Death came to soldier in a dream
For The Madera Tribune
This Madera Tribune article announced Tony Faso’s death in 1944.
Charles and Tony Faso were part of a large Madera family. Their father, Vincent, had immigrated here in 1901, and had married Grace Ferrare in 1914.
Charles was their first born, and Tony followed 10 years later. In addition to these brothers, the Fasos also had Mary, Vera, Marion, Josephine (Tony’s twin), and John.
The Faso family lived in the Story District on the family vineyard. Theirs was a happy childhood and life was good to them. Then came World War II, and like millions of others, Charles and his brother, Tony, answered their country’s call.
After they put on a uniform, the brothers went their separate ways and didn’t cross paths until they ironically both landed in Italy, their father’s homeland.
Tony had joined the all-volunteer First Special Service Task Force, and Charles wound up in a tank attached to the First Armored Division.
After training in the United States, Ireland, and England, Charles left for North Africa in October 1942. He and his comrades fought against the “Desert Fox,” Erwin Rommel, at Kasserine Pass and all over the rest of North Africa. Then he got orders to go to Italy, and that’s where he met his little brother.
Tony had known that Charles was in Company G of the 1st Armored Division, and sometime in the fall of 1943, he happened to see a line of tanks roll through bearing the 1st Armored logo. It took Tony just a short time to spot a tank with a painted picture of a woman in a bathing suit and bearing the name, “The Foolish Virgin.” Inside, he found his older brother, Charles.
On the day before Christmas, 1943, Charles went to Tony’s camp. He found his little brother excited and sharpening a trench knife. Clearly he was expecting hand-to-hand combat; he also had a macabre expectation of death on the battlefield.
Tony told Charles that he wasn’t afraid. “I have made a will,” he said. Charles chastised his younger brother and cautioned him “not to talk like that.” Tony responded again that he was not afraid and had made arrangements for his ring, watch, and personal belongings to be sent home.
Tony’s morbid expectation of death notwithstanding, the two brothers from Madera agreed to have Christmas dinner together, “even if it was out of a C-ration can,” and Charles went back to his camp.
That evening, he sat in his little pup tent and began to write a letter informing his parents that he and Tony were going to have Christmas dinner together. When he finished he went to bed and fell asleep. Suddenly he was awakened by a bone-chilling vision in which he saw Tony lying dead. Charles tossed for a moment and chalked it up to just a bad dream. It was about 11:45 on December 24, 1943.
The next day, after a reconnoitering mission in the morning, Charles returned to camp and was told that someone was waiting to see him at his tank. Expecting Tony, instead he found a friend of Tony’s.
Charles looked around and asked, “Where’s Tony?”
The man’s head dropped low and with tears in his eyes he told Charles that his brother was dead. He said there had been a big push the night before. Shells and bombs were falling, and Tony was spotted lying on the ground. At first, his comrades thought he was kidding. There was no blood or any sign of a wound. A closer look revealed he had been killed by a “screaming mimi” shell whose concussion had stopped his heart. The informer said that Tony had died at 11:45 p.m. Christmas Eve, the precise moment that Charles had experienced his dream.
So on Christmas Day, 1943, Charles Faso, instead of having Christmas dinner with Tony, went looking for his body. He wanted to see that his brother had a proper burial. Riding in his commander’s jeep, Charles finally found six 6 x 6 trucks loaded with bodies waiting to be buried. He inquired of his brother and was told that Tony had already been buried.
Charles found Tony’s grave marked by a cross on which hung his dog tags. The older brother paused and then left, comforted in some measure that his little brother had not had to wait for days to be buried.
As most everyone in Madera knows, Charles Faso survived World War II and came home to live out his life as a dedicated American who had been willing, along with millions of others, to lay down his life for his country.
As for Tony, he did pay the ultimate price for our freedom.
May a grateful nation always remember Charles, Tony and all who served.