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First Name: Nicholas

Last Name: Oresko

Birthplace: Bayonne, NJ, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Bayonne, NJ

Date of Birth: 18 January 1917

Date of Death: 04 October 2013

Rank: Master Sergeant

Years Served: 1942 - 1945
Nicholas Oresko

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Nicholas Oresko

Master Sergeant, U.S. Army

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko is a former U.S. Army soldier and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Following the death of Barney F. Hajiro in January 2011, Oresko became the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.

Nicholas Oresko was born on 18 January 1917 in Bayonne, NJ. As a young man, he worked in the shipping department of Standard Oil of New Jersey. Only 5-foot-4 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds, he joined the U.S. Army from that city in 1942.

As a platoon leader in Company C, 302d Infantry, 94th Infantry Division, Oresko was sent to Europe and arrived in France in August 1944, two months after the D-day invasion. 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 that country. In December 1944, they were redeployed in support of American units which had been forced to withdraw in the early days of the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler’s massive surprise attack that was inflicting heavy casualties as the Allies massed for a push toward Berlin.

In the late afternoon of 23 January 1945, outside the German town of Tettingen, MSG Nicholas Oresko and his platoon stared at a hill they had assaulted twice during the past two days. But the hill remained in enemy hands. Darkness was now arriving to accompany the snow and cold and a third attack on the hill had been ordered. In the two failed assaults, the boom of artillery fire had prepared the way. This time, the Americans would have no artillery cover, and MSG Oresko, a 28-year-old oil refinery worker from New Jersey, hoped to sneak up on the Germans. As Oresko would recall it: “I looked up to heaven and I said: ‘Lord, I know I am going to die. Make it fast, please.’ ”

Oresko 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, MSG Oresko charged alone through heavy snow toward German machine-gun bunkers with automatic weapons fire converging on him from two sides. He tossed a grenade into one bunker, then fired his rifle, killing 12 enemy soldiers.

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 now belonged to the Americans.

For his heroic actions that day, MSG Oresko was awarded the Medal of Honor.

MSG Oresko was hospitalized for a month with his wounds and then assigned to supply duty. In late summer 1945 he was finally sent back to the United States.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
Combat Infantryman Badge

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 302d Infantry, 94th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Tettington, Germany, 23 January 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.

The Medal of Honor was formally presented to him by President Harry S. Truman during a ceremony at the White House on 12 October 1945.


In November 1945, he rode in a parade held by Bayonne to welcome him home and stood in the reviewing stand alongside Lieutenant Stephen Gregg, another soldier from Bayonne who had also received the Medal of Honor.

Bayonne School #14 was re-named in his honor in July 2010.

Post-Military Life

Nicholas Oresko worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs until his retirement.

Death and Burial

Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko died on 4 October 2013 at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center of complications following surgery for a broken right femur. It was the same leg that was wounded on 23 January 1945 as he crawled alone from one enemy machine gun bunker to another to take them out with grenades and his M-1 rifle. Oresko lived in Cresskill, NJ, at the time of his death.

He is buried at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, NJ.

Honoree ID: 1582   Created by: MHOH




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