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1940s / Kilroy Was Here
During the Second World War, the odd phrase "Kilroy Was Here" began appearing on American military ships. Alongside the phrase was often a cartoon figure of a man with a huge nose peering over a wall. It was not until the war ended that the origin of the quirky character was known. James Kilroy was an inspector at a shipbuilding company in Halifax, MA. His job was to count the rivets used in each piece of work and make a checkmark with a wax pencil near the finished rivets. The riveters were paid for each rivet, so often unscrupulous ones would erase Kilroy's checkmarks in the hope that their work would be counted twice. To thwart this type of underhandedness, Kilroy began using the cartoon figure with the three-word phrase instead of a checkmark. No riveter ever tried to remove the artwork. Kilroy was supposed to remove it before the ships left the shipyard, but often he did not get the chance to do so. Thus, ships bearing the strange phrase and artwork headed into service. "Kilroy Was Here" became a catchphrase that was universally adopted throughout every American theater of war. It became fashionable to write it in strange places as an indication that the US military was omnipresent. It was often left behind by espionage agents and advance parties prior to mass invasions. According to one story, it was written inside the latrine used by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill during the historic Yalta Conference in 1945. The phrase has endured for more than 70 years. It was written on the wall of the compound where Osama Bin Laden was hiding out.