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Kilroy Was Here: The Story Of The War-Era Meme

Güncelleme tarihi: 30 Nis 2023

“Kilroy was here”. Ever heard of this phrase before? No? Well, whether you saw that little guy with a big nose drawn on a wall or a bus stop or not, its story is a tempting one to read. So let us dive into the history of one of the world’s first memes, Kilroy Was Here.

In 1942, during World War II, the United States started sending its troops to Europe to fight against the Germans. American soldiers have suddenly ripped apart from their homeland and dragged into the facades of Europe, where the heavy war atmosphere affected many soldiers psychologically. So the American soldiers started playing some kind of a game, where the troops would draw a caricature of a bald character with a big nose, looking over a wall, and write “Kilroy Was Here” below. This became a meme and the troops slowly started to draw Kilroy everywhere they went, sometimes the shells of bombs, between the debris, or even the walls of the concentration camps they were being sent by the enemy. At some point, this got so popular among the army, the newly sent servicemen would find Kilroys all their way into the German fronts, which helped them track the other troops’. Kilroy went all the way to Britain once, and got named “Chad”. British soldiers would write “Chad was here” to all the walls they found, expanding Kilroy’s legacy to the norther.

But where did it originate from? Well, we’re not sure. Because we don’t know the original Kilroy yet. But it is said that it was first drawn by a shipyard inspector named James J. Kilroy, who would write “Kilroy was here” with a piece of chalk to all new ships he inspected, so he could remember them. But the soldiers on that ship couldn’t figure out what the phrase meant so they started doodling it everywhere they went as a joke, and it slowly became a challenge for the American troops to become the first to draw Kilroy everywhere they landed.

Well, even if this story isn’t true, all we need to know is that Kilroy Was Here helped millions of soldiers affected by the dark atmosphere of the war kicking that atmosphere out of their minds, and giving them a way to clear themselves a bit from the stress of the battlefield. It was a huge part of the post-war culture with the American troops still doodling Kilroy to the walls during the Vietnam War, and it still holds its position as one of the most important cultural elements that symbolizes the world after the war. And thanks to that, we’re still able to see the little guy in the streets, walls, craved into trees or planted as a flag on the tops of big mountains all around the world, just looking over a wall, you will see the iconic three words of his: Kilroy Was Here.


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