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Mike Auer

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat


Date and Place of Birth: May 13, 1920 nr. Mott, ND
Date and Place of Death:    July 31, 2010 Denver, CO
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Captain
Military Unit: Company A, 19th Armored Infantry Battalion, 14th Armored Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Michael J. Auer, the son of Louis and Alice Auer, was born on May 13, 1920, on a farm near Mott, North Dakota. His family moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1934, and he graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School in 1938. After high school, he worked as a freight clerk in Denver and played for numerous local baseball teams, before entering military service with the Army in December 1942.

Auer served with Company A of the 19th Armored Infantry Battalion, 14th Armored Division, in France and Germany. He commanded an armored infantry platoon in combat and received a battlefield commission as a second Lieutenant in January 1945, as well as the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism. Attaining the rank of captain, he was also awarded the Silver Star and earned the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat.

By earning the Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest military award of the US Army during World War II), Mike Auer is the highest decorated professional baseball player of the war not to receive his award posthumously (Joe Pinder and Jack Lummus both received the Medal of Honor after they were killed in action. The US Navy's equivalent of the DFC was the Navy Cross, awarded to Arnold Traxler and Tom Woodruff (posthumously)). Auer's DSC citation reads:

...for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company A, 19th Armored Infantry Battalion, 14th Armored Division, in action against enemy forces from 13 to 20 January 1945 near Hatten, France. When his battalion was forced to withdraw and covering unit was cut off by the enemy, Captain Auer moved about from group to group under intense enemy artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire and, organizing and encouraging the troops with him, did much by his aggressive and fearless leadership to save the covering force. With the battalion again on the offensive, Captain Auer manned a machine gun, and, in addition, hurled grenades into the enemy position and broke up a German attack single-handed. Then, fighting a rear guard action, he enabled a surrounded and outnumbered company to withdraw from threatened enemy encirclement. Captain Auer's heroic leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 14th Armored Division, and the United States Army.

With the war in Europe at an end in May 1945, Captain Auer was appointed Provost Marshall in Munich, Germany. After 19 months of active overseas duty he returned home to Denver, in July 1946, and began to think again about baseball. He attended a GI baseball trayout camp in St. Augustine, Florida, and was signed by the Chicago Cubs for 1947. Assigned to the Janesville Cubs of the Class D Wisconsin State League, the 27-year-old hurler appeared in 17 games for a 4-8 won-loss record and 4.74 ERA.

It was to be his only year in professional baseball. Auer returned home to Denver, where a parade was held in his honor on Armed Services Day, April 10, 1948, in downtown Denver to receive the DSC. He went on to work with the Denver Public Schools as a pipefitter/steamfitter for 23 years until his retirement in 1986, at age 65.

Mike Auer died from complications of interstitial lung disease on July 31, 2010. He was 90 years old and is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

Date Added January 16, 2018

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