Yesterday, I started to share the story of Emmy Award-winning journalist Rita Cosby who wrote a best-selling book called Quiet Hero about her father’s World War II past in Poland and the emotional wounds that allowed him to abandon their family years later without showing a shred of remorse. Because Rita’s mother had always encouraged her to forgive him, she found the strength to do so and hear his side of the story.
Though Richard Cosby was reluctant to talk about his past, he finally opened up to his daughter, revealing that he was 13 when the Nazis bombed Warsaw. He became a part of the Polish resistance and the Warsaw Uprising. One particular incident of violence left an indelible impression on his mind and heart.
It was August 1944. Richard’s girlfriend came to tell him that their unit had captured a German tank. It was an impressive feat considering the Nazis possessed more manpower and weapons than the resistance. A little suspicious, Richard gave his girlfriend his gun just in case.
The fighters—mostly teenagers—decided to drive the tank around to show it off to their fellow resistance fighters. Richard decided to go home instead because he was exhausted.
When she was a guest on “Christopher Closeup,” Rita finished the story: “As [my father is] walking, a few blocks later, the ground shakes. He realized that the tank exploded. And on top was my father’s girlfriend and all his friends. Five hundred people died and 800 were injured because they drove that tank to a busy town square. My father rushed back, trying to look for his friends. He said that when he got there, there was no trace of them. There were just rivers of blood. Everything evaporated.” Rita continued, “My father at that moment told himself, ‘I need to block this out because I need to fight in their honor.’”
Richard was soon arrested and put in a POW camp. The six-foot tall teen weighed only 90 pounds and had endured frontline fighting for five years. After six months, Richard and 60 others escaped the camp. They lived in the woods for a couple of days when they saw a plane fly over and drop something. Initially, they assumed it was a Nazi plane so they dove for cover. Then they saw that the plane displayed a star and was an American aircraft. What was dropped out was a note tied around a chocolate bar with a red ribbon. The note said, “Welcome. It’s safe to walk now during daytime. There are no troops between you and our lines. You have fifty miles to walk and you’re free.” Richard ran to the American troops and decided to move to the U.S. because “it’s such a great country.”
Following these revelations, Richard told Rita, “Please forgive me. At that moment with the tank, I had to block everything out. That’s what I did to survive during the Uprising, and I’m sorry if I carried that over into the way I handled myself as a father.”
After years of estrangement, Richard and Rita now have a better relationship than ever before and see each other often. And in writing Quiet Hero, they also chose to donate ten percent of the proceeds to the USO program, Operation Enduring Care. Rita explains, “This was my father’s way of saying thank you to the American troops who saved him and who continue to save people every day around the world.”