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National broadcast journalist will honor father at Cup's military salute

Posted: November 10, 2011 4:20 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Rita Cosby

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Emmy award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Rita Cosby will be a special guest at this year’s 42nd annual Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup steeplechase race in Camden. As part of the Nov. 19 event -- billed as “military appreciation day” -- Cosby will be presented the first-ever Major General Baron de Kalb Award which she will accept for -- and on behalf of -- her father, Richard Cosby, 85.

The award is named for the Bavarian-born Continental Army hero who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Camden on Aug. 16, 1780, during the American Revolution.

Like De Kalb, Cosby’s father is not a native-born American. But both men were and are soldiers fighting in defense of freedom for others, which is why members of the Colonial Cup’s military committee chose to recognize the elder Cosby with the new award. 

The story of Richard Cosby -- then Ryszard Kossobudzki -- begins in the early days of World War II, when, as a teenage boy, the Nazis invaded and occupied his native Poland and all manner of atrocities against the Polish people were unleashed. Cosby joined the Polish Resistance and experienced some of the most brutal fighting of the war.

In April 1945, Nazi Germany was on the ropes (Hitler would in fact put a bullet in his brain on April 30), and young Kossobudzki, by then a half-starved 19-year-old Polish prisoner-of-war, had escaped his Nazi captors and was making his way -- however precariously -- toward Allied lines.

He was not alone.

With Kossobudzki were approximately 60 comrades, many of whom were also former Polish resistance fighters. They had no way of knowing their danger was lessening. In fact, all they knew was that they had escaped certain death. Their soon-to-be-defeated enemy was desperate and regularly committing summary executions of recaptured POWs. And they were deep behind enemy lines.

At one point during their trek away from the POW camp, a warplane flew low above the forest from which they were seeking cover-and-concealment. At first the men believed they had been discovered by the Luftwaffe. But fear turned to rejoicing when instead of the infamous black cross on the plane’s fuselage, they saw the bright white star of the U.S. Army Air Forces.

The men and boys were furthered heartened when the pilot, upon spotting them, dropped a chocolate bar (possibly a Hershey’s in 1945) with a note wrapped around it. The note was simple -- and I paraphrase -- “Go 15 miles west to American lines and freedom.”

They did. They were saved. And young Kossobudzki made his way to America, eventually becoming an American citizen, changing his name (as so many did in that era) to Richard Roger Cosby.

Cosby’s yet-to-be-born daughter, Rita, was destined to tell his story in the acclaimed book “Quiet Hero: Secrets from my Father’s Past.” The book was released by Simon and Schuster in May 2010, and it became a New York Times bestseller in May 2011.

Both Cosbys have since been recognized -- Richard for his heroism, Rita for her book -- by everyone from the president of Poland to U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

The younger Cosby has strong ties to the Palmetto State. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Journalism (Yes, yours truly once taught at the j-school as an adjunct). And the military technical adviser and military technical editor for her book, Quiet Hero, is also yours truly.

When she’s not writing books or traveling between Europe and the U.S. telling her father’s amazing story, Cosby is guest hosting programs airing on CNN Headline News. She is a former FOX News and MSNBC correspondent and program host. She’s currently a special correspondent for CBS’s Inside Edition, and she guest-hosts for ABC Radio in New York.

Cosby will join us again here in South Carolina -- specifically for the Cup -- and will be available to sign copies of her book on the day of the event. For more information,  contact Teri Leigh Teed at 432-6513.

(W. Thomas Smith Jr., a military analyst and former U.S. Marine, is a New York Times bestselling military technical advisor and editor. Visit him at


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