Nicholas Oresko of Cresskill, the nation’s oldest Medal of Honor recipient, died Friday evening, surrounded by veterans and military personnel who had gathered there all week after hearing on social media that he was in the hospital with a broken leg.
Oresko, 96, was a U.S. Army master sergeant during World War II when, although badly wounded, he wiped out two enemy bunkers near Tettingen, Germany, during the Battle of the Bulge.
He died at 6:30 p.m. at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center of complications from surgery for a broken right femur, said John “Jack” Carbone, a family friend. That was the same leg injured by gunfire on Jan. 23, 1945, as he crawled from one enemy bunker to another.
Oresko had no living immediate family, but he was never alone at the hospital after being taken there earlier in the week from a Cresskill assisted living facility, Carbone said. Veterans and young members of various branches of military service were at his side, with more than two dozen at the hospital Friday afternoon before he was taken to have surgery.
“The kids held his hand and prayed with him,” Carbone said.
Be sure to read Oresko’s Medal of Honor 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.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.