Corporal Tony Stein, USMCR (February 19, 1945)

Tony Stein was born on September 30, 1921 in Dayton, Ohio. He was working as a machinist after graduating from high school and volunteered to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on September 22, 1942. Stein served with the elite Paramarines in the 3rd Marine Division during the Vella Lavella and Bougainville campaigns on active wartime duty with the United States Marine Corps.

During his combat experiences, Stein salvaged an M1919 Browning Machine Gun from a shot-down Navy fighter plane and fashioned it using his machine-tool skills as his own personal fighting weapon, which he nicknamed “The Stinger”.

Stein and “The Stinger” returned stateside after the Paramarines were disbanded in 1944. He was promoted to Corporal, and became part of the new 5th Marine Division in Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment. The new unit’s first action would be the invasion of Iwo Jima, which began seventy years ago today on February 19, 1945.

Stein hit the beaches of Iwo Jima in the first assault waves and used “The Stinger” to great effect in blasting a way forward for his comrades. He later made eight separate trips back to the beach for more ammunition, carrying a wounded Marine to safety each time. His incredible courage and unequaled fighting spirit pretty much assured the award of the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*STEIN, TONY

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

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 was killed in action ten days later on March 1, 1945. He had been wounded during the fight for Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi on February 23rd, but volunteered to leave care on board a hospital ship to return to the fighting. He was originally interred in the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. At his family’s request, Stein’s remains were returned home to Ohio and laid to their final rest with full military honors in the Calvary Cemetery in Kettering.

The United States Navy honored this hero of Iwo Jima with the Knox-class frigate USS Stein (FF-1065), which served with our fleet for twenty years from January 8, 1972 to March 19, 1992.

Both the 5th Marine Division and the 28th Marine Regiment are presently inactive.

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