Categorized | Opinion

Tribute to Mr. Oresko

By Dave O’Dell

Nicholas Oresko

Greetings, have you heard the name Nicholas Oresko?

We will talk about him later in this article. Seventy one years ago this month on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese, tired of American trade embargoes, mounted a surprise attack and bombed the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

This was the beginning of our combative involvement in WWII with the U.S. declaring war on Japan and Germany declaring war on the U.S. a few days later. WWII actually started on Sept. 1, 1939, when Hitler’s German troops invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany. Up until the attack on Pearl Harbor the U.S. involvement had been non-combative support to our Allies. The war would rage until 1945, Russian troops reached Berlin — Hitler commits suicide and Germany surrenders on May 7, 1945. Churchill declares May 8, VE Day ‘Victory of Europe Day”. The Japanese surrender on Aug. 14, 1945, after the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. The Japanese surrender was accepted on behalf of the “Allied Nations” by General McArthur aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, which was officially declared VJ Day “Victory of Japan Day” which ended WWII, The biggest conflict in history lasted almost 6 years.

Some things you may not know about WWII: at the beginning of this article I asked if you had ever heard the name Nicholas Oresko!  Well, Mr. Oresko was born on Jan. 18, 1917, in Bayonne, N.J. and joined the Army in March of 1942. He was sent to Europe and arrived in France in 1944, as a platoon sergeant in Company C, 302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division his unit was assigned the task of dealing with the pockets of German soldiers who had been bypassed/missed by our Allies’ initial push through the northern part of France. In December 1944, they were redeployed to replace the 90th, Infantry Division as part of Patton’s 3rd Army. The 94th assumed positions opposing Germany’s 11th Panzer Division. On Jan. 23, 1945, near Tettingen, Germany, Master Sergeant Oresko sustained serious injuries while single-handedly defeating one German bunker and destroying a second bunker. For his heroic actions, Master Sergeant Oresko was awarded the Medal of Honor which was presented to him in a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 30, 1945 by President Harry Truman. Mr. Oresko is not only a patriot; he is also the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.

Master Sergeant Oresko’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:

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 number of Americans who served in World War II is about 16.1 Million. Average amount of time each U.S Military serviceman served overseas during this time was about 16 months. The estimated number of U.S. military service members killed in action from all branches combined is about 292,000 and another 114,000 who perished outside the battle. The number of U.S. troops wounded during WWII is about 627,000.

With this being the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Christmas quickly approaching, I don’t think this article could be complete without mentioning the United Services Organization (USO). On Feb. 4, 1941 the USO was founded in response to a request by President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for more support services for American troops. With war seeming unavoidable, the President wanted to make sure that the troops got a small ‘touch of home” where ever they were. Since 1941 the USO has been working in partnership with the Department of Defense to provide entertainment to the military service members and civilian population serving all over the world.

Bob Hope began working with the USO in 1941, and between 1941 and his last show in 1991 he spent 48 Christmas’ with American troops overseas during every conflict from WWII to Operation Desert Shield. Although, Bob Hope is arguably the most recognized entertainer to support the USO, many other like Kidd Rock, Toby Keith, Trace Atkins, Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band, and many others in recent years have spent their Christmas’ with the Troops.  The USO is a great patriotic organization whose motto is “Until everyone comes home” and I’m thankful for all that they and their supporters do for our troops.

I remember how important they were when I was in the Navy, from the shows to the USO airport centers that provided a snack and a place to nap between flights; the many services they provide are much needed and appreciated.

This Christmas I hope that all of us will take a moment and be thankful for all of God’s blessings. For me, that means being thankful for the birth of Jesus Christ and the promise of everlasting life, our military troops and all who serve us in the many ways that people do, my family  and their love, and my Country. Even with all of its flaws, the U.S.A. is still the greatest nation in the world.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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