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Symbols are important to cultures in all periods of history.  The symbols an era relates to, helps us understand their beliefs and what was important to them.  Below are some symbols prevalent in WWII and their associated meanings.


This is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles in either left facing or right facing direction. The swastika is a religious symbol in Hinduism and therefore is also found in Jainism and Buddhism. In the West, it became known as a symbol of Nazism.  The Nazi swastika always faces right, which has led to the decreased use of the right facing version of this cross as a religious symbol outside of India. For further information please review Origins of the Swastika Flag (Third Reich, Germany), a wonderful page on the development of this symbol in Germany.
Kilroy was Here

The little graffiti known as "Kilroy," often also with writing saying "Kilroy was here," first appeared in WWII.  Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable notes that it was particularly associated with the Air Transport Command, at least when observed in the UK. It rapidly became a symbol for American servicemen and was scribbled around the world.  Legends abound about the adventures and identity of Kilroy.  The little piece of graffiti became a mascot/symbol of the GI.  For further information and some amusing legends see "WWII's Kilroy Was Here , The inside info on how the legend started."

Iron Cross
Iron Cross

The Iron Cross, which is based on the cross pattée, was the primary award of Germany for recognition of courage.  It has an interesting history.  Wikipedia notes: "When the Quadriga of the Goddess of Peace was retrieved from Paris at Napoleon's fall, the Goddess was re-established atop Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.  An Iron Cross was substituted for her laurel wreath, making her into a Goddess of Victory."  Besides Wikipedia, refer to History and meaning of the German Iron Cross.

A roundel was the circular marking that became associated with British military WWII air planes.  On military aircraft, it was first used by the French during WWI. The British during WWII decided that the British flag which their military aircraft had painted on them, looked too much like the German cross on planes (from very far away).  Therefore early in WWII it was decided to put a roundel on the military planes.  The British flag and French flag have the same colours of red, white and blue.  The British military reversed the order of colors from the French roundel for their markings.  Other countries, such as Canada, then adopted the roundel for their military air craft and made it distinctive by placing a maple leaf in the centre.  Other roundel variations were adopted during WWII to present for various reasons.  See Roundels of the World for a complete listing.

Symbols were rendered with XARA. The Swastika and Cross Pattée utilized P22's font "Koch Signs."
Reference:  Koch, Rudolf (1955),  The Book of Signs, Dover, NY. ISBN 0486201627.



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NOTE: In building this site, I thought about many things - such as what spelling standard I should use in referring to World War II, and what keyword spelling people might use in a search engine to find this page.  I found it interesting to note the following numbers of page listings for the various ways one might type World War II into a search engine. 

bullet  6,050,000 for world war two
bullet  5,860,000 for world war 2
bullet  134,000,000 for world war II (using the capital i for the 2)
bullet  83,900 for world war ll (using the lower case L for the 2)
bullet  26,200,000 for second world war
bullet  310,000 for 2nd world war

bullet  21,600 for ww two
bullet  804,000 for ww 2
bullet  7,130,000 for ww ii (using the i for the 2)
bullet  46,300 for ww ll (using the lower case L for the 2)

bullet  21,600 for w.w. two
bullet  804,000 for W.W.2
bullet  7,130,000 for w.w.II (using the capital i for the 2)
bullet  46,300 for w.w.ll (using the lower case l for the 2)

Note that capitalization, punctuation and spacing changes introduced no differences.  So if you are looking for information on a particular subject, remember to use all variations of the wrods related to the subject.  The pages a search engine will give you to look at will vary with each method. Also in general, I have referred to World War II on these pages using WWII (using the capital i for the 2).


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 Last updated May 29, 2010