In the movie Rocketeers the gangsters who were working unknowingly for the Nazis switched immediately sides after the hero revealed the identify of their employers. I think there are also many other movies where gangsters are depicted as patriotic.

Given their influence in the underworld the Mafia and other criminal groups could have gathered important information and support which is not available to the legal or military system. Is there any indication that American gangsters in general were willing to help by e.g.

  • giving tips to authorities if they observed suspicious activities (e.g. spying) in their district
  • watched channels for smuggling
  • accept disadvantages and losses by not working together with war-time enemies.
  • etc.

The important thing is that the gangsters did not have any advantage by working with the authorities (for e.g. money) so that the decision was triggered by patriotism.

Essentially, is the movie depiction of patriotic gangsters unadulterated kitsch or has it a real background?

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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Jan 6, 2017 at 1:12
  • US intelligence services sought assistance with Mafia types for information onto docks in new york, and later with the Sicilian mafia for information.how effective of reliable they were no idea, but I pretty sure the US sought their assistance. .
    – pugsville
    Jan 6, 2017 at 5:05
  • note: Japanese gangs were the first responders to the 2011 Kanto Earthquake / Tsunami and Fukushima disaster. Then after the government got organized, they continued to provide food / water / logistics / shelter. And they did their best to keep it a secret. Now that was pretty patriotic. Jan 6, 2017 at 23:05
  • @imaichiko, patriotic, or practical? Any sufficiently organized crime is indistinguishable from government -- if part of town is under your protection, it makes sense to provide disaster relief efforts there.
    – Mark
    Jan 6, 2017 at 23:31
  • @Mark When / where else in history have gangs been first responders? Gangs from all over Japan provided supplied and money. I am genuinely curious. I've never heard of such a thing. The USA gang response to lack of a police presence (disaster or not) is to murder the members of other gangs as well as looting... Jan 7, 2017 at 0:09

3 Answers 3


Given that the answers so far are not sufficient because they are only subsuming the Wikipedia link pointed out by Clint Eastwood , I line out the answer given in Wikipedia and give out the sources in case of link rot.

Yes, Mafia gangsters were very helpful in the planning of Operation Husky, the invasion of Silicy which is for many gangsters their isle of origin.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano’s associates contacted Sicilians to draw harbor maps and provide photos of the coastline for the Naval Intelligence.

Vito Genovese, another Mafia boss, offered his services to the U.S. Army and became an interpreter and advisor to the U.S. Army military government in Naples.

Sicilian underworld personalities and friendly Sicilian natives were reported and contacted during the Sicilian campaign.

  • Luconi, Stefano. "Italian Americans and the Invasion of Sicily in World War II." Italian Americana 25.1 (2007): 5-22.

  • McCoy, Alfred W. The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.

  • Newark, Tim. Mafia Allies: The True Story of America's Secret Alliance with the Mob in World War II. Saint Paul: Zenith Press, 2007.

  • Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Mast Powerful Mafia Empires. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005.

I do not count Lucianos help for preventing strikes because he only helped because the government agreed to commute its sentence.

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    The Sicilian Mafia greatly benefited from the downfall of Mussolini's regime, so their assistance in the Invasion of Italy seems more like opportunism than patriotism. That goes for Genovese too, who may have suffered due to his close association with Mussolini at the time. Jan 10, 2017 at 0:10

yes. WWII. Italian mob helped with Italian campaign.

Wikipedai entry


Not exactly gangsters but pirates played a large role in the battle for New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Here is one of their leaders

  • Pirates are not exactly typical gangsters.and it is a little uncertain how "American" those pirates were. thus calling them American gangsters seems a bit far fetched.
    – MAGolding
    Jan 11, 2017 at 1:21

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