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"THE FIRST AMERICAN OFFICIAL KILLED IN THIS WAR"

ARMY CAPTAIN ROBERT M. LOSEY, AMERICA'S FIRST MILITARY CASUALTY IN WORLD WAR II, WOULD NOT BE ITS LAST.

BY J. MICHAEL CLEVERLEY

For many in Europe, the eight quiet winter months following Britain's and France's declaration of war against Germany may have seemed like a "phony war." But there was nothing phony about it in Northern Europe. At the end of November 1939, less than three months

explained that the film was intended to illustrate what might happen to any country resisting Nazi attempts "to defend Germany from England."

Four days later, on April 9, 1940, German troops simultaneously took Denmark and seized the Norwegian centers of Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik. That night, both the French and British ministers called the U.S. chief of

after the German invasion of Poland, Stalin invaded mission in Oslo, Florence Harriman, urgently requesting

Finland. The ensuing 90-day Winter War was a debacle for her to take responsibility for their facilities as they rushed to

the invading Soviet columns, as their armor bogged down in escape.

the snow and ice of Finland's deep sub-Arctic forests and the

The 69-year-old Florence Jaffray Harriman had been

Red Army's ill-prepared troops died or were killed by the head of the American Mission to Norway since 1937. She

hundreds of thousands. Khrushchev numbered Soviet casu- was only the second woman in American diplomatic history

alties at a million. Eventually, the two sides agreed to a to be appointed to ministerial rank, after Ruth Bryan Rohde.

cease-fire, in March 1940.

"Daisy," as Florence Harriman was known to her friends,

But that was just the beginning of World War II in the was the widow of New York banker J. Borden Harriman and

north as the fighting moved from Finland's eastern borders had been active in Democratic Party politics since the pres-

to the other edge of Scandinavia. Two weeks before the idency of Woodrow Wilson.

Finnish-Soviet truce took force at noon on March 13, 1940,

Being a "woman diplomat," as Newsweek titled its June

Hitler began preparations for the invasion of Norway. On 2, 1941, profile of her, was still very much a novelty, but it

April 5, a German armada carrying 10,000

was hardly intimidating to Harriman.

men quietly moved out of Germany's north-

When Norwegian Queen Maud asked her,

ern ports to conquer Finland's neighbor.

"How does it feel to be a minister, when

That same day, officials from the

you are a woman?" Florence Harriman

Norwegian Foreign Office received an

responded, "Very nice, indeed, when I

engraved invitation from the German lega-

remember that I am a minister."

tion to see a "peace film." The invitation

Characteristically, Harriman responded

read, "full dress and orders to be worn."

swiftly to the crisis. When her attempts to

Most of the ministry's bureau chiefs attend-

get through to Washington were blocked by

ed in white tie attire, curious to see what the

local telephone operators who spoke with

Germans had to show. Instead of a peace

"more German than Norwegian accents,"

film, however, they watched a terrifying

as she put it, she agreed to the requests on

documentary on the bombing of Warsaw. Captain Losey and Amb. Shocked, the audience listened while the Harriman the day before he

her own authority. Overnight, embassy families began to

German minister (chief of mission) was killed.

congregate at her residence. Harriman

66 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 3

described the situation in her 1941 memoir, Mission to the Norwegian government and royal family. Under the guid-

North, as follows: "Wives and children of the staff had been ance of the Oslo legation's naval attach?, Lt. Commander

arriving so thick and fast that between five and six o'clock, 25 Ole Hagen, 17 family members, wives and children, had

of us had sat down to breakfast." Finally, instructions arrived already departed Oslo for the Swedish frontier to the north-

from Washington that an evacuation of the entire American east on April 9, the first day of the invasion.

legation was to proceed immediately.

When Losey caught up with Harriman, a few days later,

she was in central Sweden, just over the Norwegian-

The Journey to Stockholm

Swedish border. She later wrote, "I ran into Captain Losey

Nearly simultaneously with the German attack on on the way to breakfast. I find I have noted in my diary, `The

Norway, orders from Washington arrived in the defense new military attach? is a nice, spare young man in a flying

attach?'s office at the American

corps uniform, and seems in every

Mission in Helsinki that Army Major Frank Hayne and Army

Losey traveled from

way acceptable.'" (See photo on p. 66.) They spent the day driving

Captain Robert Losey, his assistant, were to leave immediately for

Finland to Norway to assist

across the frigid mountains and by 9 p.m. reached S?rna, where they

Stockholm. They were designated "attach?s to Norway and Sweden"

Harriman as she managed the

linked up with the French and British legations from Oslo.

to keep watch on the war in Scandinavia. With the Defense

evacuation of American

By Sunday, April 14, Harriman had still made no contact with the

Attach? office in Oslo literally under siege, they were to cover

staff and dependents from

convoy carrying the remainder of the legation families. Fearing they

both countries from Stockholm. Hayne had been in Helsinki for

Embassy Oslo.

were lost, Capt. Losey told her over lunch that he wanted to press

some time, reporting back to

on back to Norway to locate the

Washington on the ebbs and flows

Hagen party. Harriman agreed

of the Winter War. Losey had arrived in Finland directly and sent him with her own vehicle and driver. They draped

from Washington in the middle of February. A young and the car with a large American flag strung across the top in

brilliant officer, Losey had taken two master's degrees from hopes that prowling German planes would spare the vehicle

the California Institute of Technology while serving as a of a still neutral power. A cable from Stockholm reached the

meteorological officer at March Field in California. The State Department on April 16, 1940, stating that Harriman

Iowa-born son of a traveling preacher, he had lived in sever- "... now knows whereabouts of Norwegian government

al parts of the U.S. before attending West Point, where he across Swedish border. The roads are open and when Losey

fulfilled his dream to become a commissioned army flyer.

returns to her at Salen she will proceed with him to [the]

Both officers hurriedly departed for Sweden. When they government."

arrived in Stockholm, Hayne went to work in the defense

Losey returned that very day, having unsuccessfully tried

attach?'s office at the embassy. Losey, however, was ordered to locate the missing party. Harriman sent him driving all

at once to Norway to assist Ambassador Harriman as she night to Stockholm to make a personal report to the embassy

managed the evacuation of American staff and dependents there. He returned to Salen the following night. Harriman

from Embassy Oslo. Because Washington had also instruct- and Losey discussed making a second trip to locate the

ed her to keep close contact with the Norwegian royal fam- remaining members of the legation staff, and initially dis-

ily, Harriman divided the party so that she would be near the agreed over whether Harriman should accompany the

search mission or Losey should go alone. "You might be

J. Michael Cleverley, a Foreign Service officer since 1976, bombed," he argued; "the Germans are strafing the roads."

most recently served as deputy chief of mission in Helsinki

"But so might you," Harriman replied, "and that would

from 1996 to 1999 and as DCM in Athens from 2000 to be the worse for you are young and have your life before

2003. He is now the deputy permanent representative at you, while I have had a wonderful life and nearly all of it

the U.S. Mission to the U.N. Organizations in Rome. behind me."

This article is excerpted from his book, Lauri T?rni,

Losey would have none of it. "I certainly don't want to be

Syntynyt Sotilas, a biography of Finnish and American war killed," he said lightly, "but your death would be the more

hero Larry Thorne, which was published by Finnish pub- serious as it might involve our country in all kinds of trouble,

lisher Otava in October. The book will come out in English where with a military attach?' ..." he went on, and finally

under the title A Scent of Glory this month.

convinced her. Harriman recalled, "I hated to see him go,

D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 3 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 67

AN INVITATION FOR

SUMMER FICTION

Once again the Foreign Service Journal is seeking works of fiction of up to 3,000 words for its annual summer fiction issue. Story lines or characters involving the Foreign Service are preferred, but not required. The top stories, selected by the Journal's Editorial Board, will be published in the July/August issue and on the Journal's Web site. The writer of each story will receive an honorarium of $250.

All stories must be previously unpublished. Submissions should be unsigned and accompanied by a cover sheet with author's name, address, telephone numbers and e-mail address.

Deadline is April 1. No fooling.

Please send submissions to the attention of

Mikkela Thompson, Business Manager, preferably

by e-mail at thompsonm@.

Stories will also be accepted by fax at (202)

338-8244, or by mail: Foreign Service Journal, 2101 E St., NW, Washington, D.C., 20037

A young and brilliant

officer, Losey earned two

master's degrees at the

California Institute of

Technology and attended

West Point.

but when he impressed on me that `our first job now must be getting those women out,' I knew he was right." She wrote in her diary, "I will cheer when they return."

While Losey drove west over a mountain road from Sweden back into Norway, the Hagen party moved from the Norwegian coast into the barren, snow-covered Dovre Mountains by car, bus and sled. They eventually traveled through a rail intersection, named Dombas, before reaching safety in Fj?lln?s, Sweden. When Losey reached Dombas the party had already passed through.

"Cut Off -- and For What?" Dombas, a strategic intersection

along Norway's roads and rail network, was high on the German Luftwaffe's list of targets. On Sunday, April 21, while Losey was still in Dombas, the Luftwaffe attacked. He and Amb. Harriman's chauffeur had loaded the flag-draped car onto a train, and as the bombers arrived overhead, the passengers all ran for a railway tunnel to escape the strafing and bombing. Swooping down on the junction, German bombers dropped their deadly payloads, aiming to destroy the rail facilities. Losey, too, rushed to shelter. But as an air officer he lingered about 30 feet inside the entrance to the rail

tunnel, making observations on the air battle above him. Suddenly, a bomb exploded into the earth close by, showering everything around with deadly fragments. One piece shot into the tunnel straight for Losey. It sank deeply into his chest, penetrating his heart.

That same day an urgent telegram arrived at the American legation in Stockholm. It read: "American Military Attach? Captain Losey was killed by German bomber plane at Dombas today. Inform Mrs. Harriman. He will be sent tomorrow, Monday, via Roros to Fj?lln?s where instructions from legation are awaited." Harriman received a phone call from an aide telling her the news. "Cut off -- and for what?" she sadly wrote. Instructions were sent to Lt. Commander Hagen to take delivery of the body in Fj?lln?s.

Following a memorial service in Sweden for Losey, Florence Harriman wrote, "All our hearts ached for the young wife in California who must go on without him. She would be hearing [war correspondent Arthur] Menken on the radio to America, telling of the service; she would read the beautiful tributes to him in the American press; she would not have the picture of the friends of his last winter, who mourned him in the north." Captain Robert Losey's wife, Kay, collapsed when news of his death reached her at her home in Hollywood, California.

"The death of Captain Losey, who is the first American official to be killed in this war, was reported today to Frederick A. Sterling, United States Minister to Stockholm," recorded the New York Times on its front page on April 23, 1940. Captain Robert M. Losey, America's first military casualty in World War II, would not be its last.

The citizens of Dombas, Norway erected a monument in Losey's honor in 1987.

68 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 3

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