements. If somehow those scouts could be lured on to a road in the blue flag playing area, and if somehow most of the Gray Army could be concealed in that road, triple challenge points would be the happy result.


The downside of this plan was that it had to work. It would take considerable time to rendezvous most of the army, then move it stealthily and unobserved so close to a gate that had its scouts out. If the trap was discovered or the ambush otherwise failed, there would be little remaining of the afternoon's play in which to develop alternatives. Still, this all-or-nothing idea seemed worth the attempt--nothing else offering hope, time fast running out. So, at the beginning of afternoon play the Gray Army left center of town in the usual four directions--but then, quickly as possible, regrouped in a distant quadrant and proceeded stealthily toward the one blue flag area of Dunn's Corners that had woods coming straight down to the road. There, hidden in the undergrowth, everyone linked to the one counselor whose hand lay in the blue flag playing area, most of the Gray Army waited in silent anticipation.


Meanwhile, one attacking party remained in the field--led by the Gray general himself. Roe attacked a gate he knew to be full, was repulsed, then raced in the direction of an adjacent gate. True to form, two Blue scouts followed--calling ahead their warnings of an imminent Gray attack. Arriving at the road, but outside the red flag, Roe and his party crossed, then hurried off in the direction of yet another gate. In hot pursuit, the two Blue scouts followed--seeing no one in the road one except their own plugged gate. They got halfway across; a cry of "Challenge!" went up; War Game history was made. General Baldwin had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and his strategy has been both legend and inspiration ever since...


A footnote... Hank Sparks was the Blue General, and often I have recalled with admiration the efforts he made to console his counselor (Tim Curtis) and camper (the name I don't remember) who "lost" that War Game. Even so, neither boy returned to Pine Island.