Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 1
Birth:
18 Jan 1917 2
Death:
04 Oct 2013 3
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Nicholas J Oresko 2
Full Name:
Nicholas J Oresko 2
Person:
Nicholas Oresko 1
Level of Education: Grammar school 1
Marital Status: Single, without dependents 1
Birth:
Male 4
Birth:
18 Jan 1917 2
Male 2
Birth:
New Jersey 4
Male 4
Birth:
1917 1
New Jersey 1
Death:
04 Oct 2013 3
Death:
Oct 2013 5
Death:
Oct 2013 5
Burial:
Burial Place: George Washington Memorial Park;Bergen Co.,NJ 6
Residence:
Place: Cresskill, New Jersey 7
Residence:
Place: Hudson County, New Jersey 1
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World War II 1

Branch:
Army 1
Enlistment Date:
25 Mar 1942 1
Army Branch:
Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA 1
Army Component:
Selectees (Enlisted Men) 1
Army Serial Number:
32262692 1
Enlistment Place:
Ft Dix New Jersey 1
Enlistment Term:
Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law 1
Source of Army Personnel:
Civil Life 1
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Race or Ethnicity:
Caucasian 2
Occupation:
Skilled compositors and typesetters 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Father:
Freddie Oresko 2
Mother:
Mary 2
Father:
Freddie Oresko 2
Mother:
Mary 2
Source Information:
Box Number: 0488 1
Film Reel Number: 2.152 1

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Stories

Medal of Honor recipient; World War II; Battle of the Bulge. [Source] CBS News.

findagrave.com Memorial #118181205

Nicholas Oresko, 96, a Hero of the Battle of the Bulge, Dies

The hill ahead, outside the German town of Tettingen, had twice been assaulted by Sgt. Nicholas Oresko’s platoon in the previous two days, but it remained in enemy hands. Darkness was arriving to accompany the snow and cold. It was late afternoon, Jan. 23, 1945, the final stages of the Battle of Bulge, Adolf Hitler’s massive surprise attack inflicting heavy casualties as the Allies massed for a push toward Berlin.

A third attack on that hill had been ordered. In the two failed assaults, the boom of artillery fire prepared the way. This time, the Americans would have none, and Sergeant Oresko, a 28-year-old oil refinery worker from New Jersey, hoped to sneak up on the Germans.

As Mr. Oresko would recall it: “I looked up to heaven and I said: ‘Lord, I know I am going to die. Make it fast, please.’ ”

He ordered his platoon to move forward. No one did. He repeated the order. Still, no one responded.

“I said to myself, ‘Well, someone has to go,’ ” he remembered. “So I decided to go myself.”

He had gone 30 feet up that hill when his men began moving out behind him, but the closest were still 50 feet away.

In the chaos that followed, Sergeant Oresko was hit by German fire. But he single-handedly wiped out two machine-gun positions, killing 12 enemy soldiers. His lone assault enabled his unit to take the hill with minimum casualties.

Sergeant Oresko, only 5-feet-4 and about 150 pounds, received the Medal of Honor, its citation hailing his “quick thinking, indomitable courage and unswerving devotion to the attack.”

When Mr. Oresko died Friday at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J., at 96, he was the oldest surviving recipient of the medal, the nation’s highest award for valor.

The hospital confirmed his death.

Nicholas Oresko was born in Bayonne, N.J., on Jan. 18, 1917. He worked in the shipping department of Standard Oil of New Jersey until he joined the Army in 1942.

A member of the 302nd Infantry, 94th Infantry Division, he arrived in France in August 1944, two months after the D-Day invasion, and the following winter, his unit was ordered to take part in the Bulge campaign.

On that late afternoon outside Tettingen, when Sergeant Oresko charged alone through heavy snow toward German machine-gun bunkers, automatic weapons fire converged from two sides. He tossed a grenade into one bunker, then fired his rifle, killing all its defenders.

But fire from another machine gun wounded him in the hip, and he lay bleeding, unseen by the Germans, who evidently thought they had killed him. He saw red, blue and purple flame coming from the Germans’ automatic weapons aimed toward his men coming up in the rear. And then his helmet hit a booby trap wire, but the shrapnel flew over his head.

He reached inside his jacket for his remaining grenades, only to find they had fallen out. He crawled back through the snow, found them, returned to that second bunker, destroyed it with a single grenade, then sprayed rifle fire once more, killing all the Germans inside.

The hill belonged to the Americans.

Sergeant Oresko was hospitalized for a month, then assigned to supply duty, and was sent back to the United States in late summer.

He was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on Oct. 12, 1945. In November, he rode in a parade held by the city of Bayonne to welcome him home and stood in the reviewing stand alongside Lt. Stephen Gregg, another soldier from Bayonne who had received the Medal of Honor.

He later worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs. In September 2010, Bayonne named a school for him.

Mr. Oresko had lived in Tenafly, N.J., before entering an assisted-living center in Cresskill. His wife, Jean, died in 1980, and their son, Robert, died in 2010.

In February 2011, Mr. Oresko became the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient with the death of 94-year-old Barney Hajiro, an Army private who had also served in World War II.

Soon afterward, he reflected on the lasting impact of his foray in the snow and bitter cold of winter 1945.

“I think about that incident every day,” he told The Record newspaper of New Jersey. “It never leaves you. When you kill somebody, even though it’s combat, you remember it, or it remembers you.”

Medal Of Honor Citation

Master Sergeant Oresko's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

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

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