Who was the Kilroy?

Who was the Kilroy?

In the 2nd World War it seems that American troops rallied around a man (or legend?) known as the "Kilroy".

I've seen his image depicted on American tanks, letters, barracks, etc. Some I've seen in movies like "Patton"; a few I've seen in real life.

Who was the Kilroy and how did he get this name?

Kilroy was a visual meme drawn by soldiers in WWII. He may have been derived from a British figure named Chad, though many other explanations are out there. One of the claims as to the origin of his name was given by a Mr. Kilroy.

According to some Kilroy was James J. Kilroy (1902-1962) who used to write "Kilroy was here" when checking ships at the Fore River Shipyard in Massachusetts during WWII. http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-kil1.htm

Also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilroy_was_here

The version I heard was that Kilroy would write it on welds in hulls… and then when the hull was fitted out you'd find 'kilroy was here' crossing behind bulkheads or in places that no-one could possibly reach in a fitted-out ship. Hence it's elevation to mystique… Kilroy got into places that it wasn't possible to get into.

How 'Kilroy Was Here' Changed the World

Long before the Internet made viral marketing a cinch, one long-nosed little character named Kilroy made his way around the world the old-fashioned way, becoming a legend among the millions of military men and women who served during World War II.

The rudimentary doodle, which featured a balding head peering over a wall along with the tag "Kilroy Was Here," popped up in unexpected places across all of the theaters of war visited by American troops.

While competitions to inscribe the graffiti in obscure locations kept the battle-weary soldiers busy and its appearances kept them inspired, the mysterious Kilroy character had Japanese intelligence officers and even Hitler himself worried over the seemingly ubiquitous guy.

Reportedly spurred by an American dockworker, the "Kilroy Was Here" fad was an iconic part of World War II and 1940s lore.

The riveter that launched a thousand ships

The origins of "Kilroy Was Here" remain murky and clouded by urban legend, but the most credible source of the saying comes from a shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, most historians agree.

On top of their military contribution overseas during World War II, the United States was heavily involved in the war effort producing ships, tanks, planes and weapons for the Allied Forces at plants across the country.

At one of the country's most prolific shipyards in Quincy worked James J. Kilroy &mdash a rivet inspector who, like everyone in his trade, was paid by the number of rivets he checked and recorded his day's work on the machinery itself with a chalk mark. To avoid having his marks erased and moved by unscrupulous workers continuing his line of rivets, Kilroy began inscribing "Kilroy Was Here" on the machinery, historians say.

The dire need for ships overseas meant that most were launched into action before the workers' marks, including Kilroy's, were painted over or covered up.

American GIs began noticing the puzzling phrase scrawled on outgoing ships almost immediately, often tucked into hard-to-reach spots. At first, sailors treated an appearance of "Kilroy Was Here" like a kind of talisman, certifying that their ship had been properly checked and would be protected against the enemy. GIs later adopted Kilroy's standard and began tagging the places they'd visited across Europe, Asia and Africa.

The Kilroy character &mdash just eyes and fingers visible from behind a wall or fence &mdash was attached to the saying sometime early in the war.

Kilroy on the Moon?

By the end of World War II, "Kilroy Was Here" had achieved cult-like status, springing up in the unlikeliest of places &mdash probably as a result of some friendly competition among GIs, historians believe &mdash including some top-secret military installations. Latrines in France, beaches in the Pacific and walls in Germany were covered with the tag and, as the war progressed, it became a rally cry of the mounting Allied successes.

While Americans shared a few good-hearted laughs over the mysterious Kilroy, who somehow managed to arrive at every destination first, the slogan was a more serious matter for the opposition.

Japanese troops were so mystified by a "Kilroy Was Here" painted on a bombed out tank on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal that they reported the find to their senior intelligence officers, according to a U.S. Marine interviewed by World War II author Timothy Benford.

Hitler supposed that Kilroy was some kind of "Super-GI" or spy, other unconfirmed reports have stated, and ordered a contingent of men to track down the sneaky American. He would never be found.

The identity of the real Kilroy wasn't revealed until 1946, when a national radio contest searching for the original "artist" uncovered and authenticated the story of James Kilroy in Quincy, which still celebrates its hometown celebrity with Pin-the-Nose-on-Kilroy competitions.

The legend continues…

Despite a few unique appearances reported recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Kilroy fad largely faded from memory after a small resurgence in popularity during the Korean War in the 1950s.

A bit of a personal side-note &mdash my grandfather, a British World War II veteran whose initials are W.W., often signed his cards and letters with the same little bulbous-nosed character peeking over a wall, his fingers scrawled in the shape of two Ws. Who knows where else Kilroy remains alive and well?!

These are a few other places where "Kilroy" is rumored to have showed up over the years:

From Kilroy to Pepe: A Brief History of Memes

By Lennlee Keep

What do Pepe the Frog, the Spanish Inquisition, the blinking guy, the French Revolution, concern for the environment, and the Third Reich all have in common? These are all ideas that spread until they became pervasive throughout a culture or country. According to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, they are also all cultural units of information , or as he called them, memes, a word derived from the Greek word “ mimeme ” and “gene.” Memes are, essentially, a “cultural gene.”

Dawkins contends that our ideas, ideals, cultures, and customs replicate themselves. Almost like a virus, they travel from person to person through imitation, sharing, and repetition. While all memes are ideas, not all ideas become memes because not all ideas are worth passing on or copying.

Richard Dawkins becomes part of a meme himself

Memes, as we have come to know them—visual representations of feelings, thoughts, ideas, or just plain jokes—have in some form or another been found dating back to 3 B.C. Archeologists uncovered a mosaic in what was the ancient city of Antioch, a piece in three frames, which seems to depict a bathing scene. The first frame is of a servant preparing a bath the second frame, a young man running away from taking the bath, being pursued by an older servant who is unable to catch him the last scene, a “reckless” but seemingly happy skeleton of the young man is sitting casually with a jug of wine.

The inscription below him reads: “Be cheerful, Live your life.” The story here seemingly says, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live! Do what you want because we are all going to die anyway.”

This may be the original YOLO.

Memes also aren’t even species-specific they serve a function in the animal kingdom as well. In 1965, primatologists studying a group of macaque monkeys on Koshima Islet in Japan observed the monkeys cleaning the sweet potatoes before they ate them. The animals would spend a lot of time painstakingly picking off sand and dirt until it was clean enough to eat. One day, a single female monkey took her potato to the ocean and rinsed it clean. This behavior was then “transmitted” to other monkeys in the group and then beyond to other monkeys on the island. “Mime me” in action.

There are still memes about macaque monkeys, but they are a lot different.

Our great-grandparents may not know how to operate the computer or talk to Siri, but even they had their meme, which can still be found around the globe today. His name was Kilroy . With his long nose and bald head, he was there for it, whatever it was. While there are myths and legends about his origins, the truth is that no one is sure where Kilroy started. One legend has it that it originated from ship inspector James Kilroy, while another credits a serviceman named Francis Kilroy. His origin isn’t as important as what Kilroy symbolized , kind of like today’s “ blinking white guy ” meme.

Kilroy Was Here drawing engraved on the Washington DC WWII Memorial

Kilroy was the fighting spirit of American soldiers during WWII, and so prolific was the “Kilroy” mark it’s rumored that Germans thought Kilroy might be a real spy. He traveled overseas and back again, and like a good meme, hung around for a while. He crossed over from mere graffiti to film and television, appearing in the 1970 war movie Kelly’s Heroes and was referenced in a 1975 episode of M*A*S*H*. Kilroy was the meme heard round the world.

Dawkins’s work definitely popularized the idea of memes as cultural transmission, no matter the medium. But some scholars argue there’s a gap between Dawkins’s book and memes in the digital world.

Professor Limor Shifman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who studies internet memes, contends that digital memes are unique because they are not just a single idea, but groups of ideas created with an awareness of each other.

Take Pepe the frog, “star” of Feels Good Man , on his own an easy-going frog, but memes created from the image of Pepe became a symbol for white supremacy. Shifman’s definition of Internet memes is “digital content units with common characteristics, created with awareness of each other, and circulated, imitated, and transformed via the Internet by many users.” And users decide what gets copied and passed on, which is where things can get out of hand. T

he best example being artist Matt Furie’s poor Pepe , who users transformed from a friendly frog guy into a symbol of hate, to the point where the way he’d been used online led the Anti-Defamation League to put Pepe on its list of hate symbols. Furie even tried to “kill” off Pepe the character in a comic strip and hoped that was the end of it. But internet memes are not something easily controlled or eradicated. (Though Pepe did have a re-birth of sorts, as you’ll see in the film.)

But this is just one kind of character kidnapping. Artist KC Green is the creator of the now-famous “This Is Fine” dog, published originally in Green’s comic On Fire. While many are familiar with the coffee-sipping dog, few have seen the original comic. “This is fine” is actually just the first few frames of a strip the whole comic looks like this:

Things are even less fine than the deadpan single-panel implied. During the 2016 election cycle, the Republican National Committee decided to use the “This Is Fine” dog as a joke/jab at the Democratic National Convention, but Democrats, artist KC Green and the original publisher swung back with this :

. @GOP We actually paid the artist who made this. Here's what he came up with. pic.twitter.com/4D4bmx9ccp

&mdash The Nib ✒️ (@thenib) July 26, 2016

The internet is still in some ways the Wild West, and putting your meme and your art out in the world requires a certain amount of faith in humanity, diligence and maybe a good rights attorney on retainer. (At least Green can monetize his creation now.)

But just like Dawkins’ meme, every digital meme isn’t worth copying or passing on.

Internet memes haven’t been around long, but their staying power is phenomenal. The dancing baby came out in 1996 and is considered by many to be the first digital meme. It took hours to download and was a bit creepy. The dancing baby made the jump to other forms of media by its famous appearance on the hit television series Ally MacBeal .

Soon after, The Hamster Dance was born. While it was far more rudimentary than the baby before it, it was, and still is, a delightfully infectious little meme worm.

Then there was Badger, badger, badger, badger , based on a Flash animated meme by British animator Jonti Picking . of cartoon badgers doing calisthenics over a fast bassline, which became an internet phenomenon. Many other “early” memes were created in (a) Flash, but as technology evolved our love of these rudimentary forms of animation waned.

Now we don’t need all of the flash of Flash for a meme to gain traction. Grumpy Cat is the face that launched 1000 memes. The distracted boyfriend was originally a stock photo by photographer Antonio Guillem, labeled “Disloyal man walking with his girlfriend and looking amazed at another seductive girl.” In both of these cases, the meme is the image itself, but what keeps it spreading is the global creativity of millions of people that are continually adding new text, which keeps the images relevant and circulating.

The “This is Fine” dog certainly hasn’t been the last meme in the political arena. Indeed, many elected representatives have a meme account. Some even try to use memes to raise their profile. For example, Mike Bloomberg hired a company to create memes for his campaign, hoping it would go viral. The forced results were not as he had expected. (Were former Fyre Festival promoters the best choice for the job, for that matter?)

Some advertising agencies have narrowed their focus strictly to creating memes for products, candidates, and campaigns. There are eyes trained on every event, post, speech, and debate looking for the screenshot or phrase that is the punchline that will be tomorrow’s “share.” Their goal is to get their image from your social media to your texts, to your email, to your friends, and to theirs.

Memes are a way to spread ideas but you need to put some thought into what you share. If it’s making a joke, is it at another person or group’s expense? Would forwarding this meme benefit a movement or company? Is it worth replicating?

Dawkins’s definition of a meme is an idea carried on the wind, acted out by one, and copied by another. The ideas are in the air and on the phone and in our media, and sometimes the bad ones are being replicated, over and over. Again, Meme, mime me. A movement of peace can travel around the world as fast as a movement of hate.

Putting any idea out into the digital world is like putting glitter in front of a fan, it goes all over the place. The only thing that makes that idea go from me to you and you to meme is us.

Etymology of Kilroy Was Here

Claim: The phrase “Kilroy Was Here” began as a ship inspector’s mark in World War II.

Status: Undetermined.

Example: [Collected on the Internet, February 2008]

In 1946 the American Transit Association, through its radio program, “Speak to America,” sponsored a nationwide contest to find the REAL Kilroy, offering a prize of a real trolley car to the person who could prove himself to be the genuine article.

Almost 40 men stepped forward to make that claim, but only James Kilroy from Halifax, Massachusetts had evidence of his identity.

Kilroy was a 46-year old shipyard worker during the war. He worked as a checker at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy. His job was to go around and check on the number of rivets completed. Riveters were on piecework and got paid by the rivet.

Kilroy would count a block of rivets and put a check mark in semi-waxed lumber chalk, so the rivets wouldn’t be counted twice. When Kilroy went off duty, the riveters would erase the mark.

Later on, an off-shift inspector would come through and count the rivets a second time, resulting in double pay for the riveters.

One day Kilroy’s boss called him into his office. The foreman was upset about all the wages being paid to riveters, and asked him to investigate. It was then that he realized what had been going on.

The tight spaces he had to crawl in to check the rivets didn’t lend themselves to lugging around a paint can and brush, so Kilroy decided to stick with the waxy chalk. He continued to put his checkmark on each job he inspected, but added KILROY WAS HERE in king-sized letters next to the check, and eventually added the sketch of the chap with the long nose peering over the fence and that became part of the Kilroy message. Once he did that, the riveters stopped trying to wipe away his marks.

Ordinarily the rivets and chalk marks would have been covered up with paint. With war on, however, ships were leaving the Quincy Yard so fast that there wasn’t time to paint them.

As a result, Kilroy’s inspection “trademark” was seen by thousands of servicemen who boarded the troopships the yard produced. His message apparently rang a bell with the servicemen, because they picked it up and spread it all over Europe and the South Pacific. Before the war’s end, “Kilroy” had been here, there, and everywhere on the long haul to Berlin and Tokyo.

To the unfortunate troops outbound in those ships, however, he was a complete mystery all they knew for sure was that some jerk named Kilroy had “been there first.” As a joke, U.S. servicemen began placing the graffiti wherever they landed, claiming it was already there when they arrived.

Kilroy became the U.S. who had always “already been” wherever GIs went. It became a challenge to place the logo in the most unlikely places imaginable (it is said to be atop the Statue of Liberty, the underside of the Arch De Triumphe, and even scrawled in the dust on the moon.)

And as the war went on, the legend grew. Underwater demolition teams routinely sneaked ashore on Japanese-held islands in the Pacific to map the terrain for the coming invasions by U.S. troops (and thus, presumably, were the first GI’s there). On one occasion, however, they reported seeing enemy troops painting over the Kilroy logo! In 1945, an outhouse was built for the exclusive use of Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill at the Potsdam conference.

The first person inside was Stalin, who emerged and asked his aide (in Russian), “Who is Kilroy?” ..

To help prove his authenticity in 1946, James Kilroy brought along officials from the shipyard and some of the riveters. He won the trolley car, which he gave it to his nine children as a Christmas gift and set it up as a playhouse in the Kilroy front yard in Halifax, Massachusetts.

Origins: The ubiquitous “Kilroy was here” messages found scrawled on surfaces throughout World have prompted many to ask, “Who was that Kilroy fellow anyway, and how could he have been everywhere?” While a number of theories have been mooted regarding his identity (including one that describes him as a GI fiancé on the lam with his USO girlfriend in hot pursuit, and folks along the way helpfully

scribbling “Kilroy was here!” as their way of helping his frustrated bride track down her man), the strongest claim of all is the one quoted above. While the purists don’t quite yet feel comfortable giving it the thumbs up, many whose standards are less stringent view the tale about a shipyard inspector as the true origin of the phrase.

The story, as set forth above, mostly adheres to the information provided in news articles from the While there are a few small deviations from what those old news accounts say, they are relatively minor.

James J. Kilroy was a welding inspector at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. His account, as he provided it in 1946 during a radio contest sponsored by the American Transit Association, stated that since 1941 he’d been employed there to vet the work done by others on the inner bottoms and tanks of ships being manufactured in that yard. Whereas the account has it that riveters were erasing his check marks so as to be paid twice for their work, Kilroy’s explanation makes no mention of such chicanery. It instead gives the impetus for his adding handwritten “Kilroy was here” attestations to areas he had examined as an expression of his growing sense of frustration with bosses who would not believe he had checked over their subordinates’ work areas. As he put it, “I was thoroughly upset to find that practically every test leader I met wanted me to go down and look over his job with him, and when I explained to him that I had seen the job and could not spare the time to crawl through one of these tanks again with him, he would accuse me of not having looked the job over.”

In a fit of pique one day, as he emerged from the hatch of a tank he’d just inspected, he scrawled in yellow crayon on its top — where testers could easily see it — “Kilroy was here.” So, it is asserted, was born the phrase that would quickly travel the globe and be found in all sorts of unexpected places.

As for the graphic that has come to be associated with the phrase, it’s not clear how the two came to work together. The little drawing of a man peeking over a wall, with just his eyes and nose (and sometimes his fingers) showing, began not as Kilroy but as a British bit of tomfoolery sometimes ascribed to cartoonist George Edward Chatterton. Its catchphrase, “Wot, was used for all manner of japes, such as “Wot, no Spam?” or on the side of a glider, “Wot, no engine?”

With GIs everywhere participating in the “Kilroy” craze during the war, “Kilroy was here” proclamations turned up all over the place, a state of affairs that provides a possible clue as to how the

phrase and the cartoon came to be wed. The endless encounters with one scrawled “Kilroy” message after another would quickly have fostered a sense of always being under the watchful eye of the mysterious Kilroy. Given that American servicemen were rubbing shoulders with a great many Brits (both civilian and military), a fair number of them would soon have been exposed to an easily-drawn scribble of a fellow peeping over a barrier. The peering little man who seems to pop his nose over a fence to stare wide-eyed at what’s going on would have been the perfect embodiment of the unstated secondary message of “Kilroy was here,” which is “You are being watched.”

There is one other small deviance between the account and what the news of the day reported: the use that the Transit Association’s street car was put to by Kilroy and his family. He did not turn it over to his children as a Christmas gift of a freestanding playhouse in their back yard the car was instead attached to the Kilroy home and used to provide living quarters for six of the family’s nine children, thereby solving what had become an acute housing crisis for the Kilroys.

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The Origin of the Phrase

Some scholars claimed that Kilroy graffiti seemed to have been derived from a similar graffiti “Foo was here,” that was highly popular among the Australian servicemen during World War I. Except for the words, the graffiti of “Foo was here” also characterized a big-nosed cartoon image peered over the wall.

Around the same time, when Kilroy was grabbing the limelight in the United States, another graffiti “Mr. Chad,” gained popularity in England. It depicted a human-like circuit diagram with one eye winking and the whole image conveyed the same eye-gazing connotation of someone watching as that depicted by Kilroy.

Henceforth, the phrase’s origin has a debatable history. It is said that throughout World War II, the meme started popping up and followed the United States soldiers to every place they went.

It, therefore, became a recurring global phenomenon and buzzed the waves of popularity. With time, the doodle’s fame peaked, and soon it became the center of everyone’s discussion.

No sooner, the image gained traction around the world and as mentioned earlier appeared on the walls, on the sides of the buses, and even appeared on the properties belonging to the axis powers. By this time, it became clear that “Kilroy was here” was omnipresent and appeared in different forms.

Nonetheless, the vague connotation of the phrase took roots in the minds of the soldiers who lived far away from their homes and dutifully risked their lives. And as the conflicts of the war continued, those soldiers spread Kilroy throughout the world.

While the War progressed, the “Kilroy was here” graffiti seemed to have acquired an emblem of pride status that the U.S soldiers felt that it reflected the message of America as a super-power nation.

Time ahead, it became increasingly difficult for the troops not to spot a space where the graffiti wasn’t found. Some people also believe that the graffiti aroused informal competition among the soldiers who deliberately sought out remote locations that hadn’t been labelled with Kilroy graffiti. Hence, no matter where the military went, Kilroy was always pre-present.

Many historians also believe that Kilroy also became a funny meme among GIs. They found Kilroy as a soldier who always marched ahead and reached every destination much before anyone could have reached.

What is the Story Behind "Kilroy Was Here"?

The famous “Kilroy was here” graffito featuring a long-nosed man peering over a wall appears to be an international phenomenon. Many people are familiar with the sight of the man and the accompanying text, and “Kilroy was here” pops up in some surprising places. The origins of this graffiti trend are a bit difficult to pin down, and there are several claimants to the original “Kilroy.”

What is known about “Kilroy was here” is that it appears to have emerged among American service members in the Second World War. Numerous Americans who served in the war became familiar with the jaunty figure and caption by the end of hostilities, and this distinctive marking endured in American military culture, appearing in Korea, Vietnam, and the Iraq Wars. He also appears to have spread to other militaries, and from there to the general population.

The elements of this graffito also appear to have distinct origins, rather than being the unified invention of one mind. The illustration is British in origin, and is known as a “Chad.” Chads were used in cartoons parodying shortages, typically with the caption “Wot, no. ” underneath. The “Kilroy was here” script, on the other hand, may have come from an American naval shipyard, where an inspector supposedly wrote “Kilroy was here” on the ships he worked on.

The most plausible story about the script has to do with the way in which ship workers were paid for labor during the Second World War. Rather than being paid by the hour, laborers were paid in piecework. When multiple people worked on the same area of a ship, they marked their work with chalk marks so that their work could be tallied for payment. However, unscrupulous workers would move the chalk marks to increase their pay. In response, an infuriated ship worker supposedly started adding “Kilroy was here” to make it harder to move his chalk marks. These marks often wound up in places which would have been impossible to graffiti, such as the insides of hull liners, leading people to believe that Kilroy could turn up anywhere.

Others have suggested that the term came from military hospitals, supply companies, and a variety of other locations. Whatever the origin of the script, at some point it was connected with Chad, and it became a familiar sight. Some nations have their own variation. The Australians, for example, write “Foo was here” under the illustration, spawning a variety of entirely new legends.

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

True History of "Kilroy was here"

This is a sign that i'd seen before in treasure hunting, but only recently identified it, as well as identifying the history (purpose) behind this Kilroy sign.

This sign became quite popular during WW II. The troops saw this sign EVERYWHERE. they even wondered just how-the-hell Kilroy could get around to so many places. leaving his "signature" logo.

Truth is, as our troops went to the Pacific to fight Japan, the elite knew that our troops would run across this sign. over and over and over and over again. So, in order to whitewash the MEANINGS of theTRUE SIGNS that these troops would come across, this very same symbol that says "a tunnel opening is nearby" was adapted as Kilroy. to make the troops "laugh it off" as a joke.

Our troops no doubt ran across this Kilroy signs again and again and again. These islands are very rich iin Pirate treasure rooms, and the treasure signs are FOUND EVERYWHERE.

But, instead of looking for this concealed opening when this sign was found, the soldiers laughed it off and wondered. "How the hell does Kilroy get around like that?"





OK now we have finished with the obligitory "The Elites" conspiracy BS can we please adress the issue at hand. A quick internet search revealed this

Seems plausible enough, my guess is that some US serivce men saw the UK's Mr Chad and copied him using the already established "Kilroy was here" phrase.

This story would also explain how Kilroy appeared in both the Pacific and European theaters. (Ships could go to either theater)




"Other sources suggest that Foo was a man that was inspecting the welds in submarines.[citation needed] He had to crawl inside small spaces to do this, his superiors were wondering if he was doing his job so everywhere that Foo went he would write "Foo was here". This has been found on the wreckage of many subs and ships. This trend soon caught on."

Never heard of 'Foo was here' found in wreckage of submarines and ships before- anyone have a REAL citation of such a thing or is this a random humorous wikicism?

Maybe this is the citation meant even though it isn't a Foo but a Kilroy.


The website (Quincy's Shipbuilding Heritage) on the history of the Qunicy shipyard where Kilroy was employed reads

"One of the most interesting stories to come out of the war is that of "Kilroy was here." The "Kilroy was here" phrase appeared everywhere during World War II, but its origin did not become widely known until after the war had ended. In 1946 the American Transit Association ran a contest to find out where and why the phrase originated. As it turned out, the winner was James J. Kilroy of Boston. It seems as if Kilroy was hired by Fore River shipyard on December 5, 1941 as a checker. His job was to count the rivet holes and then leave chalk marks where he had left off. It was on this basis that the riveter's piece of work was calculated. Some of the riveters were not too honest and would erase the mark left by Kilroy. Thus, some of the rivet holes were counted twice. Kilroy got wind of this devious practice and proceeded to scrawl "Kilroy was here" on his rounds. He reportedly left his mark on such famous Fore River vessels as the battleship, Massachusetts, now berthed permanently at "Battleship Cove", Fall River, Massachusetts, the Carrier, Lexington (II), and the heavy cruiser, Baltimore, as well as numerous troop carriers. In later life Kilroy became a Boston City Councillor and state representative. He died on November 26, 1962."

The New York Times of 24 December 1946 read:

"During the war he [James J Kilroy] was employed at the Bethlehem Steel Company&#8217s Quincy shipyard, inspecting tanks, double bottoms and other parts of warships under construction. To satisfy superiors that he was performing his duties, Mr. Kilroy scribbled in yellow crayon &#8216Kilroy was here&#8217 on inspected work. Soon the phrase began to appear in various unrelated places, and Mr. Kilroy believes the 14,000 shipyard workers who entered the armed services were responsible for its subsequent world-wide use."

So, if the first article has its date correct, any sightings before December 1941 would mean James Kilroy was not the originator (although he might still have caused its popularity).

Those ships that Kilroy supposedly annotated - any evidence for when they were built and if the phrase was actually seen on them?

The graffito of a bald man looking over a wall—his long nose falling over its surface and fingers curled around its edge—is commonly called a Kilroy and usually accompanied by the message Kilroy was here. Its original creator is unknown, though subject to much speculation. One of the oldest known versions goes back to World War I, when Australia, New Zealand, and British forces scrawled the image all over walls, bathroom stalls, and railroad cars, but with the caption Foo was here.

British servicemen seem to have continued using this image when World War II broke out, but by then, the cartoon character was named Mr. Chad and accompanied by captions like Wot? No tea? in reference to low supplies. At some point during WWII, it appears American soldiers started drawing the popular military graffito, featuring the now-familiar tag Kilroy was here. Kilroy was here graffiti followed US soldiers across Europe, reportedly to the confusion and concern of opposing troops, who thought Kilroy might have been a spy.

Eventually, Kilroy was here outgrew its wartime origins and became a popular symbol across the US. Even in the 1940s the source of the name Kilroy was hotly debated. The American Transit Association held a radio contest to solve the mystery in 1946, with dozens of Kilroys coming forward to say they were the inspiration. The winner of the contest was a shipyard worker named James J. Kilroy, who claimed to have coined the phrase when his superiors made him continually recheck tanks he’d already inspected. By writing Kilroy was here in yellow crayon on the top of the tank, Kilroy indicated that he’d already looked over his work.

Though Kilroy was here‘s popularity faded after the 1950s, the symbol remains widely recognizable, even if many are unaware of its military roots, and Kilroy graffiti has been spotted in many unusual places all across the globe. The phrase itself has been variously used in popular media, including the 1983 Styx album Kilroy Was Here.

The Story Behind Kilroy, Probably the First Meme to Exist

If you were a U.S. soldier in WWII, chances are, you saw this drawing everywhere. Known as “Kilroy,” he popped up on graffiti all around the world during the war.

Becoming a symbol of hope and a source of laughter for the soldiers. U.S. soldiers drew the WWII meme everywhere, from the washrooms to the battlefield. Kilroy would appear on anything foreign in Europe or Japan.

The drawing was reassuring, since it meant another U.S. soldier had been there. It all started with an American shipyard inspector named James Kilroy.

He inspected rivets on ships and left checkmarks to denote they had been seen. Riveters got paid for each checked rivet. If they erased Kilroy’s marks, riveters could get checked a second time – resulting in double pay.

To prevent this, Kilroy drew a picture, and wrote “Kilroy Was Here” in bold letters. When the U.S. joined WWII, ships left quickly, and ‘Kilroy’ never got erased.

Soldiers saw it and found it funny. They started to draw it everywhere. After the war, Kilroy became more than a drawing.

He appeared in movies, commercials and even songs. Kilroy is much harder to spot today, most have been painted over or faded over time.

Watch the video: The World War II meme that circled the world