World War II hero Nicholas Oresko has died at the age of 96—more than 68 years after he was shot and left for dead by a German machine-gunner during the Battle of the Bulge. The New Jersey native, who wiped out two enemy machine gun bunkers despite his injuries, killing at least 12 German soldiers and preventing untold numbers of American casualties, had been the country's oldest living Medal of Honor recipient since early 2011. He had outlived all the members of his immediate family, but spent his last days surrounded by veterans and younger members of the military.
After word got around that Oresko had been hospitalized, members of the military from as far away as Maryland and Maine came to New Jersey to visit him, one of his friends tells the Record. "They understood the type of person we were talking about and said, 'We can't let him die alone,'" he says. "He's loved throughout the Army. He's an American hero." Oresko—who died of complications from surgery after breaking the same leg he was shot in during the battle—will be buried this week with military honors. (Read more World War II stories.)