Skip to main content

Nearly 80 years later, Minnesotan honored for WWII heroism

He defended a sinking passenger ship from a U-boat.

It was a windy, choppy March day on the sea, which was more dangerous than usual for civilian ships lately — thanks to the German U-boats that now lurked beneath the waves.

And the worst fears of everyone aboard the SS City of New York came true when a lookout spotted a torpedo bulleting through the water towards the vessel. It struck the port side, and the many passengers aboard had only minutes to abandon ship. 

Now, nearly 80 years later, a Minnesotan is being recognized for his role in giving those passengers a fighting chance.

On Friday, 99-year-old William Carlson was awarded the Convoy Cup medallion for his actions aboard the City of New York on March 29, 1942, a fateful day that saw the merchant vessel dipping beneath the waves off the coast of North Carolina. 

The ceremony took place at the Honorary Consulate of Norway in Minneapolis, where members of the International Ship Masters Association, American Merchant Marine Veterans and Carlson's family and friends were on hand.

Carlson was a member of the Navy Armed Guard, whose mission was to protect merchant ships from Axis forces during WWII. 

Aboard the City of New York, he fulfilled that mission. According to Fox 9, Carlson "kept firing his machine gun as the ship went under," ultimately escaping the sinking vessel and swimming to a lifeboat, which he "helped command and navigate for 16 days" before rescue.

After the war, Carlson, aka "Captain Bill," served aboard "many ships sailing out of his home port in Duluth" as either a captain or engineer, the station notes. 

The City of New York incident was also notable for a birth that happened as the lifeboats rowed away from the wreck.

The newborn, who came to be known as “the baby Hitler couldn’t get,” was named Jesse Roper Mohorovic after the Navy vessel that ultimately rescued the survivors. 

As the Journal of Commerce notes, Mohorovic's unusual birth gained him lifelong fame, with newspapers covering his baptism, his first and third birthdays and even his wedding.

He also appeared on the TV game shows "I've Got A Secret" and "To Tell The Truth," the website says. 

Mohorovic died in 2005 at the age of 63, survived by his children and grandchildren. 

Next Up


Two youths seriously injured after being struck by driver in Bloomington

Police say the boy is in a critical condition, while the girl has severe injuries.

Rosedale Center

Two men sentenced for carjacking in Rosedale Center parking lot

Leon Kismit Bell, 49, and Jack Mitchell Piche, 23, were sentenced in U.S. District Court on Jan. 20.

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 3.59.30 PM

Police identify White Bear Lake officer shot while serving warrant

The officer is a six-year veteran of the department.

abortion, planned parenthood

Minnesota Senate passes bill codifying abortion into state law

Having already passed in the House, it will now be sent to Gov. Tim Walz for signing into law.

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 7.45.44 PM

Tyre Nichols: Initial police version of events bear similarities to George Floyd killing

Memphis PD said Nichols complained of 'shortness of breath' following 'confrontations' with police, who in reality violently beat him.

George Floyd, protest

Twin Cities authorities preparing for community reaction to Tyre Nichols video

The ATF division in St. Paul sent out an alert out of "an abundance of caution."

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 2.12.05 PM

Changes at K102's Chris Carr & Company, with Sam Sansevere joining as co-host

She is the daughter of former KQRS morning show personality Bob Sansevere.

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 1.16.21 PM

Minneapolis' Royal Foundry Craft Spirits announces closure

The distillery set out to infuse the Minneapolis craft cocktail scene with British flavor.


Shutterfly to cut almost 100 jobs at Shakopee facility

The layoffs are expected to impact multiple positions within the company.


Walter Straka, World War II veteran.

Minnesota WWII veteran dies at 101 on Independence Day

Walter Straka was the state's last living Bataan Death March survivor.

Screen Shot 2020-10-11 at 8.47.23 AM

Nearly 30 years later, toy boat launched from Duluth finally washes ashore

It was launched as part of an elementary school class project.

Joynes Ben Franklin in Grand Marais

After 80 years, family behind beloved North Shore five-and-dime sells to new owner

"I think the community, our customers, and our visitors will find great comfort in this transition."

flags for fort snelling screengrab

American flags placed next to every headstone at Fort Snelling cemetery

This is the second straight year they've placed a flag at every headstone.