b. 1866 Nyack, New York. d. 27/03/1951 Nyack, New York.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 20/11/1883 Marseille, France.
Auer was born in 1866 in Nyack, New York, the fifth of five children of Joseph Auer, a stable owner and harness maker. When he was sixteen years old, Auer joined the United States Navy because he wanted to see the world. After completing basic training he was assigned to the USS Lancaster, the flagship of the European Squadron as a Seaman Apprentice.
On November 20, 1883, while the Lancaster was in port in Marseille, France, a young Frenchman who was on a stone pier astern of the Lancaster fell overboard, and disappeared below the water twice. Seeing him, and realizing that the boy could not swim, Auer jumped into the water together with Boatswain’s Mate Matthew Gillick, and they were able to rescue the boy. For their heroism, both Auer and Gillick were awarded the United States’ highest military decoration for gallantry, the Medal of Honor, on February 2, 1884. Before Seaman Auer left the Navy, the medal was stolen, though he wore the ribbon (and retained the citation) until his final years.
Auer served in the Navy for five years, after which he returned to his native Nyack. He worked as a letter carrier at Nyack’s post office, and kept the same route for over twenty years. Auer died on May 28, 1951, and was survived by his two sons.
On board the U.S.S. Lancaster, Marseille, France, 20 November 1883. Jumping overboard, Auer rescued from drowning a French lad who had fallen into the sea from a stone pier astern of the ship.
BURIAL LOCATION: OAK HILL CEMETERY, NYACK, NEW YORK.
SECTION K, LOT 139 GRAVE 5
LOCATION OF MEDAL: STOLEN AND NOT RECOVERED.