John MacKenzie was born at Bridgeport, Connecticut, on 7 July 1886. He enlised in the Navy at Springfield, Massachusetts, on 20 December 1902 and had attained the rate of Coxwain before his discharge on 6 July 1907. He engaged in the auto accessory business in Springfield, but reenlised in the Navy in 1917, when the United States entered World War I. While serving on board USS Remlik (SP-157) during a storm in the Bay of Biscay, MacKenzie observed a depth charge adrift on the ship's after deck. At great risk to his life, he took prompt and effective action to secure the explosive weapon, thus preventing the "probable loss of the ship and the entire crew". For his heroism on that occasion, Chief Boatswain's Mate John MacKenzie was awarded the Medal of Honor.
After the end of the First World War, John MacKenzie returned to civilian life and subsequently entered the restaurant business. He died at Holyoke, Massachusetts, on 26 December 1933, at the age of 47 years.
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