On the night of July 9, 1943, 160,000 Allied troops landed on the extreme southwestern shore of Sicily. After securing a beachhead, Gen. George Patton's U.S. Seventh Army launched an offensive into the island's western hills, Italy's Mafia land, and headed for the city of Palermo. Although there were over sixty thousand Italian troops and a hundred miles of booby trapped roads between Patton and Palermo, his troops covered the distance in a remarkable four days.

According to Italian experts, Mafia and, especially, Lucky Luciano, at that time a boss of first order, played a fundamental role in facilitation and, substantially, consenting a simple invasion of the Sicily and, so, of the South Europe.

According to U.S. experts, what role did Lucky Luciano play in facilitation of South Europe invasion? Is there agreement between U.S. and Italian experts in defining that role?

  • 4
    Interesting question. +1
    – Tom Au
    May 11, 2013 at 22:31
  • 3
    What Italian experts? Can you cite sources? May 12, 2013 at 5:16
  • 3
    @Felix, according to Italian experts there is a dossier (Foreign Office 371/37327, N. R11483), preserved in the historical archive of Kew Gardens, which evidences an agreement between US Military Intelligence and Mafia. The dossier was written by Captain Scotten and was sent to General Holmes. Haven't you ever heard about this dossier? I'm really astonished!
    – user2237
    May 12, 2013 at 9:27

3 Answers 3


Lucky Luciano, with other Mafias, provided great network of informants and intelligence to allies in Operation Underworld and Operation Husky- Invasion of Sicily during WWII.

Operation Underworld (1942-1945):

After the SS Normandie incident, Navy contacted Meyer Lansky, a known associate of Lucky Luciano, to deal with possible Mussolini supporters within the predominantly Italian-American fisherman and dockworker population on the waterfront. Later, The State of New York, Luciano and the Navy struck a deal in which

  1. Luciano guaranteed full assistance of his organization in providing intelligence to the Navy.
  2. Luciano associate Albert Anastasia —who controlled the docks allegedly guaranteed no dockworker strikes throughout the war.
  3. Provide security for the war ships that were being built along the docks in New York Harbor.

In return, the State of New York agreed to commute Luciano’s sentence.

Operation Husky during WWII (July 1943) - Invasion of Sicily :

According to druglibrary,

Five days after the Allies landed in Sicily an American fighter plane flew over the village of Villalba, about forty-five miles north of General Patton's beachhead on the road to Palermo, and jettisoned a canvas sack addressed to "Zu Calo." "Zu Calo," better known as Don Calogero Vizzini, was the unchallenged leader of the Sicilian Mafia and lord of the mountain region through which the American army would be passing. The sack contained a yellow silk scarf emblazoned with a large black L. The L, of course, stood for Lucky Luciano, and silk scarves were a common form of identification used by mafiosi traveling from Sicily to America. It was hardly surprising that Lucky Luciano should be communicating with Don Calogero under such circumstances; Luciano had been born less than fifteen miles from Villalba in Lercara Fridi, where his mafiosi relatives still worked for Don Calogero.

In July the Civil Affairs Control Office of the U.S. army appointed Don Calogero mayor of Villalba.

But this source says Don Calogero was made an honorary Colonel of the U.S. Army.

Tim Newark's Lucky Luciano: Mafia Murderer and Secret Agent can be consider as a rich source for Lucky Luciano's role in Sicily invasion.

Two key people involve in this was Commander Charles R. Haffenden of the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence and Governor Dewey.

Tim Newark writes:

Haffenden argued the case for Luciano, saying he could persuade Governor Dewey to give him a pardon and send him to Sicily via a neutral country, such as Portugal. Full of enthusiasm for the idea, he said that Luciano recommended that U.S. forces land in the Golfo di Castellammare—a favorite Mafia drug- smuggling haunt near Palermo and home to many of those mobsters caught up in the gang war of the late 1920s. Wharton seriously considered the fantastic suggestion of sending the U.S. head of organized crime to a theater of war but could see this might well become a scandal after the war and reprimanded Haffenden for a lack of political judgment. He was more than happy just getting information from these gangsters without actually sending them to fight with tommy guns on the beaches of their homeland.

Another source is Herlands report of 1954. This was an investigation carried out at the direction of the Governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey to record the exact detail of the contact between US Naval Intelligence and New York’s Mafia mobsters. The US Navy were not happy with its findings, however, and the report remained secret for many decades afterwards. It is still unpublished.(SOURCE)

Luciano made many contacts available to naval intelligence which were helpful during Sicily invasion.

  • Certainly a lot of rumor surrounds this conjecture. I would note a remote controlled flying bomb slammed into a US Battleship of the Coast of Italy killing many New York sailors...and that ship was forced to return to New York City for repairs. Interestingly no consequent attack happened again and the other remaining Battleship and other Naval assets played a deccisive role both in the taking of Messina and in the landings at Anzio. In other words "huge tanks are no match for Naval Artillery with forward observers on the ground to provide feedback for said gunfire." The Germans quickly retreat Jun 26, 2016 at 19:32

Well, turns out that there is a wikipedia article about this. It is not clear from the article how valuable in reality was the help the US got from Lucky Luciano. It certainly was valuable for him, procuring him an eventual release from prison...


I am very doubtful about how the maffia in Sicily, even if it was very involved in helping the Allies at the same level as some European partisans, could give efficient intelligence in the context of the Sicily Campaign.

In this campaign, the Allies already knows a lot on the land forces in Sicily with the Air recons, and with radio interceptions (decoded or not). The air and naval forces of the Axis are neglicted and cannot be efficiently spied by Italian mafiosis of central Sicily.

Lucky Luciano probably had a lot of luck to obtain arrangements by the US government in exchange of intelligence.

Another point were the maffias could have helped is maintaining the stability of the captured Sicily. However, considering that "common" Italians were not very motivated at this stage of the war, I don't think the mafiosis were a great help.

Maybe the USA did matter about how the maffias could have desorganized their armies, considering what they were able to do in the USA? For example they could buy illegally or steal equipment, oil, and provide "entertaining" services to the GIs that would not have been of good advertising for the GI's mothers.

EDIT: The sources

For how the resistance could give huge amount of intelligence to the Allied forces, see for example the French resistance prior to the battle of France: https://www.dday-overlord.com/en/battle-of-normandy/resistance :

"According to General William Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services (US intelligence agency), 80% of useful information during the Normandy landings was provided by the French resistance."

For the air operations of Allies over Sicily: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_invasion_of_Sicily

From 3 July, bombing concentrated on Sicilian airfields and Axis communications with Italy, although beach defences were left alone, to preserve surprise as to where the landings would occur.[39] By 10 July, only two airfields in Sicily remained fully operational and over half the Axis aircraft had been forced to leave the island.[40] Between mid-May and the invasion, Allied airmen flew 42,227 sorties and destroyed 323 German and 105 Italian aircraft, for the loss of 250 aircraft, mostly to anti-aircraft fire over Sicily.[41]

For the arrangements, I was basing myself on the previous answers. I don't know exactly what Lucky Luciano got, but I am just speaking of whether what he gave to the Allied forces could be priceless.

The motivation of the common part of the Italian population is a well known point, even more if you consider that Italy capitulated after the invasion of Sicily and before the invasion of its main body.

Last paragraph is questions and hypothesis.

  • Here comes the sources :) It is all about well known points, and for the "maffia" part I am questionning Jun 7, 2019 at 16:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.