Nearly 80 years later, Minnesotan honored for WWII heroism

He defended a sinking passenger ship from a U-boat.
Author:
Publish date:

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

Cameron Champ

Final round helps Cameron Champ win 3M Open

Champ picked up his third career victory on Sunday afternoon.

Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 1.08.41 PM

Clinton elevator fire prompts evacuation in western Minnesota

A massive blaze could be seen from far away Sunday.

Bob Motzko

Mack Motzko, son of Gophers coach Bob Motzko, dies in car crash

The crash happened late Saturday night in Orono.

police tape

Victims of triple homicide near La Crosse identified as young men

The victims are ages 24, 24 and 23, respectively.

Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 7.26.01 AM

Dive team finds body of missing 13-year-old girl in Chanhassen lake

The girl had last been seen on a float on Lake Minnewashta.

Fairmont Raceway

MN race track under fire after announcer's racist remarks

The Fairmont Raceway voiced support for the announcer on social media.

Grayson Murray

Grayson Murray criticizes PGA Tour after pulling out of 3M Open

After withdrawing with a knee injury, Murray unloaded on his Twitter account.

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 9.10.30 AM

Minneapolis residents will vote on replacing MPD with new public safety department

The Minneapolis City Council approved language for the ballot question Friday.

Related

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.

flags for fort snelling screengrab

American flags placed next to every headstone at Fort Snelling cemetery

That's nearly 200,000 flags, an effort spearheaded by Flags for Fort Snelling.