Between 1884 and 1948, the United States Navy designated "watertender" as a petty officer in charge of the fires and boilers in the engine room of a ship. Since many of the Navy's ships during those years were coal-fired and steam-powered, the watertender had important and dangerous tasks. Born in Ireland, John King, who received the Medal of Honor twice in his naval career, began as a coal passer in Vermont. After a stint in the boiler rooms of naval ships utilized in the Spanish-American, King was assisting in the Philippine-American War when he displayed "extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession" during a boiler accident onboard the U.S.S. Vicksburg (propelled by a triple expansion steam engine) in 1901. King's second commendation came while he was a watertender on the U.S.S. Salem, a new warship propelled by turbine engines and first launched in 1907. As the Medal of Honor citation reads, King demonstrated "extraordinary heroism" while tending to a boiler explosion on September 13, 1909. The following month King was swiftly promoted to Chief Watertender. He served until 1916, but he returned to service at sea during World War I until August 1919.