Falini, Emidio J

Emidio Joseph Falini was born March 13, 1923 to Dominic and Virginia Saponaro Falini, emigrated from Italy, and settled in West Chester. Emidio was one of five children. His father, Dominic, was an entrepreneur and an orthopedic shoemaker by training.  He had contracts with colleges for sports shoes, and made boots for state troopers.  At one point he had three shoe stores in West Chester, although his son Tullio’s store at 112 S. High street is most remembered by residents.

Emidio was called “Mede” by his family and “Skeets” by his friends. He was an active member with his family in St. Agnes Church. He attended St. Aloysius Academy at Villa Maria. While attending the Academy he was the star of the track team, played the trombone, and acted in plays.  

Emidio was tall, just over six feet, with blue eyes, some thought he looked like Cary Grant.  He was happy and out-going, and lit up the room.  He loved playing cards, and would sing in the car with his friends.

Emidio with brother Dominick Jr.

Emidio attended West Chester High School but left during his senior year in September, 1943 to join the Navy. He was sent to Sampson, N.Y for basic training where he was rated third in his class. He received instruction as a signalman and was sent to Solomon’s Branch, Maryland for amphibious training. He also trained  for amphibious operations with the Marines in Corpus Christi, Panama, and San Diego.  

Emidio was assigned to a Landing Craft Infantry vessel - LCI(M)-974 - which was sent to Hawaii, then on to New Guinea. LCI’s were small landing ships that could beach to unload troops. LCI’s were 158 feet long, 23 feet wide, and could beach in three feet of water to unload troops. They displaced 250 tons and carried 200 troops. The crew comprised of four officers and 24 men, and could make 12 knots, about the speed of a Liberty ship. 
The LCI(M) was an LCI which was modified as close fire support ship. LCI(M) carried three 4.2 inch mortars and an Army team to fire them. Mortars, although short ranged, used an extremely high trajectory, and were effective against targets hidden behind fortifications.

Signalman 2nd Class Emidio participated in amphibious operations notably at Leyte Island in the Philippines. Leyte was the first Island in the Philippines to be retaken. It is where General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore October 20, 1944, fulfilling his promise to the joy of the Filipinos and announcing to the world, “I have returned”.

The landings at Leyte evoked a Japanese response. Japan put into effect their “Sho” (victory) Plan. The resulting three-pronged Naval attack intended to crush the amphibious forces. It became the largest Naval Battle in history. LCI(L)-974 shot down an enemy plane during this battle, a remarkable feat for such a small ship.

Emidio’s ship participated in the landings on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, at Lingayen Gulf in January, 1945. His ship pulled back from the shore  for the night. A Japanese Kaiten suicide boat snuck in under the cover of darkness, and hit LCI(M)-974 around 4am on January 10, 1945. The tremendous detonation caused by the explosives in the suicide boat, and the mortar ammunition, as well as fuel on the LCI, caused the ship to sink in about six minutes. The crew suffered heavy causalities. Emidio was below deck and did not have a chance.  

Emidio (r) and brother Tullio home on leave

Emedio's family was notified of his death on March 29th. Emidio’s brother Tullio, who served as Gunners a Mate 1st Class in the Coast Guard was home on leave when they received the tragic news. A memorial for Emidio was placed at St. Agnes Cemetery.

Emidio’s family received a letter from his Commanding officer, Lieutenant jg (Junior Grade) Joe F. Brown, who was hospitalized as a result of the attack.

“It is my saddest experience of the war to bring you this news. Although it will, in no way compensate for your loss, I hope you may find some consolidation in knowing that Emidio was a fine young man who was held in the highest esteem by all his shipmates and officers. He stood at his battle station with honor at all times, and I want you to know that his heroic sacrifice was made valiantly against common enemy, and that all of his shipmates and I, personally share your loss”.

Emidio's name can be found on the memorial page of the USS Landing Craft Infantry National Association website


Research by Don Wambold, WCMSC