He is engraved in stone in the National War Memorial in Washington, DC – back in a small alcove where very few people have seen it. For the WWII generation, this will bring back memories. For you younger folks, it’s a bit of trivia that is a part of our American history. Anyone born in 1913 to about 1950 is familiar with Kilroy. No one knew why he was so well known – but everybody seemed to get into it.
So who was Kilroy?
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 who 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. He 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 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 check mark 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 the 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 war’s end, “Kilroy” had been here, there, and everywhere on the long hauls to Berlin and Tokyo. To the troops outbound in those ships, however, he was a complete mystery; all they knew for sure was that someone 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. super- GI 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 Mt. Everest, the Statue of Liberty, the underside of the Arc de Triomphe, and even scrawled in the dust on the moon.
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 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. Its first occupant 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 to his nine children as a Christmas gift and set it up as a playhouse in the Kilroy yard in Halifax, Massachusetts.
And The Tradition Continues…
Even outside of Bin Laden’s house…
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And in the 1970’s movie “Kelly’s Heroes” was it visible in the last scene: “Kilroy was here! – Up to yours, baby!”
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I was rejected for ‘Nam, but my dad was a WWII vet, Corps of Engineers instructor stationed in Oregon, forget the camp.
HE told me about Kilroy being EVERYWHERE !
Even showed up one morning on the chalkboard in dad’s classroom !
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I am writing a book, Getting to Know My Dad and Myself. It traces my Dad and our family through him being drafted to the Battle of Okinawa. He was in a machine gun squad and was killed on June 16, 1945, near the end of the battle, when I was 3 ½. This is the best discussion of Kilroy that I have seen.
I would like to quote it and use some of the pictures, especially the machine gun and credit it to this web site and Author: pdoggbiker.
I don’t have an issue with that. good luck
On Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 1:10 PM CherriesWriter – Vietnam War website wrote:
This is from the FOREWORD that I wrote over a month ago. You can now see how excited I am to be able to use these materials. Thanks!
I have decided to write about myself in the third person (Jerry) rather than using I and me all the time. A writer friend suggested that I pretend to levitate and look down on what was going on. To make that process easier I’ve chosen to team up with someone who has been essentially everywhere in World War II, Kilroy. The statement Kilroy was Here, usually a line drawing of Kilroy peeking over a wall, was found on signs, walls, military vehicles and planes, military equipment and even at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D. C. (See Kilroy Page ??). Kilroy and I are collaborating to depict certain events for which there is no hard data to indicate what actually happened and what may have been said. We are doing the best we can and any mistakes can be blamed on Kilroy.
Is it possible to know from which archives comes the photo of the plane with the “Kilroy” ????? I’m working on a book about graffiti and I’m ready to buy one. Congratulations for this page on “Kilroy” which is exciting!
Today I had the pleasure of meeting a homeless man named Brian while walking to the Child Support bldg. in downtown Miami. Brian came up to me but I kind brushed him of but he insisted to engage in conversation with me. I asked him if he was a Vietnam veteran and he told me he was a 1st Marine Recon and showed me his tattoo of Killroy on his right shoulder. I help him with some money and asked if he ever seen a 2 step snake and ever ran into a punji stake. Brian dropped his bag took his boot off and showed me his scar from stepping on a punji stake. Brian mention to me he and 2 others are the only Killroy left in America that was a group of Marine Recon during the Vietnam war…I learn something new by talking to a veteran and researching Kilroy this site..Thank you.
Great!! Saw Kilroy every where I went (Korea-68 Pueblo Incident, Nam 69)
Beats 5 pointz and all tags and graffiti – hands down. Long Live Kilroy!
Thank you for that bit of trivia. I always wondered who Kilroy was. http://coldwarwarrior.com/
I just visited your site again and really like what you have done. Thanks for the great site. I especially liked the pictures of FSB Kein. I was with 2/12 as the F.O. for Charle company. Seeing FSB Kein brought back some old memories.
Keep up the good work.