Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Medal of Honor: CBM John S. MacKenzie - Holyoke, MA

Interesting Places I've Photographed
CBM John S. MacKenzie
Holyoke, MA
Topic: Medal of Honor Recipients
 CBM John S. MacKenzie

GPS: N42° 12.437; W072° 37.389

Quick Description: 

The gravesite of Chief Boatswain's Mate John S. MacKenzie is located in Forest Dale Cemetery in Holyoke, MA.

Long Description:

John S. MacKenzie was born in Bridgeport, CT on July 07, 1886. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy from Massachusetts and was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War I on December 17, 1917 for heroism at at sea aboard the U.S.S. Remlik. He died on december 26, 1933 and is buried in Forest Dale Cemetery in Holyoke.

The USS Remlik was a private yacht purchased by the US Navy and converted to special patrol boats to augment the insufficient number of destroyers needed to protect shipping from German U-boats. The USS Remlik (SP 157) was bought in June of 1917 and commissioned in July. It was armed with Sperry depth charges, two 3-inch guns and two machine guns. The ship was sent to Bay of Biscay off Brest, France to patrol the waters and escort convoys.

USS Remlik
On December 17, 1918 she was escorting a convoy during a dangerous winter gale. A submarine was spotted but she was hit by a large wave that carried the depth charge cradle overboard. Chief Boatswain's Mate John MacKenzie was on the bridge and saw the depth charge loose on the aft deck and that the safety pin was gone. The depth charge was in danger of falling overboard and exploding under the ship. He made his way aft to secure the rolling canister which almost crushed him several times. He was finally able to hook his legs on the gun carriage, re-insert the pin, stand the canister on its end and sit on it until other crew members lashed it to the taffrail. Mackenzie was credited with saving his ship and crew and received the first Medal of Honor ever presented to a Navy reservist.

Medal of Honor Plaque
The grave site if John S. MacKenzie is marked by a granite tablet set at ground level in the south central section of Forest Dale Cemetery. The tablet has the image of a Latin cross and the medal of Honor and is inscribed:

JULY 7, 1886 DEC 26 1933



Rank and organization: Chief Boatswain's Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: 7 July 1886, Bridgeport, Conn. Accredited to: Massachusetts. G.O. No.: 391, 1918. Citation: For extraordinary heroism while serving on board the U.S.S. Remlik, on the morning of 17 December 1917, when the Remlik encountered a heavy gale. During this gale, there was a heavy sea running. The depth charge box on the taffrail aft, containing a Sperry depth charge, was washed overboard, the depth charge itself falling inboard and remaining on deck. MacKenzie, on his own initiative, went aft and sat down on the depth charge, as it was impracticable to carry it to safety until the ship was headed up into the sea. In acting as he did, MacKenzie exposed his life and prevented a serious accident to the ship and probable loss of the ship and the entire crew.

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