Kilroy was here!
I was a WWII baby, born in Oct. 1938. I remember the war years remarkably well for being so young during this time. One thing I remember was KILROY he popped up everywhere even in rural Missouri. I remember seeing him on passing boxcars of when steam locomotives trains rolled by. I was always fascinated with him. In news reels at the movie theater he would show up in clips on the sides of tanks and painted on bombs being loaded on to planes. Later when I was a little older he showed up during the Korean conflict (no one called it a war, Police Action was the correct term). He made a appearance in Viet Nam, and had shown up on fighting vehicles in the gulf War and is ridding along side of our people in the current conflict in the Mid -East. The following post is taken from a site I receive weekly devoted to Marine Corps related subjects. I found it quite interesting, and since the author gives permission for it to be passed around I asked my daughter to place it into a draft for your enjoyment.
Below is an excerpt from The Sgt. Grit Newsletter I subscribe (and occasionally contribute) to: Sgt Grit American Courage Newsletter #169 – 6 Mar 2008 .
It is preceded by a comment from my daughter.
Hi Dad – I remember Kilroy, I thought he came from the hippies or during the psychedelic 70’s. Goes to show ya what I know! I remember I had a red rubber kilroy that I could put in a pocket and have him peeking out. It’s neat to read about the ties to the armed forces. Love ya!!
My first brush with “Kilroy” was in 1950 as a youngster in Athens, Greece, where at the Anglo-American School the children of war-time multi-national expatriates attended classes. Our mixed lot was comprised of a far ranging and diverse group. Most were American children, but included were Brits, Indians, Turks, Egyptians, Italians, Spaniards and others from respective embassies, military services and even missionaries.
Kilroy was more legend than fad, the small drawing and inscription was ubiquitous and in the most unusual places. It was found on black boards, on the walls of restroom stalls, on the playground walls and basketball backboards. At that early age, it bugged me that “Kilroy” had been someplace ahead of me, but I soon got in the spirit and although too young to grasp its significance, like many of my cohorts, I would occasionally adorn some spot with the famous, or infamous depending on ones perspective, sketch and statement.
A few years ago my bride and I had the privilege to ride the USS Iwo Jima on its maiden voyage from its birthplace at the shipyards Pascagoula, Ms. to Pensacola, Fl. There were about two thousand guests aboard the ship and many sat on the flight deck to enjoy the sun and breeze. As we strolled by one lady whose leg was in a cast, we noted among all the greetings was the well known image and inscription, “Kilroy Was Here.”
Few people reading this today are old enough to remember how very important “Kilroy Was Here” was to GIs in WW2, Korea, and is today in the Gulf War and Iraq. The best legend of how he started is that James Kilroy was a rivet inspector on ships in Salem MS during WWII. To prove he had inspected, he would scribble the words throughout the ship.
Often the ships were sent to sea before painting or cleaning up (one Liberty ship was actually built in four days), GIs and sailors found the graffiti in impossible places. Soon Kilroy became the super GI who always got there first and survived. They began placing him in the most unlikely places. He has been reported on enemy beaches as landing GIs approached, on the Arc De Triomphe and even scrawled in the sand on the moon. As Owen Edwards said in the Smithsonian; “‘Kilroy Was Here’ appeared almost everywhere American soldiers went.”
There is one story of Stalin after emerging from a “porta- potti” at the Malta Summit, asked, “Who is Kilroy?” Kilroy was in all likelihood the forerunner of modern graffiti which itself has a long and illustrious history.
But why did this crude drawing and scrawled words become the super GI of WWII, Korea, the Gulf War, and Iraq? We know how it probably started but why the “movement?” I see the Kilroy phenomenon as a manifestation of absolutely amazing sense of humor. GI’s were always able to find something funny to say and do under stress that those of us today can only imagine. I also see Kilroy as a comfort to GI’s suffering through a world gone mad. No matter how bad it got, no matter what the danger, no matter how exhausted, scared or fed up they got, Kilroy was there first and survived. Only those who have “been there,” “done that,” can really appreciate and understand their motivations.
Finally, “Kilroy Was Here” was an effort by millions of GI’s to be a little rebellious when their whole life was controlled by others. It broke the horrible tension and provided a little fun. “Kilroy Was Here” persisted in spite of efforts by several commands to stamp it out. Certainly several occupied territory commanders issued orders that Kilroy not be scribbled and that it be removed wherever it was found. Such orders were always greeted with monumental indifference.
He was an outward demonstration of rebellious GI’s insisting on some individuality! “Kilroy Was Here” was duty – duty to their country; duty to their buddies. These were not warriors but simple guys who were caught up in forces far beyond their control. But warriors they became! By 1945 they were the most skilled warriors in the world. But, they never thought of themselves as such. They were just guys who wanted to get the job done and go home. Actually, they felt the only way to go home was to get the job done. This was a powerful motivation! Griping was taken to an art form but whining was never heard.
Kilroy still lives everywhere GIs have passed, including courthouses, places of worship, markets, and undoubtedly other, less respectable places limited only by ones imagination.
The generation that made Kilroy famous is now going to its eternal reward at the rate of a thousand a day; it won’t be very long before its members are gone. But our memory of them will live on for their legacy of sacrifice, bravery and wit. The torch has been passed to a new generation of American servicemen and women who are equal to any challenge, adversity and enemy. If politicians would but listen to and permit them, they can and will keep this nation safe and free for another generation, until their time too has passed. Static memorials grace Washington, State Capitols and even towns across the country, but few things are as ubiquitous as a US postage stamp, and consistent with that it is fitting that a stamp to commemorate past and contemporary heroes be issued so that wherever they travel and mail follows, Kilroy will always be there.
My good friend, Pat Tillery and I call on you to make a difference by sending a postcard or letter urging the Postal Service to issue a stamp to commemorate “Kilroy Was Here.” Send you notes, cards, and/or letters to:
Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee
US Postal Service
1735 North Lynn Street, Rm. 501
Arlington VA 22209-6432
Or send an email, letter or petition to www.KilroyWasHere.org
If you wish to send a comment or ask a question of Bob Pappas please use: pappas @ gulf1.com
If you wish to read PREVIOUS ARTICLES by Col Pappas, please see: http://www.gulf1.com/columns/pappas/pappasframe.htm
Copyright © February 24th, 2008, by Patrick Tillery and Robert L. Pappas. With proper attribution, this essay may be quoted and redistributed. It may not be used in any way, in conjunction with any advertisement without the authors expressed written permission.
Contact info for the author is noted in the excerpt above.
The direct link to the article in Sgt Grit’s newsletter is: http://www.grunt.com/scuttlebutt/newsarchives/2008/mar_6_ac.asp
*scroll near the bottom of the page to find the above article by Col Pappa.
There is very little I can add to this post Col. Pappa has covered it all. I simply found it fascinating, and felt some might enjoy it who would not ever have found it otherwise. In addition to my daughters comment I too at various times in my long life also had the little pocket Kilroy figure to stick in my pocket. I have seen Kilroy make his appearance in Iraq on the sides of fighting equipment. I am glad that he still exists to day and is doing his globe trotting as if he still possesses eternal youth.
On a more somber note my grandson who is in the Marines has just finished his Communications training at Twenty_Nine Palms and has reported to Camp Lejuine, North Carolina. He arrived there this last Sunday evening and caledl us on Tuesday to let us know he had arrived safely and called again last night. This time he reported that he has already been told that he will deploy to Iraq in October (2008). This is not the kind of news we like to hear, but he is just one of thousands who have been placed into harms way by this conflict. No matter how any of us feel about this mess, we owe the men and women who are sent there our whole-hearted support. I fear that there is no end in sight for this damn thing no matter who gets the vote this November. I simply hope in my deepest heart that our people get to come home whole and with their souls intact.
GOD BLESS THEM ALL
AND THOSE WHO SUPPORT THEM