The Kilroy Story

The vast majority of you World War II vets are very familiar with the phrase "Kilroy was here" found written just about everywhere on every piece of equipment from Tokyo to Berlin. Quite a few Korean War vets saw it and some Vietnam vets went through the "Kilroy was here" episode. Did you ever wonder how it all got started?...

Kilroy was a 46-year old shipyard worker from Halifax, Massachusetts and during the war, worked as a checker at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. His job was to go around and check on the number of rivets completed. Riveters were on piece work and got paid by the rivet. Kilroy would count a block of rivets and put a check mark in chalk, so the rivets wouldn't be counted twice. When he went off duty, the riveters would erase the mark. Later on, another checker 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 Kilroy to investigate. It was then that 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 chalk. He continued to put his check mark on each job he inspected, but he added "Kilroy was here" in king-size letters next to the check. Once he did that, the riveters stopped wiping away his marks.

Ordinarily the rivets and chalk marks would have covered up with paint. With war on, 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 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 the South Pacific. Before the war's end, Kilroy had been here, there and everywhere on the long haul to Berlin and Tokyo. Along the way, someone added the sketch of the chap with the long nose peering over the fence, and that became part of the Kilroy message.