KILROY WAS HERE!
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 rive ts did n'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
As a result, Kilroy's inspection 'trademark' was seen by thousands of
servicemen who boarded the troop ships the yard produced. His message
apparently rang a bell with the servicemen, because they picked it up and
spread it all over Europe and th e Sout h Pacific. Before the war's end,
'Kilroy' had been here, there, and everywhere on the long haul to Berlin
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, US. 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 Arch De Triumphe, and even scrawled in the dust on the
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
over the Kilroy logo! In 1945, an outhouse was built for the
exclusive use of Roosvelt, 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.
So now You Know!