Kilroy was Here

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"KILROY WAS HERE," possibly the most popular graffiti in military history, has uncertain origins. Folklore traces the saying to a World War II shipyard worker, James J. Kilroy, who inspected the bottoms of warships under construction, indicating his inspection with a chalk mark. However, this mark was susceptible to erasure, so Kilroy began the practice of scrawling "Kilroy was here" in crayon. Servicemen around the world saw the slogan on the ships, and word spread that "Kilroy" had been there first. They began placing the graffiti wherever U.S. forces landed. Kilroy thus became a symbol of reassurance for soldiers in threatening situations—a "Super G.I." who had always already been wherever the real soldier went.


Dickson, Paul. War Slang: Fighting Words and Phrases of Americans from the Civil War through the Persian Gulf War. New York: Pocket Books, 1994.

Fussell, Paul. Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Timothy M.Roberts

See alsoWorld War II .