A World War II veteran and the nation’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient has died in New Jersey.
Nicholas Oresko, an Army master sergeant who was seriously wounded as he single-handedly took out two enemy bunkers during the Battle of the Bulge in 1945, died Friday night at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, hospital officials said Saturday. He was 96.
Mr. Oresko had been hospitalized after falling at an assisted-living center. He died of complications from surgery for a broken right thigh bone.
A November 2011 article on the Department of Defense website described Mr. Oresko as the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient. The medal is the nation’s highest military honor, awarded by Congress for risk of life in combat beyond the call of duty. Mr. Oresko received the Medal of Honor from President Truman on Oct. 30, 1945.
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At 28, Mr. Oresko was the platoon leader when automatic fire pinned down his unit. Realizing a machine gun in a nearby bunker needed to be eliminated, he moved out alone, braving bullets that zipped about him, until he was close enough to throw a grenade into the German bunker. He rushed the bunker and used his M1 rifle to kill the soldiers who survived the grenade blast.
Then another machine gun fired, knocking him down and wounding him in the right hip and leg. He crawled to another bunker and took it out with another grenade. Despite being weak from loss of blood, Mr. Oresko refused to be evacuated until he was assured the mission was accomplished.
His actions on Jan. 23, 1945, were credited with preventing numerous American deaths and were praised as key to the Allies’ victory.
Mr. Oresko had no immediate surviving relatives.