Kilroy Was Here!

Dear Reader:

It has been awhile since I have just shared a history story with you for a blog post…so when Jo sent me the ‘story behind the story‘ of the expression “Kilroy was here” I knew it was a story that needed passing on to all of you.

Even though, as a “Baby Boomer” (born after World War II was over)… thus not growing up with this expression…I told Jo that I remembered being asked about it by an enthusiastic WWII history buff student one year and together we discovered the story behind the expression.

My feeble brain slightly remembered some (but not all of the story)…so when Jo later sent it…I thought it was time to work it into today’s post… a great patriotic story to tuck away in our treasure chests of stories to tell our children and grandchildren.

Since the story is pretty long I am going to try to condense the main ideas with a few important excerpts….Hope you enjoy a little history trivia on this last weekend in April!






He is engraved in stone in the National War Memorial in Washington, DC-back in a small alcove where very few people have seen. For the WWII generation, it brings back memories…a bit of trivia that is part of our American history. No one seemed to know why he was so well known-but everybody rallied around him. So who was Kilroy?

In 1946 a 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. Forty men stepped forward but only one could provide the necessary proof of his identity – James Kilroy from Halifax, Massachusetts.

The 46-year-old shipyard worker was a checker at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy. His job was to check on the number of rivets completed. (Back then riveters got paid by the rivets. He would count a block of rivets and put a check mark in waxed lumber chalk, so they couldn’t be counted twice. However, once he left, the riveters would erase the mark so they could be paid twice.)

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

It didn’t take too long for the boss to catch on that something funny was going on in that section of the assembly line and asked Kilroy to check on it…it was only then that he discovered what had been going on behind his back. He continued to put his check mark on each job he inspected, but added “KILROY WAS HERE” in king-sized letter with a sketch of the chap with the long nose peering over the fence.

Once he did that the riveters stopped trying to wipe his marks away. With the war on, ships were leaving the Quincy Yard so fast there wasn’t time to paint over his drawings. As a result, Kilroy’s inspection “trademark” was seen by thousands of servicemen who boarded the troopships the yard produced.
His message definitely hit a chord of patriotism with the servicemen, because they picked it up and spread it all over Europe and the South Pacific.
There was just something quite comforting about seeing a “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti on a rock or tree a soldier came across in a foreign land fighting a fierce enemy. So as a joke, U.S. Servicemen began placing the graffiti wherever they first landed for the benefit and morale of the others who would follow. (Always claiming of course that it was already there when they arrived.)
Kilroy became the U.S. Super-GI who always got there first ahead of the troops to welcome them wherever they fought.
Today it is said  to be on top of Mt. Everest, the Statue of Liberty, the underside of the Arc de Triomphe, and even scrawled in the dust on the moon.
* In 1945 at the Potsdam
Conference (Roosevelt,
Stalin, and Churchill)…an
outhouse was built for the
leaders. Apparently Stalin
had to go first and emerged
asking, “Who is this Kilroy?”

 The legend continues… EVEN Outside Osama Bin Laden’s House!
So until tomorrow…Another “God Wink” was nagging at me the whole time I was re-writing this article….something about a “person” giving hope and comfort to thousands by the reassurance that no matter where you are …this “person” has already gone there and is waiting to welcome you.” Then it hit me what and where I had seen this.
 St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope: Trust, North Carolina
 Not far from the chapel is a cross leaning down with the words : FEAR NOT TOMORROW. JESUS IS ALREADY THERE.
(Jesus and Kilroy…it’s nice to know Someone was there for our WWII fighting men and boys with one and the same names…a smile and comfort from the One who is always ahead of us there and now…waiting to welcome us. )
 *Donna and Sam….when I passed your beautiful mailbox with the purple clematis falling down around it…the framed picture (you did Donna) of this special site for me came rushing back. You don’t know how many times I glance up from the computer and see the words: FEAR NOT tomorrow. Jesus is already there! What a daily comfort!

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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3 Responses to Kilroy Was Here!

  1. Jo Dufford says:

    Two stories about Kilroy came to my mind from yesteryear. One was about a sign in a very small popular eating place in Columbia when I was a USC student. It read “Kilroy never ate here; he couldn’t find a seat.” The other was there were 2 men outside the Vatican when two men appeared on a balcony above. One man said, “Who are they?” The other replied, “I’m not sure who the one in the white robe wearing a cross is, but the other guy in Kilroy.” (OK, I didn’t say they were funny..just ancient memories.) I really liked the real message of your story today because it is great to know that no matter how far we travel or what happens in life, “Jesus is already there”.


  2. Rachel Edwards says:


    On Apr 29, 2017 6:06 AM, “Chapel of Hope Stories” wrote:

    > Becky Dingle posted: ” Dear Reader: It has been awhile since I have just > shared a history story with you for a blog post…so when Jo sent me the > ‘story behind the story’ of the expression “Kilroy was here” I knew it was > a story that needed passing on to all of you. E” >


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