Medal of Honor Highlight: Tony Stein

  • Dean Stern
Courtesy of

Anthony Michael “Tony” Stein was one of the 27 Medal of Honor recipients to win their recognition for actions during battle of Iwo Jima, and the only one who achieved his heroics with the help of a field-modified custom machine gun, the AN/M2 Stinger. 

You can actually take a closer look at this fascinating weapon below. Hop to 11:00 to get Stein’s story:

But, back to our honoree.

Tony Stein, born in 1921, was a Jewish American from Dayton, Ohio, and the son of German-speaking parents who immigrated from Yugoslavia to America to escape the rising prejudice in central Europe, according to the JVL

At a young age, Stein dropped out of school to work in a machine shop at Dayton Patterson Field. After a brief sojourn in the Civilian Conservation Corps, he returned to Dayton as a tool and die-maker. One might suppose that Stein picked up his ingenuity and skillset that would become essential to his heroism in the coming battles.

Though at first exempted due to his essential worker status, Stein joined the Marines in September 1942. After basic training, he joined the U.S. ParaMarines and deployed to the Pacific, where he fought in Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Vella Lavella. 

In Bougainville, he gained the nickname the “Sniper Exterminator,” using his rifle skills to take out five Japanese marksmen, very likely saving lives. After Bougainville in 1944, the ParaMarines were disbanded, and he returned to Camp Pendleton to become a corporal in the 5th Marine Corps Division and get hitched to Joan Stominger.

Subsequently, Cpl. Stein shipped out, and while on the trip, he reportedly used his skills as a toolmaker and knowledge of firearms to help Sgt. Mel J. Grevich create a custom field-modified weapon, the Stinger.

It was fabricated from an M1 Garand stock, the sight and bipod of a BAR, and a salvaged AN/M2 aircraft machine gun. Lastly, a carry handle from a Browning 1919 A6 was added to allow the men to fire it from the hip and carry its prodigious weight – Forgotten Weapons clocked the gun in at better than 23 pounds.

While field modifications don’t always go like gangbusters, Cpl. Stein’s superiors approved this light machine gun’s production. Six Stingers were produced, though none are known to have survived, unfortunately. For his help in production, Tony was the only Marine outside Grevich’s unit to receive one of these quirky machine guns.

Stein was hell on wheels with his prototype machine gun in Iwo Jima, and he bravely withstood withering machine gun and sniper fire. He reportedly stood up in the open to best utilize the Stinger he had helped craft. The extremely high cyclic rate of the Stinger left him repeatedly bereft of ammo and ditching his shoes for speed. Cpl. Stein made no less than eight trips back to the beach for ammunition, carrying wounded comrades on his return treks.  According to James Hallas, “He was fearless…He didn’t know the meaning of the word fear.” 

The hail of bullets from the Stinger was devastating, particularly upon ricochet within the tight confines of the Imperial Japanese pillboxes, caves, and spider holes. With it, Cpl. Stein was credited with at least twenty infantry eliminations.

During the battle, the stinger was shot from his hands twice, but undaunted, Stein remained essential to the destruction of the Japanese strategic positions at the beachhead.

For his heroic acts and after fifteen formal endorsements, Tony Stein was awarded our nation’s highest award for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Tragically, within the next two weeks he would be killed in action by an enemy sniper. Still, his memory and the firearm Corporal Anthony Michael “Tony” Stein helped develop, live on in the annals of history.

Unless otherwise noted, all facts are from James Hallas’s Uncommon Valor on Iwo Jima: The Stories of the Medal of Honor Recipients in the Marine Corps’ Bloodiest Battle of World War II.

 What do you think about this story? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

Spread the love