Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tony Stein And The Stinger

A discussion at the Althouse blog eventually turned into a discussion of Medal of Honor recipients, and one commenter noted the practice of grenade-flopping which seems to be the surest route to a MOH in modern times. I noted that it was a common practice during the Battle of Iwo Jima, and in looking over the MOH winners for that battle, I noticed the name Tony Stein.

I first read about Iwo Jima in the early '70's as a teen, and of the many heroes of that battle, none seemed to me more heroic than Tony Stein. Here is the citation for his MOH:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company A, First Battalion, Twenty-Eighth Marines, Fifth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, in the Volcano Island, February 19, 1945. The first man of his unit to be on station after hitting the beach in the initial assault, Corporal Stein, armed with a personally improvised aircraft-type weapon, provided rapid covering fire as the remainder of his platoon attempted to move into position and, when his comrades were stalled by a concentrated machine-gun and mortar barrage, gallantly stood upright and exposed himself to the enemy's view, thereby drawing the hostile fire to his own person and enabling him to observe the location of the furiously blazing hostile guns. Determined to neutralize the strategically placed weapons, he boldly charged the enemy pillboxes one by one and succeeded in killing twenty of the enemy during the furious single-handed assault. Cool and courageous under the merciless hail of exploding shells and bullets which fell on all sides, he continued to deliver the fire of his skillfully improvised weapon at a tremendous rate of speed which rapidly exhausted his ammunition. Undaunted, he removed his helmet and shoes to expedite his movements on ran back to the beach for additional ammunition, making a total of eight trips under intense fire and carrying or assisting a wounded man back each time. Despite the unrelenting savagery and confusion of battle, he rendered prompt assistance to his platoon whenever the unit was in position, directing the fire of a half-track against a stubborn pillbox until he had effected the ultimate destruction of the Japanese fortification. Later in the day, although his weapon was twice shot from his hands, he personally covered the withdrawal of his platoon to the company position. Stouthearted and indomitable, Corporal Stein, by his aggressive initiative, sound judgment and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of terrific odds, contributed materially to the fulfillment of his mission, and his outstanding valor throughout the bitter hours of conflict sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


Stein was a machinist before the war, or had machine shop experience. The weapon he carried on Iwo Jima was a .30 machine gun that he salvaged from a wrecked warplane and converted for use as a personal weapon. He called it the Stinger. Here's a photo:

It looks as if Stein removed the action from an M1 Garand and fitted the shoulder stock to the machine gun body, and added a canister to contain an ammo belt. I can't imagine that the belts were large, probably only 25-30 rounds, otherwise
Stein couldn't have even lifted the piece, even with the strength of a gorilla. (Why he didn't just use a BAR is baffling). Stein, as noted in the citation above, used the Stinger to great effect during the opening day of the battle. He was killed later in the same campaign, dying in battle.

Here's the man himself:

Nowadays, of course, Hollywood won't make a movie about such a man, unless he's also an alcoholic, a drug abuser, or tortured by PTSD. But Tony Stein was a true American hero. Rest In Peace, Warrior.


Ronsonic said...

Thank you for telling of a great feat of arms.

Always welcome.

Murphy's Law said...

I've long been familiar with this great hero and his improvised weapon. as the owner of an actual Browning 1919A4 MMG, I can attest to the weight and other issues that would go with that gun. (trying to hold and fire it ala Chuck Bronson in Death Wish four or five is impossible. That barrel shroud gets scorching hot almost immediately.
Plus the aircraft guns like the one that Tony used has a massively high cyclic rate, much higher than a standard Browning ground gun or a BAR. Must have been an interesting weapon to use or see in action.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the can on the side of the Stinger held 100 rounds of ammo--5 times as much as a BAR magazine. The ROF was 3 or 4 times that of the BAR. Finally, the ANM2 aircraft machine gun was significantly lighter than the 1919--about 21 pounds rather than 31 pounds for a 1919.

At 21 pounds, it was somewhat heavier than a BAR, but with significantly more capabilities.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the ANM2 machine gun was significantly lighter than a 1919--about 21 lbs compared to 31 for the 1919. Really not that much more than a BAR.

And that can on the side of the gun held 100 rounds, not 25-30. The ROF was significantly higher than either the 1919 or the BAR--around 1200 RPM.

So, although it was a little heavier than the BAR, it had significantly higher capabilities.

Unknown said...

On veterans day this past week-Iwo Jima was featured on the History Channels "Shootout". Tony was the story for about 10 minutes.
Apparently, Tony had previously survived the Soloman Isle campaign where he, and others, stripped the multitude of trashed fighters of their machine guns-creating a handful of stingers.
A fellow GI who fought on Iwo Jima described Tony as "a tough guy" would had a 6-8 inch black panther tattoo on his left arm.
The GI stated "we never saw a tattoo like that-you just didn't do that back then".
By the way there is one more picture of Tony with his shirt off exposing the tat-a grand total of 2 surviving pictures of Toni.
Toni held the stinger in his hands while firing but also used a bipod-he typically fired in 20 round bursts. Rate of fire was estimated at 1300 rounds minute. For comparision a light machine gun fires at 700 rounds/minute. BAR-forget it, not even close.
Toni was a fearless warrior of that there is little doubt. Good to see Tony-he was a hell of a man. Thanx Tony-RIP.

Anonymous said...

It's guys like him that make this country great. He is a true American hero. RIP Tony, and thank you for all you did for freedom.

Anonymous said...

Tony stein is my great great grandfather, I never realized what a big war hero he was until recently!!

Unknown said...

My Uncle Kent Stegner was with Tony Stein through many campaigns and was with him the day that he was killed. This is from Uncle Kent's journal:

“The next morning we moved up over the bank in a line of skirmishes without opposition, and started an advance over one of the few long, level areas we had experienced on the island. When we got to the middle of the area we were hit from all directions! Pete Hansen went down on my left, Tony Stein on my right. Earl Dent dragged Ben to a shell hole for cover, a corpsman had Pete, and I had Tony Stein. He was still alive, but not for long. He had a hole in his back larger than my fist. Both compresses off of Stein's and my cartridge belts wouldn't fit the hole! He died in my arms."