The Washington State World War II Memorial in Olympia is surrounded by four rows of granite tiles, each engraved with a personal message that provides visitors with an unexpected insight into the people and events of WWII.
The inscriptions on the 2,945 tiles reflect thousands of lives changed forever by the events of World War II. The tiles were sold to raise funds that helped to complete the Memorial in 1999, and they have since become an important feature of the Memorial. Over the years, visitors have spent hours reading the messages, smiling at some and tearing up over others. Today however, the majority of the tiles are unreadable and many are cracked or broken, due mainly to weathering and drainage problems at the site.
The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs has been actively working with the State Department of General Administration to design needed repairs and improvements and construction is set to begin June 1, immediately after the Memorial Day weekend. If you visit the Capital Campus WWII Memorial this Memorial Day, you will notice that a few of the tiles have been removed, in preparation for the upcoming construction.
Tiles removed were “spacers” and did not carry inscriptions paid for by donors. Between June and August of this year, all of the tiles will be replaced with newly engraved pavers that look nearly identical to the originals. But, they will be three times thicker, with a more durable surface finish and improved engraving that should better withstand the effects of time, water and weather. Each new stone will go into exactly the same location as the one it replaces. The drainage problems at the memorial will be corrected by slightly sculpting the surrounding ground to channel water away from the pavers and toward several new and improved area drains.
Funding for this project was provided by the State Legislature and the cost is expected to be approximately $135,900. Once completed, visitors will once again be able to spend hours reading the inscriptions.