He’s engraved in stone in the National World War II 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 younger folks, it’s a bit of trivia that is an intrinsic part of American history and legend.
Anyone born between 1913 to about 1950, is very familiar with Kilroy. No one knew why he was so well known….but everybody seemed to get into it. It was the fad of its time!
At the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC
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….now a larger-than-life legend of just-ended World War II….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 credible and verifiable evidence of his identity.
His job was to go around and check on the number of rivets completed. (Rivets held ships together before the advent of modern welding techniques.) Riveters were on piece work wages….so they got paid by the rivet. He would count a block of rivets and put a check mark in semi-waxed lumber chalk (similar to crayon), so the rivets wouldn’t be counted more than once.
A warship hull with rivets
When Kilroy went off duty, the riveters would surreptitiously erase the mark. Later, 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 unusually high wages being “earned” by 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 guy with the long nose peering over the fence….and that became part of the Kilroy message.
Kilroy’s original shipyard inspection “trademark” during World War II
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 World War II on in full swing, 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 the European and the Pacific war zones.
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.
As World War II wore 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!
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
attached to the Kilroy home and used to provide living quarters for six of the family’s nine children….thereby solving what had become an acute housing crisis for the Kilroys.
The new addition to the Kilroy family home.
* * * *
And the tradition continues into the 21st century…
>>Note: The Kilroy graffiti on the southwest wall of the Bin Laden compound pictured above was real (not digitally altered with Microsoft Paint, as postulated by some). The entire compound was leveled in 2012 for redevelopment by a Pakistani company as an amusement park….and to avoid it becoming a shrine to Bin Laden’s nefarious memory.
* * * *
A personal note….
My Dad’s trademark signature on cards, letters and notes to my sisters and I for the first 50 or so years of our lives (until we lost him to cancer) was to add the image of “Kilroy" at the end. We kids never ceased to get a thrill out of this….even as we evolved into adulthood.
To this day, the “Kilroy” image brings back a vivid image of my awesome Dad into my head….and my heart!
It’s been 16 years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, but the images of that day remain clear. Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and a third into the Pentagon in Virginia. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. Because of the actions of 40 passengers and crew aboard the fourth plane, Flight 93, the U.S. Capitol was saved. In New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and across the country, people will gather today to remember the depth of our loss and the strength of our resolve. By visiting these places and hearing their stories, those who were taken will never be forgotten. Photo from Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania by Tami Heilemann, Interior.
“Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others.” -Ronald Reagan
On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. Despite his humble beginnings and lack of formal education, Lincoln distinguished himself as an honest leader and a powerful speaker. Leading the nation through the Civil War, our 16th President fought for unity and helped bring an end to slavery in our country. Modeled after the Parthenon in Greece (the birthplace of democracy), the Lincoln Memorial honors his legacy. It’s a towering icon on the Washington, D.C., landscape that attracts visitors from all over the world to be inspired by Lincoln’s words and accomplishments. Photo courtesy of Drew Geraci.
I’m reading this absolutely amazing text for uni about “memories” and, basically, how the dominant classes try to install an “official” national memory, but, most of the times, it contradicts heavily with the memories of marginalized groups. So that text focus on this battle between the two kinds of memories fighting for predominance. Urgh it’s so good!
I’ve also been drawing lately, these are a few of my sketches!!
Super humbled to have received the Jay Kennedy Memorial scholarship at the Reuben Awards a few weeks ago!
It was so amazing to meet all the lovely folks at the National Cartoonists Society in Portland, their kindness and awesome sense of humor extending beyond their work into life. It was so inspiring to meet artists who’ve done so much more than I have, full of passion and working every day for the love of the craft. I want to give a big thank-you to the NCS and everyone that’s supported me over the years, it really means a lot!!
Today marks the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. With over 23,000 combined casualties suffered by both the Union and Confederate armies, it remains the bloodiest day in American history. It’s hard to imagine the horror that ravaged this Maryland community when you walk the now peaceful fields of Antietam National Battlefield. Photo by National Park Service.
On 1 July 2016, 1,400 volunteers took part in a national memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. ‘We’re here because we’re here’ saw soldiers in First World War uniform appear unexpectedly in locations across the UK. Commissioned by 14-18 NOW, conceived and created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre and 27 other organisations including Lyric Theatre Belfast, Manchester Royal Exchange, National Theatre of Scotland and National Theatre Wales.
The soldiers congregated without ceremony in public places up and down the country. Like ghosts, the soldiers remained silent throughout the day and when approached simply handed out a white card displaying the name, rank, battalion and regiment of a real soldier who had died at the Somme on July 1 2016. All the volunteers carried the details of a different soldier.
19,240 British soliders were killed on the first day alone of the Battle of the Somme.
THIRTEEN’s The Talk – Race in America Tackles the Issue of Young People of Color and Their Uneasy Encounters With Law Enforcement. It premieres Monday, February 20, 9 p.m. on PBS. In anticipation of that premiere Tumblr and THIRTEEN have convened officers, advocates and policy experts to discuss the state of community policing in the United States.
Dr. Bryant T. Marks is a National Trainer on Implicit Bias and Community Policing. He has trained over 1,000 police chiefs via a series of White House briefings, and several thousand patrol officers through small group workshops in police departments across the country. He is a professor of psychology at Morehouse College and also serves as a Senior Research Fellow with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.
John Matthews is the Executive Director of the Community Safety Institute (CSI) and a former Chief of Police. John developed and implemented community policing for the Dallas Police Department in the 1990’s and has worked nationally on scores of COPS Office initiatives over the past twenty years developing over 100 community policing training programs. John also serves as the Director of Federal Partnerships for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and was a member of the White House 21st Century Policing team.
Bakari Kitwana is the executive director of Rap Sessions, which is currently touring the nation leading town hall discussions on the theme “Run Toward Fear: Millennial Activists and Social Justice in the Trump Era” He is the author of The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era.
Trevena Garel is a retired New York City Police Sergeant. During her 21-year career Trevena served as both an undercover and an investigator in the NYPD’s Chief of Patrol’s Investigation and Evaluation Section, investigating allegations of misconduct involving both uniformed and/or civilian members of the NYPD. Trevena has had “The Talk” with her three children and her two oldest grandchildren.
Chief Michael Koval began his career with the Madison Police Department in 1983. Before becoming the Chief in 2014 he was the Sergeant of Recruitment and Training for 17 years. He has a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law.
Late at night on February 16, fifteen black-footed albatross chicks made
a special landing at Honolulu International Airport. These former residents of
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial were
flown from the remote atoll and then transported from the airport to their new
home at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, on the north shore of Oʻahu.
small, fluffy chicks are part of a pioneering effort to establish a new
albatross colony in the main Hawaiian Islands. Black-footed albatross nest only
on low-lying islands and are at risk of losing their nesting habitat due to
rising sea-levels and increasing storm surges…