John King (Medal of Honor)

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John King
Chief Water Tender John King, USN.jpg
Born (1865-02-07)February 7, 1865
Ballinrobe, Ireland
Died May 20, 1938(1938-05-20) (aged 73)
Place of burial Hot Springs, Arkansas
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1893–1916, fl. 1917-1919
Rank Chief Watertender
Unit USS Vicksburg (PG-11)
USS Salem (CL-3)
Battles/wars Spanish–American War
Philippine–American War
World War I
Awards Medal of Honor (2)

John King (February 7, 1865 – May 20, 1938) was an Irish sailor in the United States Navy and one of only 19 in history to receive the Medal of Honor twice.


Born in the village of Currabee, near Ballinrobe (then in County Galway, now County Mayo), Ireland, King was allegedly involved in an incident at Cornmarket Ballinrobe, a result of which he was being sought by the R.I.C. (Royal Irish Constabulary). He walked 18 miles to Tuam Co Galway and took the train, rather than going from Ballinrobe railway station, eventually arriving in then Queenstown, now Cobh Co Cork. He then worked for his passage to the USA. King later enlisted in the Navy as a coal passer in Vermont on July 20, 1893. He served on board USS Massachusetts in the Caribbean during the Spanish–American War, and, in 1900, was transferred to USS Vicksburg for service during the Philippine–American War.

King received his first Medal of Honor while in Vicksburg "for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession at the time of the accident to the boilers... May 29, 1901." Eight years later, while a watertender on the USS Salem, King received a second Medal of Honor during another boiler explosion on September 13, 1909. Advanced to chief watertender on October 1, 1909, he continued to serve at sea until discharged in 1916.

The beginning of World War I, however, brought Chief King back on active duty; he served in New York until August 20, 1919.

He lived in retirement until his death on May 20, 1938.

He is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.


In January 1960 a US navy destroyer was launched and named John King ( DDG-3 ). It paid a visit to Dublin, Ireland in December 1961 under the command of Commander Albert.M. Sackett, who subsequently unveiled a plaque in remembrance of John King at Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, Ireland. Members of the Burke and Flannery families, living relatives of John King attended. Some members of the Burke and Flannery families from Ballinrobe were hosted on board the John King at Dublin.

On 4 September 2010, a statue of King was unveiled in Ballinrobe by Irish Minister of Defense Tony Killeen. Present at the ceremony was a relative, Ann Reid, whose father was King's nephew. She remarked, "My dad used to talk about him all the time. On his visits to Ballinrobe from America, he would throw sweets and coins to the children of the town."

Michael Burke, Dun Laoghaire co. Dublin and originally from Cavan Ballinrobe Co. Mayo, a living relative, spoke at the unveiling and recalled some of the times he as a young man met and ran errands for John King.

Pupils from Ballinrobe NS added a touch of naval flavour to the occasion by accompanying a float the Ballinrobe Scout group constructed of the destroyer USS John King to the ceremony, towed into the arena by a vintage tractor. Former crew members of the USS John King representing the USS John King association, participated in the ceremony and a unit of the U.S. Navy Band from Naples, Italy were also present.


USS John King (DDG-3) was named for him.


Medal of Honor citations[edit]

1st Medal of Honor[edit]

Rank and organization: Watertender, U.S. Navy. Born: February 7, 1865, Ireland. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 72, December 6, 1901. Second award.


On board the U.S.S. Vicksburg, for heroism in the line of his profession at the time of the accident to the boilers, 29 May 1901.

2nd Medal of Honor[edit]

G.O. No.: 40, October 19, 1909.


Watertender, serving on board the U.S.S. Salem, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession on the occasion of the accident to one of the boilers of that vessel, 13 September 1909.

See also[edit]


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
  • "USS John King". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval Historical Center, United States Navy. Retrieved September 29, 2010.