Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How 'Kilroy Was Here' Changed the World.


At one of the country's most prolific shipyards in Quincy worked James J. Kilroy — a rivet inspector who, like everyone in his trade, was paid by the number of rivets he checked and recorded his day's work on the machinery itself with a chalk mark. To avoid having his marks erased and moved by unscrupulous workers continuing his line of rivets, Kilroy began inscribing "Kilroy Was Here" on the machinery, historians say.


The dire need for ships overseas meant that most were launched into action before the workers' marks, including Kilroy's, were painted over or covered up.


American GIs began noticing the puzzling phrase scrawled on outgoing ships almost immediately, often tucked into hard-to-reach spots. At first, sailors treated an appearance of "Kilroy Was Here" like a kind of talisman, certifying that their ship had been properly checked and would be protected against the enemy. GIs later adopted Kilroy's standard and began tagging the places they'd visited across Europe, Asia and Africa.

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