WARSAW, Poland -- Maj. Ignacy Skowron, the last known Polish survivor of the opening battle of World War II, died on Sunday at the age of 97.
Family friend Zofia Nowak said Monday that Skowron died at his grandson's home in Kielce, in southern Poland, after suffering circulatory, liver and pancreas problems.
The last time that he took part in observances of the battle's anniversary at the Westerplatte, a date marked somberly every year on Sept. 1, was in 2009, Nowak said.
On his 97th birthday, last month, he was bedridden and weak, she said.
Skowron, at the time a corporal, was one of some 200 Polish troops guarding a military depot at Westerplatte, near the city of Gdansk, when it came under heavy fire from a German battleship, the Schleswig-Holstein.
Cut from any supplies or reinforcements, the Poles held out for seven days as more than 1,500 Nazi German troops attacked by land, sea and air, but the survivors were eventually captured.
Skowron was released from prison camp in 1940 because of ill health and settled with his family near Kielce.
He worked for Polish railways until his 1975 retirement. He then dedicated his life to telling the story of the battle to the younger generations.
His funeral will be held Wednesday in Brzeziny, near Kielce.