There is always ‘that’ guy in the company. The one that can not discipline himself down to the military standards. The « maverick » who is always seeking for troubles, or who is not fit for the job. Then there is ‘that’ man, who definitely hates discipline and seems to be the worse soldier of the regiment when in basic training or at the barracks, but when in combat proves to be an outstanding brave man, challenging danger and death in defiance of his own life… 60th Infantry Regiment has its own : Private Karl C. Warner, also known as « Molotov », also known as « Mollie », also known as « the Mayor of Brooklyn », also known as « the Mayor of New-York », also known as « the Mayor of Broadway, also known as « the gaudiest bead », …
Karl was born on 24 July 1916. We don’t know much about his youth, except that he was from Russian origins, working as watchman on construction sites in New-York City. He enlists on 8 January 1941 in New-York city and soon heads Fort Bragg, where the instructors in charge of his Basic Training had difficulties to teach him to become a soldier.
Warner had a very personal vie of the military uniform, and had as a habit to collect things, that always could be useful to trade and negotiate with other soldiers in new situations. He was also known to be « always in trouble » for any kind of reason, but mostly against military discipline and courtesy.
A former fellow veteran describes Mollie as such:
« He looked like a soldier out of some other army, always wearing them twenty-dollar green tailor made officers’ shirts and sometimes riding boots, with a French beret with a long rooster feather that he got off an Italian prisoner’s hat, and a long black-and-red cape that he got off another prisoner far a can of C-ration. »
Mollie ended up in George Company, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, as a Private, and become that war hero who « was court-martialled twenty or thirty times, but the Major always got him out of it ».
Molotov wasn’t afraid of nothing, but he couldn’t follow an order. He was some kind of a lonely wolf, didn’t need anyone at anytime. He always found ‘the’ thing that would improve his life on the field, as that tent. He was said to have the bigger tent in the whole 9th Infantry Division, in which he had a map displaying the Eastern Front on which he pinpointed all the progress of the Russian Army:
« He had the biggest blanket roll in the Ninth Division, with a wall tent inside it and some Arabian carpets and bronze lamps and a folding washstand and about five changes of uniform…. When he pitched his tent, it looked like a concession at Coney Island ».
But stopping at his appearance and erratic behavior would be a mistake. Once in combat, he proved his bravery each and every time he went into action. Some of the greatest blazes of glory of the division in North Africa involved Mollie, the mayor of… somewhere around New York City…
Veteran Charles Kiley (Staff-Sergeant) from Jersey City, NJ, recalls when he twice came across Mollie:
« Twice during the North African campaign I ran across Warner. The first time, he was sitting in front of a pup tent by the ancient stone Portugese fortress at Port Lyautey in November 1942, after a bloody three days clash which won French-Morocco for the Allies. Warner and his infantry buddies [from George Company, 60th Infantry Regiment] had stormed the fortress in hand-to-hand fighting and he had taken a fine pair of French field glasses from a slain officer. At the entrance of his pup tent was the sign « Molotov, Mayor of Brooklyn ».
The last time I saw Warner was almost six months later. He lay dead by the roadside, crumpled in his own blood after being ambushed by a German machine gunner in the cork forests of northern Tunisia only a few days before the capture of Bizerte ended the campaign. »
As a lone wolf, Warner usually scouted alone, carrying two pistols and a carbine, as well as the field glasses which he kept as a trophy of his first battle. He was absolutely fearless, refused to wear a helmet and threw away at least dozen of these that were issued to him at various times.
« When I get it », he said, « a helmet won’t make the difference ».
One of his bravest action happened when his George Company was near Maknassy, on 22 March 1943. The Company was led by Captain Willard H. Barnwell, and they received the mission to police the area around Station de Sened. Enemy artillery was causing a great deal of disturbance from the direction of Sened, however, G Company decided to do something about it. G Company was lacking of men, but that didn’t stop them. Captain Barnwell accompanied by the one man army of Tunisia (Mollie), to deliver an ultimatum to an Italian garrison at Sened : « Surrender or be wiped out » !
Rumor has it that Mollie arranged “a surrender conference” on the afternoon of 22 March 1943, infiltrating the Italian unit and met an Italian hairdresser from New York, and used him as interpreter. One hundred forty-seven Italians surrendered. The next morning, as the battle resumed, he returned alone to the enemy position where he “assist[ed] … in artillery direction by shouting”. More Italians surrendered (537 by the official count) and brought vehicles, weapons, and ammunition with them. Captain Barnwell’s three-sentence summary of the official actions taken after this victory ends with the most glorious non sequitur of the entire, illogical essay: “We put him in for a D.S.C. for what he did, but it was turned down. Then we put in for a Silver Star, and that was granted, but he was killed before he ever heard about it. He was a terrible soldier”.
With the hills around Sened cleared, the happy group of Americans rejoined their Battalion, moving via trucks, to Maknassy. They arrived on March 24th and immediately placed in action.
After Mollie has done his duty, he left the company, went AWOL and found himself fighting along with a unit of French Moroccan Goumiers against a German unit at Djebel Dardyss. He was found his face laying down with the sun glittering on his blond head. Bursts of bullets had all but cut him in two at the waist. His prize field glasses had been looted by the Germans. As a matter of fact, when he was killed he owed money for fines received from being AWOL and court martialled for disobeying orders.
Private Karl C. Warner, G Company, 60th Infantry Regiment, was at first glance the « poorest example of a soldier in uniform », the worst Army « BOLO » (Be On the Look Out) in the outfit, brawling, boasting and arrogant, hated and despised by most of his outfit before it went into action.
He then proved his incredible bravery, personified what a true American hero is, directly issued from the immigration, probably some sort of New Yorker gangster but then, one of the greatest American Hero of this Greatest Generation. « A soldier whose fabulous story may make him the Sergeant York of the World War II ».
May his sacrifice given for our liberty never be forgotten.
Thank to M. McDaniels who provided me information on Mollie. Monty keeps preserving history of the Ninth Infantry, and more particularly on G/60th Infantry, whose uncle was part of, Paul E. Alexander. See the Paul Alexander Project to honor him !