WASHINGTON: Nicholas Minue was a seasoned private when he charged onto the battlefields of Africa during World War II, with more than a decade in the service of the Army. The Ukrainian-born American gave up a higher rank so he could fight the enemy in combat. He lost his life while doing so, but his sacrifice earned him the Medal of Honor.
Army records show that Minue was born Dec. 25, 1900, in Sedden, Poland, to Ukrainian parents who had quickly moved him back to their homeland. By 1906, John and Mary Minue had moved their young son and a daughter to the U.S., settling in Carteret, N.J. There, they had two more sons.
According to a 1944 Army press release, Minue went to school through 5th grade before going to work at an engineering firm. He enlisted in the Army in 1918 during World War I and served a year before being discharged.
Minue eventually became a U.S. citizen and re-enlisted in the Army in 1927. According to Army records, for reasons that are unclear, he remained at the rank of private until the early 1940s when he was promoted to sergeant. But he volunteered to give up that rank so he could fight overseas in a combat unit when the U.S. joined World War II.
In November 1942, Minue was one of the first soldiers to deploy to the North African theater, where he was assigned to Company A of the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division.
According to U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs, he went ashore near Casablanca, Morocco, as part of Operation Torch, which was meant to draw Axis forces away from the eastern front of the European war and provide a launching point for the Allies in Italy. From Morocco, Minue fought through Algeria during the spring of 1943.
On April 28, 1943, Minue and his company were near the town of Medjez-El-Bab, Tunisia. About 50 minutes southwest of Tunis, Tunisia, a hilly area sat along a critical position on the Axis perimeter. Company A’s mission was to attack an enemy defensive position in the area, despite the enemy having the high ground. Minue was a member of an advance team moving toward their target when they were suddenly flanked by enemy rifle and machine gun fire.
Minue quickly volunteered to single-handedly charge the machine gun nest. Without concern for his own life, he charged the position and used his bayonet to kill 10 enemy soldiers. He destroyed the machine gun nest and continued moving forward to oust more enemy riflemen from their entrenched positions. Eventually, though, he was fatally wounded.
Minue’s actions in the face of inevitable death gave his fellow soldiers the morale and time to push farther ahead and drive the enemy from the area. According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, Axis resistance in the area collapsed within two weeks.
For his bravery, Minue was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 1, 1944. At the ceremony at Fort DuPont, Del., Maj. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem presented the medal on behalf of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Mary Minue, Nicholas’s mother. According to the Ukrainian American Veterans, Minue was the first Ukrainian American to receive the Medal of Honor.
Minue is also one of the few Medal of Honor recipients to have been interred overseas and is buried in the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia.
Minue’s adopted hometown of Carteret, N.J., remembers him with local namesakes: Private Nicholas Minue School and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Nicholas Minue Post No. 2314. A U.S. Army ferry that began service in 1957 from Manhattan in New York City to a military installation on nearby Governors Island also bore his name.
This article is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.