USMC Stinger Machine Gun: Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima

Corporal Tony Stein
United States Marine Corps Reserve

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, 19 February 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 an 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.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

The Stinger was a Browning aircraft machine gun adapted to use an M1 Garand buttstock and BAR bipod, used as a light machine gun by the US Marine Corps during the invasion of Iwo Jima in 1945. The gun was the creation of Sergeant Mel J Grevich oof the 5th Marine Division. Six were built and used on the attack on Iwo, including one by Corporal Tony Stein, whose outstanding bravery is documented in the Medal of Honor citation above. None of the original guns survive today, but I have the privilege of showing you this reproduction created by the Canadian Historical Arms Museum with the assistance of O’Dell Engineering.

44 Comments

  1. Well thank the good lord for Cpl Stein, what a good idea that was in the circumstances; and… Especially when well used. Theres a war “battle by battle” winning small arm, artillery aside for once.

    And well done to the Canadians, author etc, for bringing it to our attention.

    • Insane situations can sometimes call for insane solutions. Most rational people would have declared the “stinger-stopgap” a bad idea, but there wasn’t anything better at the time. Forget sending the grunts charging after the pillboxes with bayonets and grenade bags if the defense has good overlapping fire zones, since any pillbox can ask its neighbors for covering fire. Why not send the tanks first? Oh, wait, mines and pitfall traps… did I mess up?

      • No I don’t think so, the Japanese defenders; needed a aircraft gun against them, they simply would not die by normal means.

        One surrended in the 70’s apparently, the 1970’s.

        • In ’74, one surrendered in the Philippines and another one in Indonesia. I wonder if they got paid overtime, after all they didn’t enjoy any leave for about 30 years…
          There’s a book about the one in Lubang, Philippines. Barley 30 clicks long, that island, amazing being able to hide for so long!

        • One? There were hundreds of these Japanese soldiers on isolated islands and deep inside the jungle. Many of them surrendered before 1950, but dozens remained after that, continuing the war for decades in some cases.

          Some never heard that the war was over, others had received orders to stay until relieved and not believe enemy propaganda and dirty tricks.

      • Japans population is shrinking apparently; having watched some of their Porn, thats no way to get a 2nd date after hitting 1st base.

        • Milktray; it’s a box of chocolates, availble in Britain. You combine these with flowers seemingly. As a tip. We could export you some. You have to then do any “porn things” prior to marriage, as then they get hair curlers and eat to many pies, divorce and rob you. After increasing the population, however… Hint.

          Your skipping the 1st base till marriage rule, and your women have gone on strike. You too porny.

  2. When Ordnance doesn’t develop an MG-42 for your needs…you build your own! The volume of fire from these machines must have been incredible.

    I am glad that someone found a good use for BAR bipods.

  3. This is as crude as it gets, but it proves one fact – universality of Browning .50cal machinegun. In normal version, twice as heavy, works like mule forever. This one, half weight, spits bullets faster and goes on almost for as long. Amazing design; there is still no replacement for it.

    • Oh yeah, I missed this to say: I wish Ian makes feature on .50cal BMG. Not because we cannot read, but because he IS a master of narrative. Simply laid out, entertaining and mainly clear.

    • I think we’re discussing the naval dive-bomber tail gunner’s .30 caliber M2, not the .50 caliber M2. A hand-held M2 heavy? What have we been smoking here?

    • “Proves”? I saw no such thing. The only facts documented in the article are one line from an award citation (a hero, veteran, and machinist; therefore, probably exactly the sort of expert required to make such a thing work at all) plus a museum making (Firing? Not mentioned AFAICT) a replica.

      Half-weight barrel, double+ ROF, neither slipstream cooling as originally designed, nor special provisions (PKP) for increased cooling on the ground, nor changeable barrels. Sounds like the coolest (no pun intended) thing ever – for about 20 seconds.

      There’ve been some reviews that I’d regard as exceptions to Ian’s overall thesis that forgotten weapons were forgotten for good reasons, but I think this one was best left forgotten. The world’s manufacturers, acquisition officials, and shooters seem to agree – all the more telling when you consider that aircraft RCMGs were already being recognized as obsolete at the time of this mod. Anyone in the market for a postwar squad MG could have made one of these for a song (bargain surplus + stock) – yet designed new guns instead. The few exceptions continued with purpose-designed WWII ground guns, nothing like this.

        • You’re obviously entitled to your opinion, but again no maker, buyer, or user seems to share it.

          Before quick-change barrels became popular, air-cooled MGs had low rates of fire and heavy barrels and/or fired in short bursts. PKP is unique among modern belt-fed MGs in lacking a quick-change barrel; they made up for it using a heavy barrel and special venting / cooling, and the rate of fire isn’t that high. EVERY other modern BFMG has either has QCB or multiple (Gatling) barrels. Some experienced operators say they rarely change barrels, but none of them are using light aviation barrels, or firing at a rate anywhere near 1400rpm.

          • What were their alternatives for a LMG to suppress the enemy during an assault? The M-1918A2 BAR or the Browning M-1919A6? The Stinger filled a specific niche better than either of those two guns.

          • [Reply to Brandon Cope; sometimes these get out of order]
            Again, where is the evidence for “better”? Though neither the BAR nor the M1919 is optimal, the Stinger shares all their drawbacks (the 1919A6’s silly attempt at making a “light” from a medium by adding length and bulk; both guns’ lack of quick-change barrels, which is however quite manageable in the Browning originals due to their heavy barrels and ROF 40-50% of the Stinger’s).

            The US and numerous nations used the BAR and M1919 (or close analogues thereof) for decades. Conversely, the noted characteristics of the Stinger have been deemed “better” and successfully replicated approximately zero times subsequent to the single battle noted here. What did the Marine Corps, the regiment, or even the six noted individuals do with Stingers afterward to substantiate that they shared your assessment?

      • “(…)Anyone in the market for a postwar squad MG could have made one of these for a song (bargain surplus + stock) – yet designed new guns instead. The few exceptions continued with purpose-designed WWII ground guns, nothing like this.(…)”
        In 1941 Slostin designed dual purpose (aviation + ground) variable Rate-of-Fire machine gun: http://airwar.ru/weapon/guns/kb-p-65.html
        some examples were made, but sadly deteriorating situation prevented further development.
        There were also attempts at grounding of ShVAK machine gun (NOT to be confused with ShVAK cannon), but they failed, see photos at bottom: http://airwar.ru/weapon/guns/shvak127.html

  4. 1917, and ’19 were, of course, water cooled and recoil operated, so the quick-change barrel that would have been a huge boon, just wasn’t happening. While I’m sure the Marines on Iwo Jima were glad for these six samples; I suspect a handier .30-06 gun would have found more use.

  5. Rare or forgotten firearm: A*
    Historical content: A*
    Original hardware: B
    Practicum: C-
    Truly high marks for this one by Cambridge grading. If I were a better gun geek I should probably know how the .30 M2 differed from the M1 in order to get 1.4k RPM W/O hammering the thing to death…or maybe it was just shorter expected lifetime?

  6. I’ve always wondered why nobody seemed to realize the potential of the French Darne flexible aircraft machine gun as a ground LMG;

    https://www.forgottenweapons.com/medium-machine-guns/darne/

    It was tested as an infantry gun, but only actually used as an aircraft observer gun.

    In many ways, ranging from stamped steel construction (sturdier than the Chauchat) and high ROF, plus belt feed, it could almost be considered a forerunner of the MG42.

    There probably wasn’t anything that could save the French Army from the consequences of having its General Staff in 1940, but numbers of Darne 7.5mm GPMGs in the infantry sections could not have failed to make things more “interesting” for the Wehrmacht.

    cheers

    eon

    • The high firing rates were needed because the SAS couldn’t afford to STOP their vehicles during their raids. Stopping meant making the jeeps and their occupants easy targets for counterattacks. Shooting on the move while saturating one’s intended victims with copper-jacketed lead required a high rate of fire anyway.

    • They were easily obtained. When the RAF received B-25 Mitchells and A-20 Havocs under Lend-Lease, almost the first thing they did was remove flexible .50 Browning guns and either replace them with 0.303in Brownings or not replace them at all. and the majority of them used by the Desert Air Force in North Africa came direct from the U.S., by ship, delivered in Alexandria, Egypt.

      Hand-swung HMGs simply did not fit into the RAF’s doctrines. So there were all these brand-new Browning .50s in packing crates in Alexandria…

      By 1943, Bomber Command at least had realized the shortsightedness of those doctrines. B-24s in the Far East and India retained all their .50 caliber guns, and Lancasters and Halifaxes in England had their quadruple 0.303in Browning power turret-mounted MGs replaced with twin .50 Brownings, the better to defend themselves against Luftwaffe night fighters.

      By then, of course, the Desert War was over. SAS kept using their jeeps for reconnaissance, notably in Italy, but the new replacements had Vickers VGO 0.303in guns in twin mounts, not aircraft type .50 Brownings.

      They also had twin 50 Imp. gal. gas tanks mounted either side of the bed, replacing the huge number of jerry cans of petrol that were practically the SAS trademark in the desert. They arrived from the factory that way, causing more than a few SAS veterans to scratch their heads.

      Surely somebody up the chain of command could look at a map and figure out that it was a lot farther from Alexandria to Tripoli than it was from Naples to Rome?

      cheers

      eon

    • “SAS used aircraft machine guns on their jeeps and other vehicles in the desert war.”
      Best known of them – namely Vickers G.O. – was magazine-feed, see 3rd image from top:
      https://modernfirearms.net/en/machineguns/great-britain-machineguns/vickers-g-o-eng/
      According to https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ref/MG/I/MG-4.html#24 it was reliable and offered high performance, but it popularity in aviation role (observer gun) was limited due to changing RAF bombers armament philosophy turning away from free (moved by observer’s muscle) guns toward power turrets. Thus many become available for SAS use. Also unlike U.S. .30 Browning aviation machine gun, Vickers G.O. has quick-barrel-change ability.
      When overheated, the easily detachable barrel could be changed by an experienced operator in five seconds without touching it…

  7. The USMC has a mighty tradition of grabbing any firepower it can get its hands on. There’s a set of rules for appropriating supplies; ideally, from the enemy, if not that, then from the Army (where it got its designated marksmen M-14s), if not that, from the Navy, from another Marine regiment, and so on.

    So I’m just interested in whose aircraft guns they yoiked on Iwo.

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