Did you know the first American casualty of WWII died before the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Captain Robert M. Losey, the first American killed in World War II (Photo: Timboyce.com)

The first American to die in World War II was killed a year and a half before America entered the conflict. Captain Robert Moffat Losey was a highly talented aeronautical meteorologist and Air Corps pilot who served as military attaché in Finland. He was there to report on the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland, where the harsh weather gave him a great opportunity to study how meteorology and air warfare influence each other.

Germany invaded Norway in April 1940, and Losey was ordered to go there and help evacuate American diplomats to neutral Sweden. The U.S. legation split up into two groups. Losey's group arrived safely, but lost contact with the others, and Losey decided to go back to Norway for them. On April 21, he and his driver just got to the Dombås train station in Norway when the place came under attack by German bombers. They sought refuge in a railway tunnel, but Losey stood close to the tunnel's mouth to observe the bombing. This was a fatal decision, as a bomb dropped right at the tunnel's entrance and a piece of shrapnel pierced his heart, making him the first American killed in World War II. A few days later, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring sent Air Corps chief Henry H. Arnold a message of regret regarding Losey's death.

1924 photo of Dombås station. You can see the tunnels used as shelter at the right edge of the picture. (Photo: Anders Beer Wilse)

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