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WWII resistance fighter Richard Cosby, who became noted engineer, dead at 86

| Monday, July 23, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Richard Cosby, a Polish resistance fighter during World War II who escaped a Nazi prison camp and retired as a civil engineer in the Washington area, died June 25 in Inova Alexandria Hospital in Virginia. He was 86.

He had metastatic prostate cancer, said his daughter, television journalist Rita Cosby.

Cosby's exploits were detailed in his daughter's 2010 book, “Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father's Past.” She wrote that her father left the family on Christmas 1983 and was largely estranged from her for more than 25 years.

In 2008, Rita Cosby discovered an old suitcase that had belonged to her father. It contained some of his World War II possessions, including his resistance armband and prisoner-of-war identification. She reached out to her father to reconnect.

Cosby told her that he had seen his hometown destroyed by Nazi bombs and, still a teenager, lied about his age to join the resistance during the German occupation. He participated in the Warsaw uprising in 1944 and was eventually captured by German forces. He spent months in a Nazi prison camp and emerged weighing 90 pounds.

He escaped with a group of other prisoners in 1945. He told of hearing a plane above them and watching as the aircraft dropped what looked to be a bomb. Cosby leaped for cover. Afterward, he discovered the supposed ordnance was actually a parcel filled with chocolate bars and directions to the nearest U.S. forces.

After his liberation by the Americans in 1945, Cosby served in the Polish II Corps, an Allied unit. After the war, he received a civil engineering degree from the University of London in 1954.

Two years later, he moved to the United States and lived for many years in Connecticut. He joined Mueser Rutledge in the early 1960s and retired from the consulting engineering firm in 1992.

Cosby moved to the Washington area in the mid-1980s. As an engineer with Mueser Rutledge, he worked on projects involving the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress and the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

In 2011, the Daughters of the American Revolution gave Cosby the Americanism medal, a prestigious award for naturalized citizens.

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