96-year-old Nicholas Oresko, oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor, passed away at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center last October 4, Friday.
The World War II veteran had been an Army master sergeant and during the Battle of the Bulge in 1945, was badly wounded when he took out two enemy bunkers single-handedly. The Department of Defense website had released an article last November 2011 describing Oresko as the oldest living receiver of the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration given by the Congress to soldiers who risked their lives in combat beyond their duty’s call.
Oresko, a Bayonne native, received the said medal from President Harry Truman on October 30, 1945.
He was a 28 years old and a platoon leader that fateful day during the Battle of the Bulge. He had the nagging feeling that day’s fight could be his last. So before heading out, he lifted his face up the sky and uttered a very poignant prayer:
I looked up at the sky and said, ‘Lord, I know I’m going to die; let’s just make it fast, make it quick,’” he recounted in a video interview. “‘Because I know this is the end.’”
Automatic fire pressed down Oresko’s unit soon after that. Realizing that a nearby machine gun was doing the firing, he made his way to its direction braving rushing bullets and the darkness. When he got close enough, he threw a grenade into the German bunker and later on, killed the soldiers that survived the blast.
But his victory was cut short by another machine gun fire which knocked him down, wounding him in his right hip and leg. However, his casualties did not stop him from crawling into the direction of that other machine gun and was able to take it out with another grenade. He was weak and had lost considerable amount of blood but he refused to be evacuated until he was assured the mission was accomplished successfully. Due to his actions that eventful January 23 in 1945, he prevented the deaths of other American soldiers. His deed was praised as one of the keys of the Allies’ victory.
A news site reported that a number of WWII veterans and young soldiers from different military branches had stayed with Oresko in his final days after one friend noted on a Facebook page that the WWII hero had no living immediate family anymore.