Kilroy, Berlin Wall

The infamous “Kilroy was here” graffiti on a piece of the Berlin Wall located in the Newseum in Washington, D.C., USA.

Potsdamn Conference, Occupied Germany


August 1925: Joseph Stalin steps out of his outhouse to have a quick smoke. He calls for Boris, his aide.

“Борис скажите мне, кто, черт возьми, Килрой?.”

(Boris, tell me. Who the hell is Kilroy? )


U Tapao Base (Pattaya, Vietnam)

Sometimes during the Vietnam War, one soldier to another

Soldier 1:  Paul Nao Tru Yeng ! Kwick, come heyre.

Soldier 2: Wot?

Soldier 1: What’s that? Written on the wall there?

Soldier 2: *squinting* Kil-woy woz heire? Vot iz tat?

Long before the viral and guerilla marketing fanaticism hit, the balding Kilroy was making his way around the world and back through the oldest, most righteous form of vandalism, graffiti.

The rudimentary doodle is composed of a bald man with a pronounced olfactory appendage, peering over a bricked wall, with the words ‘Kilroy Was Here’ .The graffiti has appeared in the most unlikely-est of places. Reported sightings include, on top of the Mount Everest, The statue of Liberty, the Berlin Wall, on the Arc de Triomphe and even on the MOON! (Come on, people!)

During WW II, when the Navy Seals (the soldiers not the porpoises) swam to the Japanese-held pacific islands, they were positive that they were the first ones there. Imagine to their surprise when Kilroy beat them to it. To their shock and slight amusement, ‘Kilroy Was Here’ was written across the islands on enemy pillboxes.

Kilroy travelled across the Pacific with the American GI’s , who drew the cartoon wherever they could find – caves, walls, bunkers, tankers, on the nose of fighter jets. They began to claim that it was written there before they got there. In fact most WW II vets would tell you that every piece of military equipment all from Tokyo to Berlin had ‘Kilroy Was Here’ written somewhere.

Kilroy has been the butt of numerous jokes and the paranoia of many others. When German intelligence found the phrase on captured American equipment, the Fuhrer / Hitler was convinced that Kilroy was a codename of a high level allied spy. While Stalin was taking a leak during the historic Potsdam Conference, he found the phrase ‘Kilroy was Here’ written in the VIP’s bathroom.

The origin of the graffiti is popularly credited to J.J Kilroy, a shipyard inspector during WW II. He chalked ‘Kilroy Was Here’ to show that he had inspected the riveting of the ships. Later when the soldiers began to use these ships to fight the war and all they knew for sure was ‘Kilroy’ had been there first.

Copy cats of ‘Kilroy’ have been found in both Britain and Australia. The English Kilroy, better known as ‘Mr. Chad’ or just ‘Chad’ is said to have originated before Kilroy possibly during World War I .The Australian ‘Foo’ is thought to be a gremlin who served on the Royal Australian Air Force and can still be found on the side of old railway carriages.

It is a surprise how such ‘fads’ (for the absence of a better word) have made their way all through the world. A lot of popular graffiti is inspired from Kilroy. Well, why else would cheesy couples write their names on the walls of our monuments? Also, when you walk past any public building or enter any classroom, don’t forget to check the walls or the desks clearly – for wherever you may be, Kilroy was there first.


  • Rajdip Ray

    VERY interesting read. Well done, Swathy!