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The Battle of Iwo Jima: Stinger

The date is February 19, 1945.  We're on the tiny island of Iwo Jima and the world is at war.  On this day, the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division delivers 3,400 troops ashore, a slew of brave Americans, hardnosed soldiers.  But Iwo Jima is heavily fortified, and expert planning for the Marines' assault make for easy pickings by the Japanese.

The Marines rise from the Pacific Ocean and move inch by inch through the volcanic resin of Iwo Jima, deep sand that sucks them down one foot closer to hell, and one step closer to the enemy.  Underfoot is a network of 15 miles of underground tunnels that link a multitude of gun positions and cave entrances above to a 1,500-room center of cavernous operations.  It is an engineering marvel that even seventy-two straight days of aerial bombings couldn't wipe out. 

Across Iwo Jima's eight square miles, tucked inside sturdy bunkers and pillboxes, 21,000 Japanese fighters patiently await the Marines' arrival.  As the Americans plod into visibility, an unimaginable assault is launched from the safety of the fortifications.  From all corners of the island, the hidden enemy seemingly devours the American troops. 

One platoon from A Company, 28th Marines is hopelessly pinned down by enemy fire. One 24-year-old soldier manages to move forward within 50 yards of the Japanese bunker that's picking off his troops behind.  Alone and unarmored, the Marine does the unimaginable: He exposes himself to the enemy and opens fire on the stronghold.  The move is fueled by raw courage, to be sure.  But the Marine has what will prove to be an ace in the hole in the form of a vicious modified aircraft machine gun called the "Stinger."

But firing an unstoppable 1,300 rounds per minute into the enemy bunker comes at a hefty price.  The Stinger eats ammunition at a savage rate, and the extra rounds are amassed 500 yards away on the beach, through enemy fire. The Marine has no option but to lighten his load and go for it.  He removes his shoes; he takes off his helmet, and begins dodging bullets in a desperate dash for the beach.

Narrowly escaping death—and even saving the life of a wounded Marine en route — the soldier collects more ammo and heads back to the kill zone.  Before the day's end, he'll repeat the death-defying run seven more times, each resulting in the Singer lighting up one bunker after another.  More than 20 Japanese die in the fiery blitz of raids that rip through Iwo Jima.  And in their wake, the door of opportunity is blasted open for the Americans to come.