Uh uh. I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?
I don’t feel lucky. For some reason I keep forgetting it’s Monday night. This is like 4 weeks in a row I’ve done this. Poopies. Oh well. Luckily I have a subject that doesn’t need much research.
You may be asking yourself why otter used a Dirty Harry quote with a picture that’s not Dirty Harry. Well, it just so happens that the picture of that mook up there is considered a lucky person. His name was Charles. But you only called him that if you were finished living. Friends and family called him Charlie. But the world knew him as Lucky.
Lucky Luciano, that is. I’m sure you’ve all heard of him. It’s hard to grow up watching movies and tv without knowing who Lucky Luciano was. His name is right up there with Pretty Boy Floyd, Al Capone, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Ma Barker, Bonnie and Clyde, Meyer Lansky.
He was a gangster. He made a name for himself during prohibition, and through a series of lucky breaks and audacious maneuvering, By the early 1930's was pretty much running the mafia in New York.* Until he went to jail, that is.
In 1936 he was convicted on 62 counts of compulsory prostitution and was sentences to 30-50 years in jail. Luckys luck had run out.
He was still able to influence the mafia from prison, so he wasn’t totally bored. Then this little thing called World War Two was started by some fathead who thought his Germans were better than everyone else.
Luciano read every newspaper he could get his hands on to find out as much about the war as he could. For all his faults, and disregarding his Italian birth, Luciano was a loyal American. And it actually pained him he was locked up and unable to help the war effort.
That is, until 1942. The war department was worried about German spies and saboteurs attacking America. And how would they get into the US? Through ports, most likely. It would be the easiest way to do it. Some ship could smuggle people in, or an agent could pose as a sailor to gain entrance to the US. And the government was determined to catch any spy before they could get loose into the wild.
Regardless of what people think about it, the government isn’t totally stupid. They knew who really ran the docks. Not just the ones in New York, but docks all up and down the coast. In fact, Albert Anastasia, the mobster who controlled the dock unions promised the government there would be no strikes during the war. They knew that if they wanted to monitor the ships coming in, the dock workers were the people to do it. And they knew that to get the dock workers help, they needed the help of the mafia.
So off to prison they went. And who did they visit? None other than Lucky Luciano. They knew he kept in close contact with his associates on the outside. So they asked if he could, maybe, put the word out that the dock workers should be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
Because he was an American and actually was fairly patriotic, Luciano agreed. He contacted his good friend Meyer Lansky and made the arrangements. And suddenly, the dock workers all up and down the coast took it as their patriotic duty to let the government know about anyone suspicious.
This small bit of cooperation got Luciano thinking; was there more he could do? By the end of 1942 it was fairly obvious how the war was going to turn out. The allies were victorious in North Africa, the Russians had stopped the German advance in the east, and the allies had more resources than the axis could ever hope to have. With the failure to take Moscow, Germany had lost the war.** They just didn’t know it yet.
By early 1943 it was obvious the allies were going into mainland Europe soon. And Italy was the most likely option. Luciano had been born in Italy. He had family there. More importantly, he had contact in La Cosa Nostra. The Mafia. So he got ahold of Lansky and told him to go to the government with an offer. At first Lansky laughed at Lucky. Then he realized Lucky was serious. So he took the proposal to the war department.
Lucky’s plan was for the government to Invade Sicily. He didn’t know they had already planned for that. But he also offered the services of any and all Italian dock workers that had personal knowledge of Sicily. And the government took him up on the offer. Soon scores of Italians were working with the war department to give details about coastlines, harbors, rivers, towns, and anything else they could remember. They looked at maps to verify their accuracy. They provided pictures of locations of interest to the military. They were able to describe the terrain.
But that wasn’t all Lucky wanted to do.
He offered to be parachuted into Sicily before the invasion to personally contact the mafia and gain their assistance. In exchange for his services, he asked to have the remaining length of his sentence commuted and be allowed to stay in Italy after the war.
At this, the government balked. Luciano was well known in Sicily, and he was respected by the mafia leaders there. The Italian and American mafias were linked. So Luciano’s influence would be helpful. Many in the military were all for it. Luciano could help save allied lives in the coming invasion. And they felt his freedom and exile to Italy was well worth what they would get in return.
But there was one major block to the plan. The governor of New York, Thomas Dewey. In 1936 when Luciano was put on trial, Dewey was the US Attorney in charge of the prosecution. And Luciano would be released early over his dead body. And now that he was the governor, he was the one that had to sign off on Luciano’s release.
No amount of coaxing would get Dewey to budge, and time was running out. The invasion was drawing near. So the military sent some agents in to spend a lot of time with Luciano. He told them everything they needed to know to gain the trust of the mafia in Sicily. They effectively became Luciano’s lieutenants.
A few days before the invasion the men who worked with Luciano, and several hundred other allied agents, were parachuted into Sicily to begin the prep work for the coming invasion. Contacts were made with the locals, and they were introduced to the local partisans.
When the invasion came, casualties were not as bad as expected, and the landing troops were able to put their detailed information of their areas to good use to get off the beaches quickly.
There is a lot of debate about ho effective Luciano’s help was. But if we look at the facts of the fight for Sicily, we see that the British, who didn’t have the help of the mafia, encountered very heavy resistance and slow progress. The Americans, who did have the assistance of the mafia, encountered light resistance and were able to advance much quicker than their allies.
In the early stages of planning, it was intended that the British, led by Field Marshall Montgomery, would be the first to reach and capture Palermo, the capital of Sicily. But it was the Americans, under General Patton, who got there first. The made it first due to the lighter resistance they encountered. Was that because of the mafias aid? It’s hard to know for sure.
What is known for sure though, is the information supplied by Luciano and his organization made the initial landings easier.
In February 1946, under intense pressure from Washington DC, Dewey very reluctantly held up the governments end of the bargain. Luciano’s sentence was commuted and he was deported to Italy. He stayed for 9 months before moving to Cuba. In early 1947 the US put pressure on Cuba to send him back to Italy, which they did. Luciano died in Naples Italy in 1962.
Did his help and influence alter the outcome of the war? No. Not one bit. But it did save allied lives. The exact number can’t be known, but common sense tells us it was most likely in the thousands.
* His career is actually a good story. You should read all about it.
** Actually, Hitler lost the war the moment he invaded Russia without knocking Britain out of the war first. Had Britain been dealt with, either conquered or under a peace treaty, Operation Barbarossa would probably been a success. Had all the western front resources been transferred to the eastern front, Russia could not have withstood like they did and Moscow would have easily fallen. And with Germany taking Moscow, Japan would have been convinced to enter the war, eliminating any chance Stalin would have had to save Russia.