DIALOGUE AND DISCUSSION ON EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT AND RACE
The Mafia Restored: Fighters for Democracy in World War II
World War II gave the Mafia a new lease on life. In the United States, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) became increasingly concerned over a series of sabotage incidents on the New York waterfront, which culminated with the burning of the French liner Normandie on the eve of its christening as an Allied troop ship.
Powerless to infiltrate the waterfront itself, the ONI very practically decided to fight fire with fire, and contacted Joseph Lanza, Mafia boss of the East Side docks, who agreed to organize effective antisabotage surveillance throughout his waterfront territory. When ONT decided to expand "Operation Underworld" to the West Side docks in 1943 they discovered they would have to deal with the man who controlled them: Lucky Luciano, unhappily languishing in the harsh Dannemora prison. After he promised full cooperation to naval intelligence officers, Luciano was rewarded by being transferred to a less austere state penitentiary near Albany, where he was regularly visited by military officers and underworld leaders such as Meyer Lansky (who had emerged as Luciano's chief assistant). (14)
While ONI enabled Luciano to resume active leadership of American organized crime, the Allied invasion of Italy returned the Sicilian Mafia to power.
On the night of July 9, 1943, 160,000 Allied troops landed on the extreme southwestern shore of Sicily.(15) After securing a beachhead, Gen. George Patton's U.S. Seventh Army launched an offensive into the island's western hills, Italy's Mafialand, and headed for the city of Palermo. (16) Although there were over sixty thousand Italian troops and a hundred miles of boobytrapped roads between Patton and Palermo, his troops covered the distance in a remarkable four days.(17)
The Defense Department has never offered any explanation for the remarkable lack of resistance in Patton's race through western Sicily and pointedly refused to provide any information to Sen. Estes Kefauver's Organized Crime Subcommittee in 1951.(18) However, Italian experts on the Sicilian Mafia have never been so reticent.
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. (19)
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. (20) Two days later, three American tanks rolled into Villalba after driving thirty miles through enemy territory. Don Calogero climbed aboard and spent the next six days traveling through western Sicily organizing support for the advancing American troops. (21) As General Patton's Third Division moved onward into Don Calogero's mountain domain, the signs of its dependence on Mafia support were obvious to the local population. The Mafia protected the roads from snipers, arranged enthusiastic welcomes for the advancing troops, and provided guides through the confusing mountain terrain. (22)
While the role of the Mafia is little more than a historical footnote to the Allied conquest of Sicily, its cooperation with the American military occupation (AMGOT) was extremely important. Although there is room for speculation about Luciano's precise role in the invasion, there can be little doubt about the relationship between the Mafia and the American military occupation.
This alliance developed when, in the summer of 1943, the Allied occupation's primary concern was to release as many of their troops as possible from garrison duties on the island so they could be used in the offensive through southern Italy. Practicality was the order of the day, and in October the Pentagon advised occupation officers "that the carabinieri and Italian Army will be found satisfactory for local security purposes. (23) But the Fascist army had long since deserted, and Don Calogero's Mafia seemed far more reliable at guaranteeing public order than Mussolini's powerless carabinieri. So, in July the Civil Affairs Control Office of the U.S. army appointed Don Calogero mayor of Villalba. In addition, ANIGOT appointed loyal mafiosi as mayors in many of the towns and villages in western Sicily. (24)
As Allied forces crawled north through the Italian mainland, American intelligence officers became increasingly upset about the leftward drift of Italian politics. Between late 1943 and mid 1944, the Italian Communist party's membership had doubled, and in the German-occupied northern half of the country an extremely radical resistance movement was gathering strength; in the winter of 1944, over 500,000 Turin workers shut the factories for eight days despite brutal Gestapo repression, and the Italian underground grew to almost 150,000 armed men. Rather than being heartened by the underground's growing strength, the U.S. army became increasingly concerned about its radical politics and began to cut back its arms drops to the resistance in mid 1944. (25) "More than twenty years ago," Allied military commanders reported in 1944, "a similar situation provoked the March on Rome and gave birth to Fascism. We must make up our minds-and that quickly-whether we want this second march developing into another 'ism.' (26)
In Sicily the decision had already been made. To combat expected Communist gains, occupation authorities used Mafia officials in the AMGOT administration. Since any changes in the island's feudal social structure would cost the Mafia money and power, the "honored society" was a natural anti-Communist ally. So confident was Don Calogero of his importance to AMGOT that he killed Villalba's overly inquisitive police chief to free himself of all restraints. (27) In Naples, one of Luciano's lieutenants, Vito Genovese, was appointed to a position of interpreterliaison officer in American army headquarters and quickly became one of AMGOT's most trusted employees. It was a remarkable turnabout; less than a year before, Genovese had arranged the murder of Carlo Tresca, editor of an anti-Fascist Italian-language newspaper in New York, to please the Mussolini government