Whimsical graffiti is not what you’d expect to find within this grandiose Washington memorial, but a small engraved doodle of a bald-headed man and the words “Kilroy was here” appear in two secluded areas of the plaza.
Photo: Duane Lempkt
The National World War II Memorial, opened in Washington, DC in 2004, “honors the service of sixteen million members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans.”1
Each of its 56 granite pillars represents a U.S. state or territory. The formal design also includes a pair of small triumphal arches, fountains, and other details.
Photo: Carol M. Highsmith’s America/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. ( LC-DIG-highsm-04465)
Alert visitors can find two small engravings of Kilroy near the state pillars.
Kilroy, a bulbous-nosed bald man peering over a wall or fence, was a simple doodle that GIs sketched throughout the European and Pacific theaters during World War II.
Photo: David Dunham
A 1943 C-47 that flew in Normandy on D-Day.2
Was Kilroy an actual person? Historians have proposed various theories. Several articles that explore the history and significance of the quirky drawing are here and here.
There’s a gated area behind each pillar in the Memorial. If you visit, look for the Delaware and Pennsylvania pillars.
Kilroy appears in the alcoves behind both of those state columns.
National World War II Memorial (2004)
Designer: Friedrich St. Florian (1932- )
St. Florian was born in Graz, Austria. He came to the U.S. in 1961 to attend Columbia University as a Fulbright Scholar, then spent his career designing (mostly theoretical structures, urban design projects, and modern residences) and teaching (primarily at the Rhode Island School of Design).3
Date: Opened April 29, 2004
Media: Granite, bronze, & stainless steel
Size: 102.97 meters (337 ft. 10 in.) long and 73.20 meters (240 ft. 2 in.) wide (plaza)
Location: East end of the Reflecting Pool on the Mall, opposite the Lincoln Memorial and west of the Washington Monument, Washington, DC
Fisher, Marc, Kilroy is Here: Can You Find Him?, Washington Post, May 2, 2006
Kilroy Was Here, Washington, DC, Atlas Obscura
Janofsky, Michael, An Academic Touches the Masses with War Memorial, New York Times, May 26, 2004
National World War II Memorial, Encyclopedia Britannica online
National World War II Memorial, National Park Service website.
- National Park Service.
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