The American Monument
The American Monument is a historical tourist spot on the rocky peninsula of Islay, known as The Oa. The circular tower stands 10 meters in height on the cliff’s edge, a short distance away from a 300ft drop into the sea.
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What is the American Monument?
It was constructed as a memorial to the hundreds of American lives that were lost when two troop ships were lost off the coast of Islay back in 1918. It was built by the American National Red Cross, and has a large plaque that mourns the two ships’ sinkings, as well as an eagle carrying a wreath. There is also a much smaller plaque that holds a quote from President Woodrow Wilson.
The monument is a memorial for the lives lost in two separate sinkings. It remembers those who died when the S.S. Tuscania, a ship travelling from New Jersey to Britain, was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Carrying an estimated 2,000 US soldiers, she sank within a few hours. 200 Americans, and 60 Britons, lost their lives as she sank to the bottom. The monument also remembers those who, not eight months later, died when the H.M.S. Otranto sank in Machir Bay after colliding with another troop ship. 431 lives were lost, 351 of which were American servicemen.
For Americans, the sinking of the Tuscania was the first large-scale loss of life in a war since the American Civil War, making it a poignant loss for many. These feelings of loss were exacerbated when the H.M.S Otranto also sank off the shores of Islay within a year.Book Now
For Islay citizens, the sinkings were also a big part of their history. The island had lost the majority of its able-bodied male population, and so upon the sinkings, old men and boys were called upon to help rescue the survivors. It was a shocking tale of loss. But it was also a tale of inspiration. The local community pulled together for the rescue and to support the survivors. The locals sacrificed what little food and clothing they had to help feed and clothe the survivors. And a pair of islanders even managed to save 3 men with a long broom handle!
As a result, the American Red Cross built the monument to remember those that had been lost. The monument’s location allows it to be seen from north-west Islay and can be seen from across the sea by those in boats.
When you’re done…
Once you’ve visited the American Monument, why not visit to the RSPB OA Nature Reserve? The reserve consists of the area surrounding the monument and is full of rare and local wildlife all year-round. You may get the chance to see fulmars, kittiwakes and razorbills, and can walk over the steep cliffs, enjoying the dramatic views.
If you’re interested in more American history while visiting Islay, take a trip to the Kilchoman Military Cemetery, or the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte, where the ship’s bell from the Tuscania is on view. You can see the American Monument from another perspective from the museum. And when you’re done, you can head back to the comfort of your accommodation at Islay Cottages.Book Now