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Hieronim Kupczyk

Poland Polish Army Major, 12 Mechanized Division

11/6/2003, Al Mussayib, Iraq

Poland suffered its first combat death since the aftermath of World War II when a Polish major was fatally wounded Thursday in an ambush south of Baghdad. Two American soldiers died in attacks near the capital and along the Syrian border.

The Polish officer was wounded when insurgents attacked a convoy of 16 Polish soldiers returning from a promotion ceremony for Iraqi civilian defense trainees near Baghdad. Major Hieronim Kupczyk, 44, died at a military hospital in Karbala, the Polish Defense Ministry said. None of the other Polish soldiers was killed or wounded, according to Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski.

“This tragic event proves that the situation in Iraq is getting complicated,” Szmajdzinski told reporters in Warsaw. “The level of professionalism of the terrorists is increasing.”

The Polish major was the first Polish soldier killed by hostile fire in more than a half century of post-World War II peacekeeping missions, including the Golan Heights, Lebanon, Haiti and the Balkans. More than 500,000 Polish soldiers died during World War II, and 20,000 more were killed in fighting along the eastern border that continued until 1947.

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