James J. Kilroy
Birth: Sep. 26, 1902
Death: Nov. 24, 1962
American Folk Figure. He was the originator of the ubiquitous World War II expression and doodle "Kilroy was here." The "Kilroy was here" phrase seemed to appear everywhere during World War II. Its origin was not widely known until after the war had ended when the American Transit Association ran a contest in 1946 to find out where and why the phrase originated. The winner was James J. Kilroy of Boston who had been hired by the Fore River shipyard on December 5, 1941, two days before the Pearl Harbor attack, as an inspector.
His job was to count the completed rivets and then leave chalk marks where he had left off. It was on this basis that the riveter's daily piece work counts were calculated. Some of the riveters were not too honest and would erase the mark left by Kilroy resulting in some of the rivets being counted twice. James Kilroy got wind of this practice and began to scrawl "Kilroy was here" on his rounds and added the head peering over a wall. Reportedly left his mark on such famous Fore River vessels as the battleship USS Massachusetts (now berthed permanently at "Battleship Cove", Fall River, Massachusetts), the aircraft carrier, USS Lexington (II), the heavy cruiser USS Baltimore, as well as numerous troop carriers. Millions of service men saw the slogan on the outgoing ships and all they knew was that "Kilroy" had been there first. Service men began placing the graffiti wherever the United States Forces landed, claiming it was already there when they arrived.
This was the origin reported by the New York Times in 1946, with the addition that Kilroy had marked the ships themselves as they were being built - so, at a later date, the phrase would be found chalked in places that no graffiti-artist could have got to, such as inside sealed hull spaces, which then fed the mythical significance of the phrase ("after all, if Kilroy could leave his mark there, who knew what else he could do?"). James Kilroy was also a Boston City Councillor and state representative. He died in Halifax, Massachusetts.