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NCO, nation’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient dies

The nation’s oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor died during the weekend.

Nicholas Oresko, an Army master sergeant and World War II veteran died Friday of complications from surgery in Cresskill, N.J., according to media reports. He was 96.

Oresko received the nation’s highest military honor for his actions on Jan. 23, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge near Tettingen, Germany, while with C Company, 302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division. On that day, Oresko singlehandedly defeated a German bunker by lobbing a grenade and charging it after the explosion to eliminate the remaining enemy. Oresko was seriously wounded in the hip by machine-gun fire from a second bunker. Despite his injuries, Oresko led a charge to the second bunker, eventually charging it on his own and successfully eliminating its threats.

In all, Oresko was credited with killing 12 Germans, preventing a delay in the enemy assault and making it possible for Company C to obtain its objective with minimum casualties.

President Harry Truman decorated Oresko with the medal in October 1945 at the White House.

Oresko was born Jan. 18, 1917, in Bayonne, N.J. He joined the Army in March 1942. He became the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor after the death of Pfc. Barney F. Hajiro in January 2011.

Retired Army Col. Bruce P. Crandall, right, and Nicholas Oresko, center, both recipients of the Medal of Honor, attend Veterans Day activities at Madison Square Park in New York City, N.Y., honoring war veterans Nov. 11, 2011. Oresko is the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)
Retired Army Col. Bruce P. Crandall, right, and Nicholas Oresko, center, both recipients of the Medal of Honor, attend Veterans Day activities at Madison Square Park in New York City, N.Y., honoring war veterans Nov. 11, 2011. Oresko is the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)