Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko, USA (January 23, 1945)

Nicholas Oresko was born in Bayonne, New Jersey on January 18, 1917. He was married and an office clerk when he was drafted for wartime service in the United States Army on March 25, 1942. Oresko was a member of the 302nd Infantry Regiment, part of the 94th Infantry Division. They landed in France for combat duty on September 8, 1944.

By January 23, 1945, Oresko was a Master Sergeant in Company C, 1st Battalion, 302nd Infantry. Normally he was a platoon sergeant, but casualties to officers found him leading one of the company’s rifle platoons. When their attack became pinned down under fires from two Nazi German machine guns in bunkers, Oresko attacked alone and continued leading his men in the fight even after he was wounded.

His Medal of Honor was presented to him by President Harry S. Truman at the White House about nine months later.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

ORESKO, NICHOLAS

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 302d Infantry, 94th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Tettington, Germany, 23 January 1945. Entered service at: Bayonne, N.J. G.O. No.: 95, 30 October 1945.

Citation: M/Sgt. Oresko was a platoon leader with Company C, in an attack against strong enemy positions. Deadly automatic fire from the flanks pinned down his unit. Realizing that a machinegun in a nearby bunker must be eliminated, he swiftly worked ahead alone, braving bullets which struck about him, until close enough to throw a grenade into the German position. He rushed the bunker and, with pointblank rifle fire, killed all the hostile occupants who survived the grenade blast. Another machinegun opened up on him, knocking him down and seriously wounding him in the hip. Refusing to withdraw from the battle, he placed himself at the head of his platoon to continue the assault. As withering machinegun and rifle fire swept the area, he struck out alone in advance of his men to a second bunker. With a grenade, he crippled the dug-in machinegun defending this position and then wiped out the troops manning it with his rifle, completing his second self-imposed, 1-man attack. Although weak from loss of blood, he refused to be evacuated until assured the mission was successfully accomplished. Through quick thinking, indomitable courage, and unswerving devotion to the attack in the face of bitter resistance and while wounded, M /Sgt. Oresko killed 12 Germans, prevented a delay in the assault, and made it possible for Company C to obtain its objective with minimum casualties.

He resumed living in New Jersey after the war. Master Sergeant Oresko passed away as the oldest-living Medal of Honor recipient on October 4, 2013 at age 96. He had fallen at his assisted living facility, breaking his femur, and died due to complications from surgery. Even though he had no surviving family, he was not alone in his final days. He was continuously kept company by many active duty military personnel serving in the New York/New Jersey area.

Oresko today rests in peace in the George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey.

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