THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE MAFIA IN ITALY:
FROM SUPPRESSION BY MUSSOLINI TO REVIVAL BY 'LIBERATION,' 1926-19461
Conservatives and liberals alike yield to florid raving when writing of Benito Mussolini and Italian Fascism. In their books and articles and reviews of one another's books, there is usually cheerful agreement on the horrid sinfulness of 'Il Duce,' and unconcealed gloating at his overthrow (Winston Churchill rushed in to his dinner party upon hearing of Mussolini's murder, exclaiming with gratification, "Ah, the bloody beast is dead!"), with an occasional murmur of unhappiness later on from those who realized how close Italy came to becoming a Stalinist client state by default.
In the last three decades there has been much moaning about the incredibly bad condition of Italy's government since the eclipse of Fascism. But at the same time it is conventional to make contemptuous references to any efforts asserting that Mussolini was responsible for something of significance, even though the country is still covered with memorials of his era. Few overcome the shams of modern ideological fuzz-sorting, and most Mussolini detractors end up producing a literature which resembles what might have been fished from the wastebaskets of the old Daily Worker.
The bias in favor of Communist explanations is best revealed in the established account in the last generation concerning Mussolini's end. Invariably we read of him being 'executed by partisans,' though all should know better. Bushwhackers prowling behind the battle lines and self-appointed political opponents representing foreign allegiance exploiting the disorder caused by war are not empowered to 'execute' anyone. Mussolini was murdered by Italian Communists operating under Stalinist discipline.2 It was as simple as that. By the standards the friends of world Communism apply to Italy in 1945, one would have to declare that any time a head of state were killed anywhere, it would have to be described as an 'execution.'
One of the consequences of the destruction of Mussolini and his regime was a prodigious rise in criminal activities in Italy, engineered by traditional organized criminal gangs which returned to the scene of established activities when emptied from the confines of Mussolini's prisons. Dominating this development were the revivified Mafia, effectively subdued for over a decade before the arrival in 1943-44 of the Anglo-American armies, and suddenly back in business everywhere with the achievement of liberation.' For a time, wounded ideologues were offended by the assertion that the Mafia had returned to former power and influence as a consequence of 'Allied' policies, and sought to minimize the achievement of Mussolini's police in earlier decades, by suggesting that the Mafia had been little disturbed in those days, thus managing to ignore all the evidence of substance to the contrary which was available in many locations. How they explain the sudden prominence of the 'Honored Society' immediately upon the scene coincident with the 1943 invasion of Sicily by Mussolini's enemies is substantially an essay in utter awkwardness. The literature which contradicts this line has been growing steadily, and a steady readjustment has been taking place, despite repeated efforts to divert attention away from the central importance of the Allied invasion of Sicily in July, 1943 in making the Mafia a power once more. If the Mafia came ashore only figuratively in the landing craft and the tanks of the 'liberators,' there surely was much direct communication and supporting action between the latter and the remnants of the Mafia in the path of the invasion in the first two weeks or so of the assault on the island. That this aspect of the story has been gravely exaggerated becomes evident as time passes and more realistic appraisals of that event occur. What remains obscured is the beginning of it all, an embarrassment to most writers on the subject, who prefer to substitute ex post facto value judgments in harmony with a generation of liberal fixations for the facts.
While the authors of modem accounts of the Mafia are not all inclined to gloss over the vicious homicidal greed of the contemporary Brotherhood, a note of plaintive wistfulness creeps into some of their narratives at the point where they deal with the collision between the Mussolini regime and the Mafia in Italy. The arrest and conviction of the latter for hundreds of murders, among thousands of other crimes, becomes a bagatelle and an incidental; the central fact is the jostling of their 'civil rights and liberties.' It is unimportant that this large contingent of the world's most depraved criminals is locked up; a tear or two courses silently down the cheeks of the writers and falls upon their typewriters as they contemplate the injury done to this brutal killer fold's tender psyches by the Mussolini police, and their partial dispersal from Sicily to the underworld of the large American cities is treated almost in the same class as the flight of the Israelite children from the agents of Herod. The police draw not a single word of commendation and are cast as the villain in their effort to clear Sicily and southern Italy of the most deeply entrenched criminal enterprises in Europe. The real forgotten persons in these quasi-apologies for the Mafia are their noncriminal victims; it is almost impossible to read anything about them. Whatever the mawkish sentimentality aroused in behalf of the gangsters, one can generally be assured that their prey will remain nameless, the multitudes from whom they have robbed and extorted vast sums blithely ignored, and the legion they have slain effectively lost from the record in perpetuity.
The campaign of the Mussolini regime to extirpate the Mafia from Sicily began abruptly though there is much doubt as to the motivation for it, and many details still evade the students of this matter. September 25, 1926 is the date assigned for the formal initiation of the anti-Mafia program by the Encyclopedia of World History, which source described the Mafia as "a loose criminal organization which had dominated Sicilian politics for 50 years."3 It was significant that the editors should make direct reference to the relationship between crime and politics; any kind of basic understanding of the former without a solid awareness of the realities of the latter, anywhere in the world, is unlikely.
The above date, however, was just the occasion when a bill had been introduced in the Italian Chamber of Deputies for the suppression of the Mafia in Sicily.4 The drive had actually begun almost five months earlier. On April 30, Mussolini's police had arrested 450 suspected Mafia in raids which were conducted simultaneously in a dozen cities and towns, fighting what were reported in the American newspapers as "pitched battles."5 A New York Times feature article two days later identified the 'boss' of the Mafia at this moment as one Gaetano Ferrarello.6 But the account was somewhat premature and innocent in announcing that Sicily was rid of these "bandits" "after 50 years of terror." Mussolini was quoted as declaring that "the wound of Sicilian criminality" would be "cauterized" "with iron and fire if necessary," and that his regime would" go to the very root of the matter regardless of anyone's feelings."7
There is little to notice for over a year after these dramatic pronouncements on the subject by the leader of Italian Fascism, undoubtedly a period of intensive investigation and preparation by the prosecution. But on October 22, 1927 the first result of the offensive was announced, when a mass trial of Mafiosi began following a dragnet which scooped up more than 30 leaders at Termini Imerese.8 On January 11, 1928 there resulted the conviction of 147 persons, seven of whom received life at hard labor, eight receiving sentences of 30 years, and an additional five getting 25 years.9 Though later writers conveniently overlooked the reported facts and tried to create the impression that the defendants were the victims of 'drumhead' proceedings which trampled on the defendants' 'civil rights,' these same defendants apparently had the resources to hire a battery of 60 lawyers to head up their defense. Reporters concluded that the organization had surely received its 'death blow' now.10
But the assault on the Mafia had barely begun. On February 8, a new trial of 341 Mafia suspects began in Palermo.11 followed by the arrest and trial, also in Palermo, of an additional 379 persons from Agrigento and Caltanisetto.12 In the latter some 500 police were involved, the defendants being charged among other things with 500 major crimes, including 62 murders.
On March 7, 1928 the court at Termini Imerese convicted 67 more persons for various crimes, and sentenced them to terms of from two to 27 years.13 Special penal farms were created on the Lipari Islands, off the north coast of Sicily, where these sentences were to be served.14
From this time on, feature articles on this sensational program crowded into the press of the world, and none outside Italy exceeded the New York Times in breadth of coverage. A column and a half story on January 16, 1928 trumpeted, "Breaking the backbone of the Mafia is one of Premier Mussolini's great achievements."15 And an editorial the following day pinpointed the actual police executive responsible for directing this drive, Prefect Cesare Mori of Palermo, a veteran of almost 40 years of service in the Italian police. Said the Times, "Prefect Mori of Palermo, who has broken the back of the Mafia in Sicily, will go down in history as a deliverer and superman."16
The Times ultimately ran three commendatory profiles of Mori, probably the most admiring being by their own correspondent, Arnaldo Cortesi, on March 4, 1928,17 which' also included a photograph of Mori and a picture of a group of alleged Mafia on trial, enclosed in a large cage; this latter tactic was employed a number of times during mass trials, and was intended to protect the judge, witnesses and jury from personal attack from one or another of the defendants. Cortesi concluded that police working under Prefect Mori had made arrests in 79 of361 municipalities, totaling 1086 men belonging to five gangs, and accused, among hundreds of serious crimes, of 357 murders alone. Between May, 1926 and the end of March, 1928 it was determined that 11 policemen had been killed and another 350 wounded in what amounted to virtual battles with the Mafia.
Though some narratives concerned with the suppression of the Mafia tend to be exclusively concerned with Sicily and dream up fanciful reasons for this operation,18 it was actually part of a three-pronged effort to subdue organized crime as well on the island of Sardinia, and in Calabria, the three provinces in the 'toe' of the Italian mainland 'boot.' A Times survey on February 19, 1928 reported that Italian authorities considered the Sardinian crime rate to be double that of Sicily, with a murder rate of 24 per 100,000 population, as against Sicily's 16. As for Calabria, it was officially considered to have a crime rate higher than either Sicily or Sardinia, and observers were wondering when Mussolini would stretch the anti-crime drive there.19
Some social and political realities of the time during which this anti-Mafia onslaught took place have to be kept in mind, as well as some of the international implications. The swiftness and comprehensiveness of the drive headed by Prefect Mori caused grave disturbances among the Mafia, which responded to it not only in major gun battles with the police but also in flight from the area, ranging from the Italian mainland to the United States. Though the major Sicilian figures in the American branch of the Mafia had arrived well before 1926, their gangs accumulated a considerable number of lesser hoodlums who found America a haven from the Italian police pursuit. The large number of Italians in the U.S.A. also made a convenient hiding place for this immigrating criminal element. The adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution had spawned a fantastic increase in the opportunity available to make a living by breaking the law,20 and the supplying of the parched American appetite for illegal alcohol, and everything that went with it in the field of legally enjoined pleasures and diversions, gave organized crime a stimulus which could hardly have even been imagined at an earlier time, even though criminal gangs were a part of urban America since the early post-Civil War years. With Americans spending $100,000,000 a year abroad on alcohol by 1925,21 it can be understood that those who decided they should spend such money on hard liquor at home knew what they were doing in developing the massive smuggling system that evolved in the 1923-1933 decade. The Mafia were just a part of the entire 'bootlegging' scene, competing with other ethnic gangs of Irish, Jewish and assorted lesser organizations of different ancestry.22 let alone the immense domestic group of native birth engaged in home manufacture and distribution of high voltage drink, much of it of somewhat questionable nature.23
In any case, the Mussolini effort to stamp out the Mafia contributed to the mobilization of Sicilian gangsters here. And in a significant way they also brought long-standing feuds and competition with them. The legal authorities reported 527 gangster killings in the state of Illinois alone in 1928, part of this sharp rise traceable to the importation of ancient rivalries from Sicily.24
Though the criminals fleeing from the island did not make recourse to the ploy of claiming to be 'political' persecutees, so dear to killers and armed robbery and mayhem artists in the U.S. of 40 years later, they did not shrink from involvement in political affairs if there was gain to be made from it. A number of Mafia 'refugees' were known even to return to Italy early in 1927 to build a system to smuggle 'anti-fascists' to France.25
It has been seen that many of the convictions of Mafia in Sicilian courts were for homicide, but that no death sentences were handed down. Italy had no capital punishment for any offense at that time, though this was restored late in November, 1926 following the third assassination attempt on Mussolini in that same year. The regime proposed its re-establishment on November 5, and the Italian Senate approved it fifteen days later.26 However, it was severely restricted to a very limited number of offenses; treason, espionage, armed rebellion, and attempts on the life of the head of state by an Italian native (this delicate stipulation was probably made to exclude any possible ex post facto invocation of the law against the first of Mussolini's attempted killers in 1926, an Englishwoman who was the sister of an English nobleman27). So no death penalty attached to subsequent Mafia convicted of murder either, and there were quite a few.
A remarkable decrease in crime in Italy and Sicily was reported by early 1929,28 but Prefect Mori's offensive bore on. As a consequence of an extended proceeding, 154 members of a Palermo gang were sent to prison on February 28.29 Then another major trial took place at Termini Imerese, which lasted nine months and concluded with a jury mulling over 7,000 questions. Part of the problem here was a consequence of the voluminous documentation supplied by the prosecution, which involved the vast captured correspondence of the Mafia chief in this instance, a lawyer named Ortolena. This material not only demonstrated a serious involvement of Sicilian governmental authorities but also revealed significant ties with Mafia in the United States. It ended in a verdict of guilty for 150 of the 161 defendants, on May 1, 1929.30
In 1930 another major trial took place in Sicily at Sciacca, involving 241 alleged Mafia, who were accused of several hundred crimes, including 43 homicides. The prosecution eventually produced a small mountain of documentary evidence, which filled 69 boxes. Beginning in the first week of July,31 the trial dragged on into 1931. On June 22 of that year, the trial concluded with the conviction of 124 Mafia (the number of the defendants had shrunk from 241 to 178), 15 of the convicted receiving life sentences, and the 109 others receiving a total of 1,200 years in prison. The jury was out 4 days, and considered a total of 3,000 questions.32 This Sciacca trial was considered the most sensational of the entire series, the defendants sitting in three iron barred cages throughout the proceedings before the Court of Assizes. What was worth noticing once more was that the defendants were hardly poverty-stricken peasants, being represented once more by a substantial contingent of what were reputed to be highly paid lawyers.33
There had been a diversion at the start of this trial. Five days after it commenced, Azzo Rosario, the mayor of Lucca, a medium-sized city in northwest Italy, was murdered, and witnesses testified that his murderers were Mafia members.34 This represented an exceptional case, since it was most uncommon to see the Mafia involved in criminal affairs this far away from their customary base. It was more likely that this homicide was related to internal political affairs, as assassinations of officials of various ranks had been going on repeatedly since the Matteotti affair.
Americans were treated to a eyewitness report on a Mafia trial by an American early in December, 1930. The well-known magazine publisher, S.S. McClure, was present at the beginning of a new Palermo trial. He mentioned that Prefect Mori had received four gold medals for his work in prosecuting the Mafia since 1926, and reported that on one occasion Palermo had experienced 1,750 murders in a single year. The Mori campaign had thus far resulted in roughly 2,000 arrests and about half as many convictions, with the result, McClure stated, that "Today, in Sicily and Naples, and in all the regions heretofore plagued by the racketeer, there is absolute freedom from any form of extortion."35
By the end of 1931 the drive to wipe out the Mafia was entering its final stages. Another big Palermo trial started on November 29 of that year, with the public prosecutor seeking jail sentences for between 165 and 200 of a somewhat larger group of defendants,36 The trial lasted into Christmas week, and of an eventual 245 persons brought before the court, 141 were convicted on December 29, 1931.37
Only one trial drew attention in 1932, but it was another on the scale previously conducted at Sciacca. This one began in the early spring, at Agrigento, and was held in the former monastery of Santo Spirito in that city, with the defendants once more confined in a large barred cage in the improvised courtroom. Here on May 2, 1932 another 244 Mafia members were sentenced to a total of 1,200 years in prison.38 And a special piece to the New York Times six weeks later praised Italy as a country among the world's leaders in instituting penal reforms.39
To this point the entire attention had been devoted to the anti-Mafia incursion in Sicily, though a simultaneous drive had been going on in the neighboring island of Sardinia. On June 22, 1934 an electrifying raid took place on the Italian mainland, largely in the towns of Cadeto, Gallino, Arno and Pellaro, all located on the 'sole' of the Italian peninsular 'boot.' Some 400 Mafia were arrested in this swoop, the majority of whom turned out to have fled there from Sicily some time before.40 They had as might be expected returned to traditional 'protection rackets,' reported to be very heavy in Reggio Calabria as they had once been in Sicily. Their trial was to last a year, during which 1,000 witnesses appeared against them with an unspecified number drawing long prison terms.
By mid-1935 it may be assumed that the Mafia had been reduced to a thin shadow of its former dimensions. And priorities in Italy had profoundly shifted as Mussolini had begun Italy's quest for big-power status and a prominent position in the Mediterranean as well as a belated influence as an African colonial entity. The growing hostility toward Mussolini and the Italian Fascist state in the English-speaking world found commendation of anything in Italy no longer fashionable, and most of what was to be learned about domestic affairs in Italy concerned matters discreditable to the regime.41
The last mention of the prosecution of the Mafia prior to the outbreak of World War II occurred in the third week of November, 1937, when 80 arrests occurred in Trapani and the contiguous areas of mountainous and relatively inaccessible western Sicily, and subsequently arraigned in Messina.42 The press reports mentioned little about this other than it was a response to a "revival of Mafia activities," and there was nothing printed subsequently as to the outcome of this newest application of police power to the Sicilian Mafia.
Since the central theme of this narrative concerns the fate of the Mafia in Sicily and Italy, with only incidental reference to various international relationships growing out of this, the history of the Mafia in America has not been included except where the interlocking consequences of their joint existence becomes obvious.43 Therefore the latter aspect has been treated as a peripheral subject. It is the Second World War which brings the two together to an even greater degree than prevailed in the 1920's and 1930's, at least in their connection to international politics. And it is as a consequence of the latter that the Mafia became something more than a domestic phenomenon in both Italy and the U.S.A. In Italy, what looked like extinction was turned around by the fortunes of the war, which became the salvation of the Mafia as a force in Italian affairs.
How this came about requires a summary of Mafia experiences in the United States in the decade between the ending of Prohibition and the Anglo-American invasion of Sicily as a phase of World War Two. From 1933 on, the legalization of the manufacture, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages ended the phase of Mafia criminal opulence resulting from violation of the previous illegality of such enterprises. Undoubtedly things had begun to change in the relationships between the Mafia and the conventional world, and one of the major aspects of this was the steady penetration of legitimate business by Mafia money, influence and management, resulting in a degree of prosaic respectability which has grown steadily ever since. But organized crime still made the bulk of its money from control of gambling, prostitution and the ever-expanding extortion or 'protection' rackets, the latter much aided by the corruption of unions, none of which were affected adversely by the end of Prohibition. In fact, one of the new adjustments made by the Mafia was the substantial penetration of the new legitimate businesses supplying Americans with beer, wine and whiskey. Much of the latter two were imported, and what was originally a minor enterprise of organized crime, the infiltration of the waterfront of the large port cities, became a very large one ultimately, with port facilities, some longshoremen's unions and all other functional aspects coming under their control. It was this situation which attended the preposterous incidents related to the extension of the war to Italy in the early 1940's.
There are two phases of the achievement of respectability by the Mafia via 'cooperation' with the military and naval intelligence arms of the U.S. war machine after American involvement in the war after December, 1941. One was recruitment in the famous wartime spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the ancestor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the alleged supply of information about Sicily deemed crucial to the invasion planners prior to this event in July, 1943. The other concerned the alleged cooperation with naval intelligence in alerting them as to the existence of German and Italian spies on the New York waterfront and preventing such enemy espionage from penetrating the dock areas and destroying ships or facilities or perpetrating related sabotage.
It now appears that such fears about spies and saboteurs were assiduously encouraged by American Mafiosi, especially after the big French luxury liner Normandie burned and capsized at its pier in New York harbor early in 1942. The nervousness of counter-intelligence after that and the thought that a series of such calamities might be in the offing led to the initiating of relationships with the Mafia and the creation of something called "Operation Underworld," a loose liaison between U.S. Naval Counter-Intelligence and various Mafia employed on or frequenting the wharves, in the interest of preventing anything else of this kind. But the Mafia may have created the problem, and destroyed the big ship themselves, as one of the two most notorious Mafia hoodlums in American history, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, charges, in his recently published memoirs.44 Italian or German agents had nothing to do with it. In an exaggerated way, the Mafia had simply expanded its 'protection' racket: in return for guarantees that no more such marine disasters would occur, they managed to provide themselves with an entree into the national defense area. The next step would be the ground work for subsequent promises of extensive information and assistance in the invasion of Sicily, which also came with a price. But to this day there is a thick shroud of official mystery over "Operation Underworld," and no government or service spokesmen have come forth to deny the substance of Luciano's allegations.
Another imponderable is the effect of the 'cooperation' pose of the Mafia upon political decisions within the Roosevelt regime and whether it led to looking the other way when it came to Mafia domestic activities, particularly in the instance of its running gambling and its tireless and expansive evasion of price controls, rationing and other wartime national and local economic restraints. The sums made in corrupting the ration stamp program for gasoline, clothing and food, and the similar fortunes made providing scarce, forbidden or rationed products, have never been determined. The entire episode was largely papered over by New Deal economists and historians, who sought to sell the public the legend concerning how honestly and efficiently wartime price control and rationing had worked.45
The recruitment of the Mafia in preparing for the invasion of Sicily is of a somewhat different order. It involved the actual placement of hoodlums in the intelligence services, and the related soliciting of information from others who remained outside. In the ex-CIA man R. Harris Smith's revealing book OSS, he discussed the selecting of 'Mafia types' for work with their operations in Italy, in what they called their 'Operational Group Command'.46 Smith also pointed out that rather formidable criminal muscle was assembled from two of the most notorious killer gangs in the land, "Murder, Incorporated, "of New York City, and the equally lethal "Purple Gang" of Detroit.47
One aspect of this information-gathering from Mafia in advance of the assault on Sicily is as shrouded in mystery as that aspect which involved the mobilizing of Mafia help in policing the New York docks. There are half a dozen differing accounts relating how the intelligence services went about seeking the favor of "Lucky" Luciano, with various henchmen emerging as the key figure in the negotiations. In one account it is Frank Costello, in another Meyer Lansky. Still other criminal luminaries appear to have been the person responsible. But in all the accounts two individuals always appear: Moses Polakoff, Luciano's principal legal advisor, and Murray R. Gurfein, a vigorous member of the team of prosecutors led by Thomas E. Dewey which brought about Luciano's conviction and jailing in 1936. Gurfein, an assistant district attorney for the State of New York before the war, is identified as affiliated with Military Intelligence48 in some sources after the war began, and is asserted to be a colonel in the OSS49 in Europe later in the war. (Gurfein, elevated to a federal judgeship in June, 1971, became famous for his first decision, in favor of the New York Times when the federal government sought to prevent that newspaper from printing the famed "Pentagon Papers," a decision which was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.)
The unsatisfactory aspects of the Luciano case have gradually surfaced as time has passed, and the suspicion grows that there never was much of anything of substance connected with it. Some labyrinthine proceeding related to the 1936 conviction appears to have been far more important than anything concerning any help provided to the invasion forces, however. In his own memoirs, Luciano in two separate and vehement scatological commentaries denied having been of any assistance whatever to any branch of the armed services in the preparation or conduct of the Sicilian invasion,50 but that he went along with the creation of the legend connected with it, knowing he was telling nothing but lies all the time. (On one occasion, recalling a particularly spirited but fictitious retelling of the tale, in 1954, Luciano remarked in an aside that his theatrics in inventing imaginary details connected with his bogus part in the Sicilian invasion should have earned him an Academy Award.) In retrospect the most lugubrious aspect of the entire Luciano cum Sicily affair was the ludicrous patina of patriotism and related sentiments which it gradually acquired.
What Luciano knew about Sicily probably could have been supplied to Intelligence figures by anyone familiar with a library. As he protested later, he had been about nine years old when he emigrated from the island, and had no contacts there of any significance. In the large book which included his verbatim memoirs he never once mentioned a single Mafia figure known to have survived the Mussolini suppression campaign in Italy or Sicily, only Vito Genovese, an equally notorious American Mafia associate who had returned to Italy in 1937 to escape prosecution after Luciano's conviction, and Luciano expressed unbounded distaste for Genovese. This development will be elaborated upon as it results in still another complicated intertwining of international Mafia involvements after the invasion.
It was Luciano's assertion that the entire thing had been fabricated to provide a cover for his pardon by Dewey, who became governor of New York after his sensational career as a prosecu ting district attorney, proceeding against organized crime, a route to the governor's mansion in several states for others who had performed a similar role elsewhere. Luciano maintained that he had been framed by Dewey's office, that the prostitution ring which flourished under his aegis was a 'moonlighting' operation carried out by underlings, about which he knew nothing, and that his conviction had been made possible by perjured testimony on the part of women who claimed relationships with him which were totally imaginary. Luciano further stated that after his conviction his lawyers patiently went about confronting these witnesses and secured from each of them an affidavit admitting that they had been encouraged to lie about Luciano in return for promises of luxurious vacations and other 'fringe benefits,' most of which never had been made good, thus embittering them against the prosecution.
When Luciano was convicted, a stipulation in his sentence provided that he was to be deported upon completion of serving his sentence,51 originally 30 to 50 years, to be served in the bleakest of the New York state penitentiaries, Dannemora. So the issue of deportation was not in question, it was when this might happen. Luciano and Polakoff contended that even before the war was well along that they had sufficient new evidence and affidavits of relapsed witnesses to begin proceedings against Dewey and his cooperating staff for a gigantic rigging of his case, based on subornation involving all key witnesses. Therefore, with the now-governor and others connected with him knowing this, the next step was to be an effort to hurry along a pardon so that deportation proceedings could be swiftly pursued and the whole impending scandal averted.52
At this point the blending of the keep-the-waterfront-free-from saboteurs and the aid-the-invasion-of-Sicily enterprises involving the Mafia took place, and Luciano's underworld friends with high political and other connections began the operation which was to lead to Luciano's pardon and deportation shortly after the end of World War Two. The sudden change in Luciano's domicile from Dannemora to the somewhat more salubrious circumstances of Great Meadow prison at Comstock, N. Y., near Albany was the most instructive indication that the understanding between organized crime and the armed forces intelligence operatives had been fleshed out. From 1942 on the secret meetings between Luciano and youthful Lieut. Commander Charles R. Haffenden took place there, though a stream of Mafia underworld figures also appeared regularly for audiences with Luciano, appropriately explained as part of the working aspects of "Operation Underworld" in keeping the New York waterfront free of Axis subversives.
In the meantime the OSS went about creating their separate team of spies and assistance elements for work in Sicily,53 though Allied Intelligence in North Africa were not entranced with the quality of information which came to them in the period immediately preceding the invasion, and one authoritative "account declares that in that crucial time all native informers were ignored except those with Sicilian Mafia associates.54
The literature and stories concerning the fabled assistance the Mafia furnished in the Anglo-American assault on Sicily is confusing and contradictory. The failure of anyone ever to put on the record any convincing facts and the persisting vague and mock-mysterious abstruseness about it all has encouraged the suspicion that much of the episode was fabricated, and that advanced the belief that not only was Luciano telling the truth when he disclaimed having the slightest thing to do with providing information helpful to the Sicilian operation, but that little if any help was received from any other Mafia either, whether living in the U.S.A. or Sicily.
The Allies overran Sicily in 39 days, between July 10 and August 18, 1943. The part taken easiest was the western half of the island, reputedly that area where the vestiges of the Mafia survived underground. But in what was essentially a military operation undertaken with overwhelming force, the assumption would have to be that the help supplied by a ragtag of criminals infiltrated in the civilian population would of necessity be nominal, if perceptible.
Even recent sources still assert that Luciano supplied invasion officers with contacts with Sicily's only unjailed Mafia chief of any substance, Don Calogero Vizzini, and also with Genco Russo, the overseer of the immense land holdings in western Sicily of Prince Raimondo Lanza di Trabia, who was the personal aide to Major General Giacomo Carboni, one time chief of the Italian Military Intelligence Service, one of the chief plotters behind the original deposition of Mussolini, and ultimately put in command of the mobile defense force for the city of Rome on July 14, 1943.55
In view of Luciano' s repudiation of any involvement of this kind, and his failure as well as that of his literary cooperators Gosch and Hammer even to mention Vizzini's name in a book of almost 500 pages, this must be viewed as corroborating support for Luciano's insistence on total nonparticipation. Assuming that the contacts mentioned above took place, it would appear that intelligence assistance to the invasion had help which went far beyond a pathetic scattering of Mafia vestiges, and which in part, at least, can be traced back to the staff of Italy's intelligence chief and his aide, an owner of vast estates in the path of the invasion. At any rate, the plethora of stories connecting Luciano with one aspect or another of the Sicilian campaign are still with us. The World War Two British army officer Norman Lewis, in his book The Honored Society: A Searching Look at the Mafia,56 asserted that tanks went ashore actually flying yellow flags bearing the black letter "L," which purportedly stood for Luciano, and probably the most astounding fable connected with the event alleged that Luciano himself was a part of the invasion forces, despite unchallengeable evidence that the influential Mafia chief was ensconced in his cell at Great Meadows penitentiary throughout the operation, and after.57
As for the political new order established in the wake of the Allied military operations, we have more solid substance here, and less of the opaque evanescence attending the alleged intelligence and strategic genius of the Mafia prior to the attack on Sicily. As the structure of civilian society takes shape, one sees the Allied military and occupation leaders emptying the prisons and labor camps of the Mussolini regime,58 turning loose back upon Sicily, and southern Italy, eventually, a legion of convicted murderers, robbers and extortionists, as well as setting them up in business as the mayors of a long string of Sicilian communities, "Mafiosi to a man," as Lewis puts it. To justify loosing the Mafia from jail the Allied policy makers invented the notion that they were "Victims of Fascist tyranny,"59 thus converting them into instant political prisoners, though what they really accomplished was the rebuilding of the Mafia's" state within a state," as Lewis described their pre-1926 enclave.60
Thus it should have come as no surprise to anyone, least of all the Anglo-American 'liberators,' that intricately integrated organized crime was flourishing in Sicily within a few weeks of victory.61
The 'liberators' brought something else in their train besides the Mafia: a rocketing inflation and an accompanying black market which dwarfed that which prevailed under Mussolini. The predecessor of both had been seen in North Africa, where they had achieved memorable dimensions. The monetary disorder resulting from Anglo-American policies there had even resulted in a scolding in Business Week, which concluded (March 13, 1943, p. 48): "The U.S. and British have yet to learn what the Germans have taught; occupation is made easier if money rates are unchanged or altered in favor of the local people."62
The American branch of the Mafia having squirreled away a vast fortune through their major hand in the Stateside black market, it was not out of character that the revivified Sicilian and Italian Mafia would promptly follow in their steps, when given the chance. The combination of the ridiculous debasement of the money system and the mountain of desirable products brought to the Mediterranean by the Occupation provided the foundation. The stealing of supplies from the armed forces or the bribing of personnel to supply them became a major Mafia industry.63 After a period of innocent wonderment, Occupation police began to react, but in most situations it might have been easier to bailout the Mediterranean with a sieve than to eliminate the black market flourishing on all sides. Nevertheless a brave attempt was made. On September 9, 1943 authorities reported the arrest in Sicily of two Mafia chiefs, Domenico Tomaselli and Giuseppe Piraino, in a coup which allegedly smashed the black market operations there.64 In an effort to divert responsibility it was also alleged that the Fascisti had mobilized the Mafia in its own aid,65 though this sharply contradicted the program of release from Mussolini's prisons and penal camps of the very people who were supposed to be in Fascism's employ. This convenient line appealed to liberals, however, and was still being repeated thirty years later.
But blaming Mussolini again had no influence on the sustained progress of the Mafia and the black market. A year later a succession of dispatches from Sicily reported that the Mafia were rampant in Sicily.66 The gang system had reappeared, and Palermo was once more the scene of numerous holdups and kidnappings, and repeated press commentaries outlined the scope of the familiar outrages.67 Most Sicilian communities by the end of October, 1944 were so insecure that virtually no one could be found to travel outside their perimeters at night, a social situation which repeated, under far different circumstances, the realities of the European walled towns of the 12th century.
In January and February, 1945 the Mafia were reported affluent and flourishing on the crest of a major Sicilian crime wave,68 to be followed by a succession of sensational stories in the New York Times on the spread of gangsterism to Rome,69 another accompaniment to the advance of the 'liberation' up the Italian mainland.
On the heels of this expectable development came the announcement on November 24, 1944 that one of the most elusive and secretive of all of America's Mafia leaders, Vito Genovese, had been arrested by Army occupation police,70 who were working in collaboration with Stateside authorities, in connection with an unsolved murder, that of a minor Mafia hoodlum named Ferdinand "The Shadow" Boccia in Brooklyn dating back to 1934. Genovese was 'discovered' living in a luxurious apartment in Naples, and working as an interpreter for and advisor to Military Government, with high clearance and passes which authorized him to travel any place in Italy which was in the hands of the 'Allies.'71
Local authorities had instituted the search for Genovese, who had quietly left the U.S.A. for Italy in 193772 in the wake of the conviction of Luciano, expecting to be next on the Dewey prosecution list. Following a re-opening of the Boccia case after a hearing in a Brooklyn court during August, 1944 where one of Boccia's killers in 1934 implicated Genovese and indicated the existence of a third person who had witnessed Genovese's Involvement.73 cooperation took place between the local authorities and U.S. Military Government in Naples. Here a separate investigation of Genovese was going on as a phase of the exposure of a formidable black market he had been running since at least the 'Allied' occupation of the area,74 right under the noses of the naive military governors with whom he worked in close collaboration almost daily, and who considered his aid and service indispensable.75 It is probably as a reaction to the embarrassment that followed that an effort was made to try to conceal the realities of the moment by implying that Genovese had shady political ties with the overthrown Fascisti and that he had done the same things under their aegis that were being uncovered under the new dispensation. One energetic Army counter-intelligence bloodhound even tried to make Genovese out as a German spy.
An unexplained circumstance to this day is the agonizingly slow movement of the extradition proceedings, and the discreet burying of the whole matter for many months after his arrest. Genovese was still in Italy six months after his apprehension, and his arrival in America and arraignment for complicity in the Boccia murder did not take place until June 2, 1945.76 Genovese pleaded innocent when arraigned in Kings County Court, having hired as his attorney Hyman Barshay, counsel years earlier for the sinister killer Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, a key figure in the Murder, Incorporated gang.77
The death of a key witness against Genovese while lodged in jail and the dismissal of charges of involvement in the Boccia killing against Genovese, on the grounds of insufficient evidence, on June 10, 1946, is incidental to this account.78 But an immense tale grew up around Genovese and what he had been doing in Italy between 1937 and 1944, much of it ex post facto and based on not very credible assertions by hostile fellow gangsters, and his estranged wife, when she testified at divorce proceedings in 1952. These versions tried to make Genovese a celebrity in the Fascist regime in the years between his return to Italy and his arrest, and attributed all manner of wondrous involvements. But they did not try to allege that he had anything to do with the Sicilian Mafia vestiges in those years (Genovese was a native of Naples, not Sicily), or that he was the spark behind the rebirth of organized crime all through the region which fell to the Anglo-American armed forces beginning in midsummer of 1943.79
In the meantime the war had ended, and attorneys for "Lucky" Luciano entered his petition for clemency before Governor Dewey of New York on the very day hostilities ceased in Europe, May 7, 1945.80 Another tangled tale is connected with the events related to the eventual pardon of Luciano. His lawyer Polakoff was the first to tell the story to the press of his alleged assistance to the Mediterranean warriors, and naming Gurfein as the key person who had suggested that Luciano's aid be recruited. As the New York Times quoted Polakoff on this and related details, on May 23, "Through information the convict [Luciano] furnished the military from his cell in Great Meadows prison in 1942, many Sicilian-born Italians furnished information regarding the conditions in Sicily that was helpful to the armed forces in the invasion.81
Governor Dewey was ambivalent on the case. On January 3, 1946, in a comment on Luciano's cooperation with the armed forces, he added, "the actual value of the information procured is not clear."82 But a few weeks later, when he pardoned Luciano, his attitude was somewhat more positive, and Luciano's usefulness to the U. S. Army in the Sicilian invasion was the reason given for this action,83 which many continued to think was far too hasty and precipitate. For some time the responsibility for the action was traded back and forth between Dewey and the N.Y. State Parole Board, and the subject was to become an issue of fitful significance for years thereafter. Luciano's deportation took place a few days after his pardon; the story of his return to Italy on a small ship and arrival in Naples the last day of February, 1946 has been retold almost as often as the first voyage of Columbus to America.84
Luciano's reappearance in the Western Hemisphere the following year via South America and then Cuba, followed by a major gathering of Mafia figures after his arrival, led to another round of unhappy commentaries on Dewey's action in his behalf, and the press once more interviewed Curfein85 and Haffenden86 on Luciano's wartime role in furnishing counterintelligence and other aid during the war; now his part was being designated as "alleged" and the more hyperthyroid sentiments which had been expressed in 1945 and 1946 had subsided. Haffenden by the time this new review of the Luciano business was under way was himself in a big scandal (actually two separate ones) related to deals with outlawed stevedoring companies on the New York docks, and had been removed from his job as commander of the New York City Marine and Aviation Department by Mayor O'Dwyer;87 this rancorous incident was still being churned over by all concerned in 1949. But the February, 1947 observations about Luciano were drastically subdued and discounted compared to what had taken place a year earlier.
As for Gov. Dewey, he functioned under clouds of suspicion for years, and his troubles over the Luciano pardon accelerated. He was constantly under charges of having made enigmatic deals, and when Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee began to assemble his machine for the investigation of organized crime in America in 1951, he contributed to the tangle of allegations with the charge that the commutation of Luciano's sentence by Dewey was not justified.88
While the press, military and political figures were trying to decide whether or not "Lucky" Luciano was to be enshrined by history as a patriot, the Italian mainland and Sicily were putting up with the mixed blessings of the new order brought to their midst by the Occupation. Another big crime wave swept both in January and February, 1946,89 and in Sicily the term 'banditry' turned out to be the euphemism applied to renewed Mafia labors.90 Ultimately the mixture of liberal leftists and social democrats which U.S. occupation policy decreed should be Italy's new leadership found that they were forced to use the same strategy Mussolini had used in putting down widespread organized crime, although they ultimately used far more force in doing so than "Il Duce" ever employed in supporting the campaigns of Prefect Mori.
Though the 'liberators' were responsible for attaching a political and ideological significance to the Mafia, they were not prepared for the massive extension of this approach by the new postwar developments in the criminal scene. Though Mori had engaged in open warfare with the Mafia and fought encounters which involved enough men to rate as battles when they had taken place between rival States, the situation facing post-1945 Italy turned out to be considerably worse. It mainly revolved around the celebrated Salvatore Giuliani and his followers. Between 1946 and 1950 he became the best known Sicilian 'bandit' of the entire modern era, and he and his followers earned as much space in the newspapers of the world as many of the global politicians in these first few years of the burgeoning Cold War.
To be sure, the weak and wobbling political front making believe running Italy in the wake of the demoralizing defeat which capped two previous years of accelerating disasters was not ready to cope with something such as the Giuliani diversion. And it did not compare with what was customarily expected in Sicily. With Palmiro Togliatti back from Moscow and the Stalinists in a position to move into power, it was the unenviable job of the opportunists and camp followers who inherited the debris of 1945 to try to curry Occupation support by adopting a political stance hostile to both a Red takeover and a revival of the Fascists, the nominal rallying point for anti-Stalinism. What nonplused the shaken 'vital center' of Italy about the Giuliani element in Sicily was its political stance. Beginning with a shootout on May 1, 1946 with the Reds, which the latter called a 'massacre,'91 the Giuliani 'bandits,' as the press there and in the U.S.A. always called them, staged a daring attack on a radio station in Palermo on September 20.92 All that fall there were reports of new outbreaks of 'bandit' activity and increased police reaction in Sicily. Following an assault on two Communist clubs on June 23, 1947 Giuliani announced a declaration of war upon all Italian Communists, and began issuing calls for recruits to his cause. Three months later his men made an even bolder attack on a carabinieri guardhouse in Montelegripe.93
Just what the exotic Giuliani affair was about is not easy to fathom. A handsome and literate revolutionary, his program escaped understanding in most circles. At one time he claimed he was the leader of a movement to attach Sicily to the United States. Then he changed to concentrating on opposition to the Communists, who were considered the likely inheritors of national power from 1946 on. In this Giuliani had the early support of the Mafia, who were now as 'anti-communist' as they had been 'anti-fascist' a year and a half earlier. With his open rebellion came a renewed flourish of lengthy pronouncements which the newspapers were delighted to print.
Now the regime began to apply muscle to Giuliani. Large police forces were assigned to pursue him in the Sicilian mountains in the west. Though the Communist-saturated labor unions tried to add their weight to the government's prosecution by staging a one day strike in Sicily,94 their attempt to execute a General Confederation of Labor strike nationwide in protesting against Giuliani was a failure,95 and the offensive passed over into the hands of the regime's police. The two antagonists traded blows, the police killing some of Giuliani's 'bandits'96 while they succeeded in evading a police trap and killing the police commander in Palermo, in the fall of 1947.97
In 1948 the regime declared Giuliani to be public enemy number one,98 but sought for him fruitlessly. The buildup of police forces scouring Sicily for him mounted steadily, and by the spring of 1949 had 8,000 carabinieri in the field against him and his small band.99 The year was featured by steady month-by-month guerrilla warfare, with the inheritors of Mussolini's job of maintaining law and order forced to employ manpower and tactics which far more closely resembled some campaigns of the recently-concluded war than they did the maintenance of domestic tranquility, as well as employing heavily armed police on a scale which made Mussolini's efforts of 1926-1934 look like mere outings by comparison. There were no more unhinged leftist liberals execrating the heavy reliance on the most exaggerated violent measures now; they were the beneficiaries of it all, not bystanders as they had been during the heyday of Prefect Mori.
On July 5, 1950 the Minister of the Interior, Mario Scelba, announced that Giuliani had been shot and killed by police in a battle at Castelvetrano, in Sicily, and that the massive offensive against his supporters was now being wound down.100 But the matter did not disappear from attention that fast. Rumors built up for some time thereafter, and it was finally admitted that he had been murdered in his sleep by a cousin, one Gaspare Pisciotta, under conditions which reminded some of the legend of Jesse James. It was obvious that Giuliani had lost the favor of the Mafia, however, and there were suspicions they had plotted his murder.
Pisciotta was lodged in the ominous Ucciardone prison in Palermo for nearly four years, while police continued to arrest and jail Giuliani bandits.' The Communists kept a drum fire going alleging that the Mafia had engineered the Giuliani killing, though they had no real reason to be upset over the demise of an anti-communist other than to create an embarrassment for Scelba, who was no friend of theirs either, the event simply being an occasion to take comfort out of all angles of it.
After a considerable silence Pisciotta announced early in February, 1954 that he would have some significant things to say about the Giuliani affair at a special hearing. This hearing never occurred nor did the 'documents' Pisciotta claimed he had ever surface.
On February 9 Pisciotta died in prison after drinking a cup of coffee which was alleged to have been laced with poison, and a furious controversy broke out which approached the dimensions of a national scandal. Charges were made that major political leaders were involved in setting up the Giuliani machine-gunning of the May Day, 1946 Communist meeting, and that they had also bribed Pisciotta to murder Giuliani. The threat of Pisciotta to 'tell all' about his connections with the Mafia and with political notables from at least two political parties and the ruling regime was asserted to be the reason for his sudden death.101 Shortly after, 63 members of Giuliani's gang were sentenced to prison in a mass trial in Palermo on May 13, 1954 under circumstances which closely compared with the mass trials conducted in the Mussolini era, but no one called attention to that.102 The whole matter was quickly submerged in the far more sensational Wilma Montesi scandal which was brewing simultaneously with the closing stages of the Giuliani business, and in some respects overlapped.103
In the meantime the Mafia went about its quiet and diligent mending of fences, re-establishing control and influence and amassing substance on a scale again which outdid anything enjoyed before 1926 by many magnitudes, a total program which dovetailed with the conventional world of business and politics to the point where it took experts to be able to distinguish the component parts of the total situation.104
The evolution of a novel approach to social order in liberal circles, which looks upon a certain level of mayhem as an endurable price to pay for a 'free society,' has been utilized to explain and rationalize whatever may be prevailing in a culture which makes it incapable of controlling murder, aggravated assault and rape. After demonstrating debility in law enforcement long enough, it may be expectable that a plausible excuse will appear in order to convince the unhappy that what prevails perhaps should be considered either 'normal' or a 'moderate' solution. In a cultural environment where such a climate of opinion prevails, it can be taken almost for granted that law enforcement such as that exemplified by Mussolini in reducing the Sicilian Mafia will always be deplored and reasons found to denounce it as infamous.