In the 2nd World War it seems that American troops rallied around a man (or legend?) known as the "Kilroy".

I've seen his image depicted on American tanks, letters, barracks, etc. Some I've seen in movies like "Patton"; a few I've seen in real life.

Who was the Kilroy and how did he get this name?

  • Kilroy was more of a running gag, a prank, a meme spread by US soldiers.
    – Schwern
    Jul 7, 2017 at 8:38

3 Answers 3


Kilroy was a visual meme drawn by soldiers in WWII. He may have been derived from a British figure named Chad, though many other explanations are out there. One of the claims as to the origin of his name was given by a Mr. Kilroy.

  • Kilroy appeared on Allied installations, frequently far behind the front lines. He wasn't going to instill fear into any enemies on a US military base.
    – SPavel
    Jul 7, 2017 at 2:18
  • @SPavel Oh, ok, the reason I asked was that I just watched the American movie "Patton" and it had the front line troops driving jeeps and tanks with Mr. Kilroy on them when they were trying to take a French city from the Nazis.
    – Hack-R
    Jul 7, 2017 at 3:40
  • 5
    @Hack-R: As a frontline soldier you don't give a rat's backside about what's painted on some enemy vehicle. If it's quite visible, you might use it as aiming point... Early WWII tanks carried white crosses -- German -- or white stars -- USA -- for identification. Because they were so highly visible, they were modified to be an outline of a cross / star only as the war went on. So any "highly visible" drawing will be used to kill you, and a not-so-visible drawing won't "instill fear in enemies" at combat distances. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Jul 7, 2017 at 7:57

According to some Kilroy was James J. Kilroy (1902–1962) who used to write "Kilroy was here" when checking ships at the Fore River Shipyard in Massachusetts during WWII. http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-kil1.htm

Also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilroy_was_here


The version I heard was that Kilroy would write it on welds in hulls... and then when the hull was fitted out you'd find 'kilroy was here' crossing behind bulkheads or in places that no-one could possibly reach in a fitted-out ship. Hence it's elevation to mystique... Kilroy got into places that it wasn't possible to get into.

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