John King US Navy

John King was born in Currabee, Ballinrobe just about a mile outside the town off the Kilmaine Road in 1862 and, like so many more young people, emigrated to the United States as a young man.  He enlisted in the American Navy in 1893 where he spend 26 years from 1893 to 1919.  John King 1865 – 1938 is only one of nineteen men that received two Congressional Medals of Honour from the US Navy.

He first served on the USS Vicksburg, and was aboard that vessel when she participated in ADM. Dewey’s victory at Manila Bay. He worked in the boiler rooms of 13 other naval vessels, amongst them the USS Massachusetts based in the Caribbean during the Spanish – American War.

In 1900, he served during the Philippine-American War on the Vicksburg and in 1916 he was discharged, but was recalled in 1917 following the outbreak of World War One.  He served two more years at the Navy receiving station in New York City.  He received his final discharge in 1919, and was added to the navy retirement list in 1926.

His first Congressional Medal award came in 1901 serving on the USS Vicksburg. The citation, signed by then president Theodore Roosevelt reads as follows:

“Onboard the USS Vicksburg, for heroism in the line of his profession, at the time of the accident to the boilers, 29th May 1901.”

The second medal of honour was awarded in 1901, by President William H. Taft and the citation reads similarly to the first:

“Onboard the USS Salem for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession on the occasion of the accident to one of the boilers of that vessel 13th September 1909.”

John King died in 1938 in the USA and is buried in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The US guided missile armed destroyer, the USS John King (DDG-3) was named after him, and was commissioned in 1961.

The seven-foot bronze statue at Cornmarket, Ballinrobe was sculpted by the well known and popular sculpture Rick Lewis, who lives locally, and was erected in  2010.  Some of Rick’s work is owned by Queen Elizabeth 11 and two Presidents of Ireland amongst many other world renowned figures.

War Hero, U.S. Navy Chief Water Tender John King, 1865-1938
A Medal of Honor is on the left in the top row of medals worn by King in this portrait photograph, which was probably taken soon after the first World War.
USS John King commissioned in 1961
Memorial Stone, Calvary Cemetery, Hot Springs, USA
John King sculpture on Cornmarket, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo
Averil Staunton

Comments about this page

  • This is a great page. I remember the visit of the USS John King to Dublin in December 1961. It was open to the public so with my parents, I was on a tour of the ship.

    A most enjoyable experience!

    Editor: Nice memory to have Niall…thank you for sharing.

    By Niall Foley (28/02/2021)
  • While the above is indeed accurate, it does not really do justice to John Kings achievments. In 1861 the US navy started giving out what was then the the highest award for bravery , it was called ” the medal of Valour”. 2 years later the US Congress decided to make this available to all US military personel, Navy, Army, Marines, coast Guard ( the air force would follow).Since then the medal of honor has been awarded 3520 times ( up to Sept 2018).Of this number only approx twenty times has the medal been awarded two times to the same individual , John King was one of these. However just about 9 of these people were awarded the second medal for  a DIFFERENT act of valour. John KIng was one of those people. His second award came approx 9 years after the first . So out of 3,520 people who have been awarded the US military’s highest award for bravery, John King was one of only about 9 who received it two times for differents acts.To honour him the US Navy commissioned a frigate in 1960 and called it the USS John King.In 1961 that ship docked in Dublin and the Skipper and senior officers came to Ballinrobe for a ceremony to honor John. They were accompanied by the US Navy’s band from Naples Italy. I stood in awe while watching  those US Navy officers in their shiny  dress white uniforms, never thinking for a moment that I would wear that uniform for 30 years . JVMcDarby .MD. Capt USN retired 

    By JVMcDarby MD (20/09/2018)
  • We also want to thank Tom and Mary and the Town of Ballinrobe for inviting us to the John King Statue Dedication. As a Plankowner I was one of the original Ships Commisioning crew on the ships first visit to Ireland. My wife Arlyne wish to thank all who accepted us as part of your community.

    By Paul Kovar Plankowner (06/04/2014)
  • I am a former crew member of the USS John King; a grand ship. 

    We were honoured to be invited to Ireland by Tom and his wonderful wife Mary. A wonderful trip and an unbelievable experience.. 

    Thank you all once again.

    By Ralph and Jan Gross (31/12/2013)
  • I was a crew member on the USS JOHN KING DDG-3 and I am also an active member of the JOHN KING ASSOCIATION. 

    I have met Tom and some of his family in past years and he is quite a person.

    I know how hard he has worked on this project! Keep up the great work Tom.

    By Jerry Wagner (31/12/2013)
  • I went to Hot Springs last year to see John King’s final resting place. His gravestone has been cleaned to a spotless shine!!

    By John Cunningham (24/06/2012)
  • Congrtulations to Tom Tiernan on his dedication to the completion of John King memorial project.

    By Hugh McTigue (05/09/2011)

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