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Kilroy was here

Kilroy was here is a phrase written in graffiti by primarily American servicemen during World War II. Kilroy could be considered a symbol of every American serviceman. Writing the graffiti message Kilroy was here was a small claim of victory, a statement that the Americans were there to defend and protect. It became a craze that continued into the 1950s. The Kilroy in question is unknown, although there are two good possibilities. One is Sgt. Francis J. Kilroy, Jr., whose friend wrote on a bulletin board at a Florida air field, “Kilroy will be here next week.” Other airmen changed the phrase to “Kilroy was here,” and the craze began. Another possible source is James J. Kilroy, a shipyard inspector who wrote “Kilroy was here” on various parts of American Navy ships to prove that he had inspected them. However, the earliest known graffiti of Kilroy was here was found in a gold vault at Fort Knox dated 1937, which predates both origin stories.


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Examples

But the most interesting are perhaps the “Kilroy was here” inscriptions, which American soldiers during the World War II used to indicate that they were there to protect. (The Daily Sabah)

The servicemen put Kilroy’s picture and the words, “Kilroy was here,” wherever they landed or passed through. (The Abilene Reporter-News)

(If the excellent phrase “Kilroy was here” has expired as a recognized and familiar figure of speech, then I will put reviving it on my to-do list as state historian.) (The Denver Post)

Donna Prust, a retired technology worker, was taking photographs on Monday of Ed the Clam, a smiley-faced clamshell character that has become a kind of “Kilroy was here” figure for many people who post images of him on his Facebook page. (The New York Times)

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