Michigan State University

December 7, 1941 : Metro Detroit's First Casualty in World War II

Jon Harrison
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Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, photo courtesy of National Archives

Ben Marsh Jr., a 25-year-old ensign aboard the USS Arizona, became metro Detroit’s first reported casualty of World War II, when his family learned of his death on Dec. 12, 1941, five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The telegram, saying that he’d been killed in action, arrived at the family’s Grosse Pointe home at 4 a.m.

After his 12-4 a.m. watch shift ended, Marsh waited in the officers’ dining room for a small boat to take him ashore to play golf with fellow Grosse Pointe High School graduate George Ghesquiere; he’d been Ghesquiere’s best man in his wedding nine days before. But when the Japanese air attack started, Marsh raced to his battle station in the engine room, where he was killed minutes later.

For the full article, see Zlati Meyer, "This week in Michigan history: Metro Detroit mourns its first Pearl Harbor casualty", Detroit Free Press, December 8, 2013.

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