RIP: MoH Recipient MSG Nicholas Oresko
By RU Rob
All too often a warrior slips quietly into everlasting peace without the fanfare and recognition he deserves. Over the last week, while the main stream media focused on the Armageddon of our nation’s government, one such warrior and the oldest living recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor left this world for his eternal deployment to Valhalla.
Born in 1917 in Bayonne, NJ, Nicholas (Nick) Oresko joined the Army in 1942 and was initially sent to France two months after the Normandy Landing.
Pushing forward with his unit, Oresko was quickly promoted to Master Sergeant and was the acting Platoon Leader when his platoon was stymied just outside of Tettinggen, Germany in late January 1945.
His unit had been ordered to take a hill and was unsuccessful in two previous attempts. It was the third order that would lead Oresko to display uncommon valor.
In the two failed assaults, the boom of artillery fire prepared the way. This time, the Americans would have none, relying on personal resolve to accomplish the mission
As MSG 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 assault. 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 of war that followed, Sergeant Oresko was wounded by German fire. But in the process he single-handedly wiped out two machine-gun positions, killing 12 enemy soldiers. Refusing to be treated for his injuries and with an enormous loss of blood, Oresko stayed in place to ensure the mission was complete. His lone assault enabled his unit to take the hill with minimum casualties.
A small man by stature, Master 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.”
On October 12, 1945 MSG Oresko was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. Its 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.
After the war, Nick spent the rest of his life living in New Jersey and for a period was employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. After his wife passed away in 1980 and his son in 2010, Oresko was moved to an assisted living center.
It was complications from surgery that would leave MSG Oresko near death, but upon learning of his condition through social media, several military veterans from all branches rallied and provided constant companionship and comfort at his side during his final hours. On October 4th, 2013, at the age of 96, the Valkyries arrived to escort MSG Nicholas Oresko to Valhalla.
Stand easy Sergeant, you have earned your rest.
This is MSG Nicholas Oresko’s Medal of Honor profile: