I have heard various references to the name “Kilroy”. Just who is Kilroy, anyway?

See . Legend 1 is the one I’m familiar with. Sounds more plausible to me than legend 2.

It is speculated that “Kilroy” was an American GI that fought in Europe during WWII. He and his immitators left large quantities of grafetti on that continent before returning to America. One of the common experiences of veterans of that campaign was of seeing “Kilroy was here” and an accompanying doodle of a big nosed guy looking over a fence. The common experience of millions of young American men was as good a source for a modern pop icon as you could get in the days before TV.

Hey, the Kilroy icon beats that dang smiley face any day!

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----( )----Ooo----
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screwed that one up, didn’t I?

i think cecil already covered this, but i’m too lazy to search for a link. so…IIRC

kilroy was the last name of some manner of control-checker (on rivets maybe?) on liberty ships. once he’d checked a section, he’d mark it with “kilroy” to show it’d been checked. upgraded himself to “kilroy was here” at some point. GI’s being transported in these ships latched onto the saying when the saw it on the side of their transportation (it wasn’t painted over, what with a war going on and all).


In the quest to find a picture of the Kilroy doodle I discovered the following two theories as to who Kilroy was and an explaination of the doodle’s origins:

1)The New York Times, on 24 December 1946, credited James J. Kilroy of Quincy, Massachusetts with starting the craze. Kilroy was an inspector at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in that city, and used a yellow crayon to write Kilroy was here on items that he had inspected. The graffiti became a common sight around the shipyard, and was imitated by many of the other 14,000 shipyard workers when they were drafted and sent around the world.

2)A Sergeant Francis Kilroy of the US Army Air Transport Command who scrawled the immortal phrase on boxes that were to be shipped abroad. Again, the phrase was picked up by other GIs and spread to everywhere from Murmansk to Espiritu Santo.
The cartoon usually associated with Kilroy has quite a different origin. It is originally British, named Mr. Chad, and apparently predates the Kilroy phrase by a few years. It commonly appeared with the phrase Wot, no ------? underneath, with the blank filled in with whatever happened to be in short supply at the time (example: Wot, no cigarettes?). Sometime during the war, Chad and Kilroy met and in the spirit of Allied unity merged, with the British drawing appearing over the American phrase. The OED2 lists Chad’s origin as “obscure,” but it may have been created by George Edward Chatterton, a cartoonist in civilian life who spent the war years in the Royal Air Force.

I always thought “Kilroy” looked rather like a Goon from the original “Popeye” comic strip.