A CREATIVE MARINE – Corporal Tony Stein, U.S. Marine Corps, WW II, Medal of Honor (1921-1945)

Corporal Tony Stein, USMC, Medal of Honor, WWII
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Corporal Tony Stein, USMC, Medal of Honor, WWII

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  Corporal Tony Stein was born on September 30, 1921 and raised in Dayton Ohio.  In those days Dayton was known as the “Gem City”.  He attended Kiser High School there. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on September 22, 1942.

After boot camp and airborne training he went to Bougainville and Vella Lavella where he saw an elephant for the first time. During the Bougainville Campaigns, Stein shot five snipers in a single day.



He returned to the States as a Paramarine in the Marine Parachute Regiment. The regiment had a very short life and when it disbanded he was transferred into A Company/1 28th Marines of the newly formed 5th MARDIV. It was with this unit that he  took part in the amphibious landings on February 19, 1945, which began the Battle of Iwo Jima . As his unit moved inland, he stormed a series of hostile pillboxes using his ubiquitous “stinger” and made eight trips back to the beach to retrieve ammunition, each time taking a wounded Marine with him. It was for his actions on this day that he was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

In the initial assault he was among the first members of his unit to set up a defensive position away from the beach. There he began to engage Japanese forces with his custom Stinger machinegun. It was from this position that Tony Stein, first-generation Jewish son of Austrian immigrants, made his most famous stand.

Stein’s rare and improvised “Stinger” light machine gun was based on the ANM2 Aircraft machinegun. The ANM2 in turn was a totally new weapon based on the venerable 31-pound M1919 light machine gun (which is still in use around the world today). The ANM2 was designed for use as an aircraft mounted weapon and as such was much lighter (by some 30%) and also had a much higher rate of fire (1200-1500 rounds per minute vs. the stock M1919s much slower 400-600). These weapons had been salvaged from wrecked Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber aircraft by an intrepid marine armorer who added butt stocks and sights to the weapon from an M1 Garand and the light bipod from the BAR. A toolmaker prior to the war, Stein helped the marine armorer customize a .30 caliber M1919 Browning machine gun from a wrecked Navy fighter plane into a highly effective personal machine gun he nicknamed the “Stinger”

With a 100-round belt carried in an aluminum box magazine it weighed some 25 pounds. It was considered by some to be the best squad automatic weapon of WWII. Only one of these weapons was assigned to Stein’s battalion and he drew the lucky straw to carry it.

“The Stinger”

Corporal Tony Stein held his Stinger light machinegun on target and destroyed enemy pillbox after pillbox by charging them alone and destroying the crew inside while firing away with his weapon. The Stinger’s extremely high rate of fire and the momentum of the combat led quickly to Stein running out of ammunition. Kicking his shoes off and throwing his M-1 helmet down he ran back to the beach to get more 30 caliber ball for his weapon. As he ran he picked up a wounded fellow Marine and carried him back to the beach to obtain aid. He repeated this feat no less than 8 times, bringing a wounded man back to the beach, grabbing a few belts of ammunition to fire at Japanese pillboxes, and then returning with a smoking weapon and another wounded Marine. Later that day he performed a rear guard action covering his unit’s withdrawal.

The 28th Marines next helped capture Mount Suribachi itself, culminating in the raising of the U.S. flag on the mountain’s peak on February 23. Stein was wounded during the fight for Suribachi and evacuated to a hospital ship. Meanwhile, his regiment advanced up the west side of the island until reaching the strongly defended Hill 362A, where they took heavy casualties. When Stein heard of this, he left the hospital ship and returned to his unit. On March 1, he was killed by a sniper while leading a 19-man patrol to reconnoiter a machine gun emplacement which had Company A pinned down.

Stein received the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War II. He received the award for repeatedly making single-handed assaults against the enemy and for aiding wounded Marines during the initial assault on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. He was killed in action ten days later.


Medal of Honor citation

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, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. The first man of his unit to be on station after hitting the beach in the initial assault, Cpl. Stein, armed with a personally improvised aircraft-type weapon, provided rapid covering fire as the remainder of his platoon attempted to move into position. When his comrades were stalled by a concentrated machinegun and mortar barrage, he 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 1 by 1 and succeeded in killing 20 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 and ran back to the beach for additional ammunition, making a total of 8 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, Cpl. 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 sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Stein’s Medal of Honor was presented to his widow on February 19, 1946, during a ceremony in the office of Ohio Governor Frank Lausche. Stein was initially buried in the 5th Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. Following the war, his remains were returned to the U.S. for reinterment in his native Dayton. Stein, Dayton’s only World War II recipient of the Medal of Honor, was buried with full military honors on December 17, 1948, in Calvary Cemetery following funeral services at Our Lady of the Rosary Church.