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I have heard that the Mafia cooperated with different governments in WW2. How extensive was this cooperation and was it effective?

  • Are you talking about the mafia in the United States or the mafia in Sicily or the mafia in Campagnia (the camorra)? – Tyler Durden Apr 1 '15 at 16:37
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    @TylerDurden, I rather expect the mafia was interlinked across the areas. – Ian Ringrose Apr 1 '15 at 16:39
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    Uh, no, in fact the mafia is not even "interlinked" across Sicily. Unless you consider different families killing each other to be "interlinking". There was something called "the commission" in the United States but that was mostly a New York organization. You might want to read actual books (not the Wikipedia) on the 19th and 18th century origins of the mafia so you understand what it is. If you think you know what the mafia is because you have watched some Hollywood movies like "The Godfather", think again. – Tyler Durden Apr 1 '15 at 16:56
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    The title question is an easy one ... none whatsoever. – CGCampbell Apr 1 '15 at 19:00
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    Also, please see Mark Wallace's answer to the Why did I get a downvote question. "I have heard".. really? You heard it from someone who was there? or you read it? In what book or article? – CGCampbell Apr 1 '15 at 19:06
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Mafia aid to the United State's war effort was fairly limited. Probably most importantly, the mafia agreed to guarantee cooperation of New York dockworkers with the US Navy. The Navy was concerned both with avoiding strikes and guarding against potential saboteurs:

The State of New York, Luciano and the Navy struck a deal in which Luciano guaranteed full assistance of his organization in providing intelligence to the Navy. In addition, Luciano associate Albert Anastasia—who controlled the docks and ran Murder, Inc.—allegedly guaranteed no dockworker strikes throughout the war. In return, the State of New York agreed to commute Luciano’s sentence.Luciano’s actual influence is uncertain, but the authorities did note that the dockworker strikes stopped after the deal was reached with Luciano. (source)

The mob also provided limited intelligence on Sicily:

[Lansky] approached his Sicilian business partner, the imprisoned Charles “Lucky” Luciano, to lean on Italian racketeers to cooperate with the Navy. Luciano gave the order to his goombahs, who quietly visited him in prison. Luciano provided the Navy with contacts in Sicily to assist Allied invasion planners. In return, Luciano’s 30-50 year prison sentence was commuted. He was deported to Italy, and Meyer’s status as a macher and gambling czar was secure.

There has been much debate over the real value of the Navy-mob collaboration. Surely, the legend that Luciano stormed the shores of Sicily with General Patton to greet a liberated countryside is absurd. But the Lansky/Luciano program did, in fact, guide Allied forces to key Nazi command centers on that beleaguered island.

Domestic waterfront sabotage for the rest of the war was nonexistent. Surely, the newfound cooperation of dockside racketeers had a chilling effect on German espionage. (source)

Meyer Lansky played an important role as go-between for the government and the Italian mob. Unsurprisingly, the Jewish mob was eager to fight domestic Nazi sympathizers:

For “Operation Underworld,” Meyer recruited his childhood friend, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Murder, Incorporated’s Louis “Lepke” Buchalter. These Jewish racketeers quickly became the real “inglorious bastards,” using guns, knives and bats to break up Bund rallies and send a message to Nazi sympathizers. As Meyer wryly acknowledged in his notes, “We weren’t yeshiva boys." (source)

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    Macher. Love it. – user6591 Apr 2 '15 at 13:47
  • "Nazi command centers": Were there actually German units stationed in Sicily? I was under the impression most of the fighting was against Italian units until they got a bit up the peninsula. – T.E.D. Apr 2 '15 at 18:31
  • @T.E.D.: Not sure. I take it you're referring to the claim that Lanksy/Luciano did "guide Allied forces to key Nazi command centers on that beleaguered island"? Maybe the Nazis had some commanders stationed there, or maybe the author of that piece meant "Axis." The entire Daily Beast article has quite the, uh, conversational tone. – two sheds Apr 2 '15 at 18:36
  • @twosheds - The latter wouldn't shock me, but I thought perhaps I'd heard wrong. – T.E.D. Apr 2 '15 at 19:57
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    @T.E.D.: It turns out there were Germans in Sicily at the time of the invasion. – two sheds Apr 2 '15 at 21:36
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One thing the Mafia did, for the British, was help with the return of two Generals & an Air Marshal to British lines after their escape from an Italian POW camp - when Italy surrendered & the guards scarpered. My father was in our Intelligence Corps and with his own hands gave 25,000 gold Sovereigns to a 'fisherman' who took them down-coast from German held to free territory. The gold was flown out from the vaults of the Bank of England the night before; liason with the Americans of their OSS, who probably 'facilitated' the deal, from the CinC's HQ. I believe Churchill must have okayed the whole matter! This was the second attempt, first with a submarine which missed the rendezvous. My father left annotations in two books testifying to this, plus a cryptic diary entry at the time - plus telling me - so it is factual. All kept secret at the time, & it still is re 'official' history.

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