So also for today's hero. Just another John you might say. But this John's heroism resulted in his being awarded a form of the Medal of Honor not often mentioned in this space.
It was made by an outfit that started out using the family name Tiffany and concentrating in the stationery and goods business in New York. Years later it would gain a world reputation after morphing into a silver-smithing empire.
Just before the Great War started for the US, it was asked to produce a new version of the Medal of Honor, one clearly of a different design. It would become known as the Tiffany Cross version, but still very much an equal to all other Medals of Honor covered in this space. It was awarded for actions after the US entered the Great War and remained in use till about 1942.
This new model was designed for use just for the navy and marines and soon proved to be rather unpopular in military circles. Perhaps one of the reasons that record keeping for these awards were scattered. Nevertheless some say that between 22 and 28 may have been actually presented, most for bravery.
But only three apparently for actions not involving the enemy. Because John's was one of these, it clearly is one of the rarest of all Medals of Honor.
He was born in Germany on 21 April 1890, or 91, or 92 depending on who you wish to believe. Though at least one site on the web claims a birth at Milwaukee Wisconsin. It is unknown what happened to his parents, but by 1899 he was adopted into the Siegel family and brought to North America.
The above census is a perfect example of some of the numerous riddles in John's story. It claims he was 18 years old when the census was taken between May and June. If only 18, his year of birth would have been 1892, yet, as earlier noted a web site says birth was in 1890. Further still, the very form claiming age 18, notes that he immigrated into the US in 1899 and took out naturalization that year as well. Later evidence suggests these happened a few years later.
Just a few of the details that make the telling of John's story, like many others, difficult at best.
In late 1912 John and Teresa Rose (Mary-Lou???) Nealis got married at Newark New Jersey. They would later have a daughter... Margaret Jean Virginia... perhaps named after the ship.
His life is about to get much more interesting. I will bring you this next week and also hope that some more pieces of this puzzle come my way before Sunday,
Cheers till then