BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Born on January 18, 1917, in Bayonne, New Jersey, Nicholas Oresko later joined the Army from that city in March 1942. He was sent to Europe and arrived in France in September 1944, three months after the Normandy landings, as a platoon sergeant in Company C, 302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division. His unit spent the next several months mopping up pockets of German soldiers who had been bypassed in the Allies‘ initial push through the northern part of France. In December 1944 they were redeployed to replace the 90th Infantry Division as part of Patton’s 3rd Army. The 94th assumed positions opposite the Westwall and the German 11th Panzer Division.
Near the village of Tettingen, Germany in late January 1945, Oresko, by then a master sergeant, single-handedly defeated a German bunker, was seriously wounded, and then destroyed a second bunker despite his injuries. For his heroic actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor nine months later, on October 30, 1945. The medal was formally presented to him by Presiden Harry Truman during a ceremony at the White House.
After the passing of Barney F. Hajiro in Hawaii in January 2011, Oresko became the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient. Oresko lived in Cresskill, New Jersey. Bayonne School #14 was renamed in his honor in July 2010.
Oresko died while undergoing surgery for a broken femur on October 4, 2013. He was 96 years old.. Oresko was predeceased by his son, Robert, who died in 2010 at age 63, and his wife, Jean, who died in 1980.
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.
//S// Harry Truman President
Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko is buried beside his wife Jean at George Washington Memorial Park, 234 Paramus Road, Paramus, New Jersey.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.