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Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins interviews Matt Black about his new book about how Navy Commander Charles Haffenden recruited Lucky Luciano and Socks Lanza into Operation Underworld. We learn the U.S. Navy was alarmed by the sinking of the world’s largest cruise liner, USS Normandie, while it was cocked at New York Harbor being converted to a cargo and troop ship. The Navy had reports of the FBI arresting German spies and saboteurs on American soil. They were terrified these German spies might cripple the Navy’s efforts to get troops and supplies to the European Theater of War. Commander Haffenden recruited Socks Lanza, the mafia’s kingpin for the harbor area. Once he worked successfully with Lanza and incorporated his contacts into Operation Underworld, Lanza introduced him to Luciano. Then Commander has to get the approval of Thomas E. Dewey and other local and state authorities. Once he got everybody on board, he transferred Lucky Lucian to a prison close to New York and promised the state would release him after the war.
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Lucky Luciano Operation Underworld
Tue, Feb 07, 2023 10:26AM • 44:03
luciano, book, mafia, underworld, longshoremen, ship, operation, people, lucky luciano, adonis, waterfront, new york city, navy, sicily, teamsters, world war, story, big, prison, new york
GARY JENKINS, Matthew Black
They didn’t go to you know Luciano right away the Navy went to the district attorney’s office told them what they needed and they came up with you know, a few names that might be able to help. The first one you know, that really ended up being a lot of help was this mid level gangster named Socks Lanza. And Socks’ is nicknamed because he socked everybody. I mean, he’s like a big 275 pound man, you know, he’s got these enormous hands, you know, and he’ll punch you with brass knuckles. He was also the czar of the Fulton Fish Market.
Well, hey, all you are Wiretappers out there. It’s good to be back here in the studio. You know, we’re in the middle of winter right now here in Kansas City. It might be warm by the time I get this out, or at least warmer than it is right now. But this is about halfway between Christmas and New Year’s and then anybody that lives back East. I know you guys have had it. They’ve got it has been ordered back. They’re really cold here, but not so much snow. Anyhow, today. i It’s a treat for me. I don’t know about you guys. I hope you find it as a treat. But it’s a real treat for me. Ever since I was started in this mob stuff. I read my first mob book when I was probably in my teens, maybe early 20s I can’t remember and there’s this story about Lucky Luciano and World War Two and some naval officers and maybe in his in a movie or something a little bit about it. But I’ve never known the details on that. And it’s it’s kind of like a myth about Lucky Luciano. And you know, I like to get below where the myth it starts and what really gets that myth going. And what really happened in World War Two because you guys I don’t know how old you are. A lot of you are closer to my a lot of your post war baby boomers and, and I was just remarking to my wife, I really long from the time when everybody was together and World War Two. And those next few years afterwards. We were like together as a country. And I don’t know we’ve we’ve seemed like we’ve lost that. Anyhow, I’m my guess is sitting here. And I haven’t even heard. There’s a name. It’s Matthew black. Matthew, welcome.
Thank you so much. Nice to see you.
And so the book is operation underworld, how the mafia and US government teamed up to win World War Two as a great title. And I guess operation underworld was the name of the operation that the government started into, right? That’s right. Yeah. Well, Matthew, how did you get into this?
I’ll tell you a little bit about my background. And maybe it’ll kind of make sense of how I arrived. You know, the story. I mean, you know, I’ve loved history, you know, since I was a child, and mostly got that from my father, and I’ve loved writing for just as long. And I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and I went to college at the University of Washington where I studied history. I got a little sidetracked and for about a decade, I was working at Bank of America ended up being a bank manager, not not a profession you hear for a lot of writers. And, you know, no offense to any bankers out there, just this wasn’t for me, and was kind of soul crushing. So
I can imagine,
right? But then, you know, I left the industry for my first writing gig, and it did not go well. And, in fact, it was an unmitigated disaster. I was I was hired to write a memoir about this man. And eventually, I learned that he was running a Ponzi scheme. And I had actually invested with him too. And so he ended up getting busted by the FBI. And, you know, the, the notes for my for that book suddenly, you know, came into question if they were gonna use it as evidence, but
yeah, that’s a heck of a story in itself. Right. Yeah. Back and put that book together. Oh, yeah.
Maybe maybe one day I will tell that story, you know. So that that didn’t go too well. And, you know, kind of, again, doing some soul searching, but then I got an opportunity to write a book for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. So my my first book was a biography about a former president of theirs, and his name was Dave Beck. You guys probably haven’t heard of him. But he was the president of the Teamsters. Right before Jimmy Hoffa took office who you probably have heard of.
I have some vague memory of articles or like magazine articles or something. Yeah, Time Magazine about they back. That’s right. President or of the teamsters union. He was a big deal in the 50s until Hoffa took over, and he was kind of he was kind of a quasi criminal. He wasn’t quite like Hoffa, but he was ordered on the in a grid but
correct, Gary? Yeah, yeah, that’s great that you know that that a lot of folks know a lot about that. Yeah. I mean, he was he was president of the Teamsters from 52 to 57. So it’s, it’s a ways back and but you know, it just he it’s funny because, you know, he went to jail. Yeah, exactly. He wasn’t like a criminal mastermind he kind of got caught up in some bad business. But uh, you know, every everybody I write about, either goes to prison or has been imprisoned. So, you know, Operation underworld is just perfect for that.
So, so now, Matt, Matthew, this book about day bed for the real hardcore history. True Crime enthusiast, what’s the name of that book? And is it available like on the Amazon?
Well, it’s called Dave Beck, a teamsters life. If you want to find me on LinkedIn, or through my website, you know, I’d be happy to mail you a copy. But you know, what it is the teamsters did a history project, you know, for their, for their, you know, 1.2 million members and, you know, published some books about their history, and that was one of them.
Okay, I got it. And your website, I believe, is black and something. Remind me of the website?
Oh, yeah. No, that’s a portfolio one. But for the book, Operation underworld, book.com.
Okay. All right. Try that one out. Okay, cool. And so let’s, let’s start talking about Operation underworld. I think, again, you have this history of wanting to do true crime that sounds like it’s exciting to you. It’s exciting to me, it’s exciting to a lot of people and, and then it’s part and parcel just like the Teamsters. They’re part of our our psyche in the United States, and the mafia is part of our psyche. In the United States. I was just listening to a podcast about why do we like the mafia so much, and so integrated with all of society, and, you know, politics and, and business and in our entertainment in the United States, and we love the mob in this country. So how did you pick operation underworld? And I know, you had to, you had to do you had to go in a lot of military records, as well as court records and things too, I would think,
yeah, yeah, no, definitely. And, you know, you know, I’ve told you cut a connection to labor and crime, but you know, for military that, you know, I, when I was a kid, my love of history, you know, I really wanted to go to one of the academies, you know, West Point, or Annapolis, maybe even the Air Force Academy, but a couple of things dissuaded me, number one, they have very good technical degrees there, you know, and I’m not much, you know, tech guy, I would have been more into the humanities, you know, heard? Oh, no, no, no, not really, you don’t want me doing that. And then, you know, I was it kind of grew up at a pretty disciplined household. So you know, the, the idea of that people telling me what to do next. sound too appealing, but actually, the how Lucky Luciano in operation underworld came to be is, you know, I mean, I’ve always had a fascination with him, you know, anybody who’s interested in mafia or, or true crime, you know, we would find Luciano to be a particularly amazing character to study. And, you know, there’s a reason that Time Magazine listed him that’s one of the most one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. And that’s because he organized crime when you hear about organized crime. He’s the one who organized it,
you know, yeah, there’s a famous story of course, how he killed off the Mustache Petes almost kind of replayed in The Godfather and, more popular format, but he killed off all the Godfather, the mustache Petes and an organized crime. But,
yeah, so yeah, and, you know, in this book, I’ll, you know, I go through, you know, his background, so amazing. You know, I tell all those stories, and, you know, you’ll, you’ll see a bunch are like, Wait, wasn’t that in The Godfather? It’s like, no, no, this was the true story, you know, that that led to that scene in The Godfather. So I was a few years back, I was working at a, an online history magazine, and it was kind of my job just to, you know, research, the greatest stories in history, and then try to write them up. And so I wrote a few different ones on Luciano. And then one of them that I wrote, of course, was about Operation underworld. When the pandemic hit, the publisher that I worked for was one of the companies that went belly up. And so I lost my job and you know, I was on government assistance there for a little while, you know, like so many people, and again, trying to figure out what what to do you know how I can get this writing thing going and then I got a message out of the blue on LinkedIn. And from an agent who read the Operation Underworld story that I had published, like, you know, four years prior. You know, she’s she’s by its finally making it to her desk reading it, you know, she’s like, Hey, do you want to? You know, I represent authors, do you want to write a book about this? And, you know, I’ve only been dreaming about an opportunity like that my entire life.
who think they can write or waiting for that phone call and never got it?
Definitely. Yeah, yeah, leave me there was there’s a lot of moments in my life where I was wondering if that opportunity was ever going to come. So I definitely consider myself very lucky that it did. And then when it did, you know, just you got to write the hell out of it. So a couple years later, here we are. It’s, it’s actually Gary, this is a special day because this is the official book release day.
Okay. Yeah, yeah. Get that on Facebook. Today. I get some Oh, great job today,
getting a lot of messages from family and friends and stuff arriving.
So, so let’s go to World War Two. A lot of people know the story. We don’t need to rehash the story you’re telling that I noticed in the book as I thumb through it, you’re kind of retelling that story of the the night of the Sicilian Vespers, which is a method itself but with that, and another show, but the night lacking Luciana Oh took over in a way it but now we’re getting the World War Two he’s in in the penitentiary up and then a Mora way, way north and New York, upstate New York, I believe. That’s right. And World War Two is started. There’s some problems on the dark side, I believe some sabotage and some things going on. The military’s one thing you wrote about was the burning of a huge big ship called the Normandy. That’s right. I don’t I don’t know. That wasn’t exactly the genesis of Operation underworld. But that certainly had got the military’s attention. Tell us about the ship ship in the Normandy. I thought that was gonna be interesting. But yeah,
for sure, for sure. Yeah. And that’s, that’s where the book starts, where the prologue goes through that, that scene. And, you know, I think it’s important to start there, for one because it kind of put the Navy in a panic, and I’ll get to that in a second. But also, it was extremely public. So the Normandy was this, this cruise liner that was being refitted to be a troop transport. And Normandy was the second largest ship in the world, you know, it was 1000 feet from bow to stern. And on February 9 In the morning, 1942. So, you know, barely two months into the war, you know, images of burning ships at Pearl Harbor is still fresh in people’s minds. A fire starts on the ship, within a few minutes. It just it kind of consumes the entire top deck and you know, a ship that large fire that big people are going to notice, you know, yeah, 10s of 1000s You know, hundreds of 1000s of New Yorkers, you know, witness this behemoth just getting consumed by fire fire department started fighting it. And, you know, they successfully extinguished the blaze, but they, they hurled so much water on board that the ship ended up capsizing. So, the ship, the ship was lost. At the time, there was this big fear that there were spies and saboteurs, you know, working for the German or Italian governments that were on the waterfront. And it was suspected that this ship had been indeed been sabotaged, that the enemy had got on board somehow caused the fire and taking it out. I mean, it was one of the most important ships in the Atlantic Fleet, they could carry 15,000 troops across the ocean, you know, it’s pretty amazing. And so even prior to the event, there had been other firings in New York City that had been identified. There had been ones who had been arrested and tried. They knew there were more out there. But it’s all part of the Battle of the Atlantic, you know, taking place, just just outside the relay on our home shores in our home waters. As soon as we entered the war, the Germans sent squadrons of U boats to our shores, and they really started wreaking havoc on our shipping to the point where we were losing ships at about one or two a day. I mean, it was just just awful amount of supplies and then being lost. We didn’t have a fleet to combat them. And the big fear is that there’s these spies within New York City who are communicating to the German U boat captains about ship movements, ship routes, you know, embarkations you know, where they’re coming from, and if they know that knowledge, then they know where to wait. And since they were having so much success, it was just assumed that somebody in New York City, some people in New York City, were communicating with the enemy.
Yeah, it wouldn’t be hard to do just hang around the docks, and you see a big ship leaving and you got it some kind of a radio. Right. Right, exactly. So the ships leaving at this time, and I love watching them as they went out, you know, their last known location and those U boats right off the coast. So, if right, and
I think there was actually a, you know, just just the guy in a tower off of, you know, one of the one of the coasts who just would watch the ship, you know, he eventually got busted, you know, but, of course, you know, like you said, it would just be just as easy to watch. And then, you know, the, the actual longshoremen, you know, the people in the waterfront, who are loading the cargo, very few of them are naturalized American citizens, you know, most of them are immigrants, a lot of Italians especially. And, you know, Roosevelt had even declared that they were potential enemies, you know, which was not too smart. Now, they’re loading up the majority of our war materials, you know, we really need them. So we definitely want them on our site. So the Navy basically identified that vulnerability, anybody could just be watching, or if they didn’t know, the backgrounds of the people who were loading cargo onto the ships, perhaps they could plant a bomb, they had been to the port of New York and various places, various peers prior to the Normandy fire, but they didn’t have any success, you know, talking to anybody, nobody would talk to them. And that was kind of that was as a result of the old Padrone system, you know, from Italy, where, you know, you just you did not talk to authorities, you specially did not talk to authorities about your boss, you know, that can literally mean your life. So, they would just, you know, pretend like they didn’t speak English, so they had no success. But once the Normandy you know, fire happened, they’re like, Okay, we have to get, we have to infiltrate the harbor, you know, there’s just, we cannot guarantee that this won’t happen again, if we don’t get our men inside. And so that’s where commander half funding comes in. And the Navy, he’s the other main character in the book, in his section, are filled with investigators. He’s a counterintelligence commander. And his section is filled with all these private investigators, former police officers, FBI agents and men from the district attorney’s office, as well. And so, you know, the people who worked at the District Attorney’s Office, though, knew full well, who was in charge at the waterfront, you know, on the waterfront, that was that was the mafia Of course, and not necessarily just Italian, criminal gangs, you know, like, you know, the, the five families that you hear about, but there were also Irish gangs, you know, Jewish gangs, and they, they controlled various peers. And they knew that the only way they were going to make inroads was if they could get the cooperation of some of these gangsters who were you know, big time on the waterfront. They’re
interesting. So I guess somebody would have been easy to know that who was the main gangster in New York City at that time would be Lucky Luciano already got that name anyhow. But you know, you got to I can see it from a law enforcement standpoint, you got to find that guy who will then give you some credibility and then speak to other people with credibility and and open that up to to to law enforcement and you will meet the same problem law enforcement as investigating in any you know, whether it be your cop going into an all black neighborhood or all Hispanic or whatever, investigating something, you’ve got to develop sources within the neighborhood, not just criminal sources, but you know, corner store people and and people that work there all the time to know who’s who and what’s what. So, like, that’s what he did in Louisiana, then would introduce him to people that what happened?
Yeah, and actually, you know, the story. I mean, you’re right on about that. Yeah, definitely. And it just, you know, it kind of complicate complicated things that Luciana was in prison. And I know Dannemora is in New York, but it’s far from New York City. I mean, it’s like on the Canadian border there. They didn’t go to you know, Luciano right away. The Navy went to the district attorney’s office told them what they needed and they came up with you know, a few names that might be able to help. The first one you know, that really ended up being a lot of help was this mid level gangster named Socks Lanza. And Socks is is nickname because he stalked everybody. I mean, he’s like a big 275 pound man, you know, he’s got these enormous hands, you know, and he’ll punch you with brass knuckles. He was also the czar of the Fulton Fish Market and That doesn’t it doesn’t exist anymore. But it was in the lower end of Manhattan, or it’s actually moved. I shouldn’t say it doesn’t exist. But is it the lower end of Manhattan right on the waterfront there and a unique situation, because there’s all kinds of fishing boats going in and out, like every, you know, every single day, it’s the biggest fish market in the world. And so, when, when they go down there, when they first approached the mafia, there’s obviously a question of will these men be loyal, you know, to the United States? Will they help them out? Will they help us out? And, you know, they were surprised to learn that even the district attorneys were like, Oh, yes, these men love their country, you know, they are patriots, they’re not loyal to Benito Mussolini in Italy, you know, who, you know, they didn’t know. But he was waging a war against the mafia. So, you know, they had no interested in helping him. But there was also a question, you know, one of the reasons they went to the mafia, they were wondering if the mafia was helping the enemy. And the, the big fear was that they were, if you go back to prohibition days, the mafia used to run a mission. You know, you’ve probably heard of rum runners, you know, before. Yeah, so the mission they used to, you know, carry out was that they take a fast boat to the Three Mile boundary, you know, of international waters, and rendezvous with the ship from Europe and take on, you know, whiskey scotch, you know, whatever, booze, and then they race back, you know, into the, you know, to the mainland, with, you know, trying to not be detected. So, you know, the Navy knew they had run those missions before. And the fear was like, well, they could do it again, you know, for money, they could be rendezvousing with German U boats out at sea and giving them fresh supplies. So they had to figure out a are they doing that? And then be, are they willing to help us and then see, you know, how can they help us. And so once they get socks lands involved, it’s really cool, because since he was at Fulton Fish Market, and he has access to all these Fisher, fishing boat captains, they talked to them and kind of turned the fishing fleet on the east coast, from Long Island all the way down, you know, to New York City, into kind of our first line of defense against German U boats, these guys start looking out for U boats, they start reporting back to the Navy, if they see anything suspicious, you know, and there’s a few occasions you know, where there’s a U boat surfacing in an area and they’re like, What is that u boat doing there? And, you know, these are these are things that they have to answer. So once once, you know Lanza gets involved, they get them they get several other ports involved. There’s other areas that the mafia is influenced, you know, extends to but the problem is, is that Lanza can’t get cooperation from the Irish gangs, he can’t really get cooperation from the other Italian families, criminal families in New York as well, because he’s just too low level to have any influence on these people. And so that’s, that’s when Luciano ends up coming into the picture. And the quote there is that they needed somebody who could snap the whip on the entire underworld. And one thing about Luciano, you know, if you know about his rise, and especially how he came to power, one of the unique things about him is that he was not exclusive and who he dealt with, in terms of business. And so while his predecessors, the moustache Pete’s that you had mentioned, you know, would only do business with Italians. You know, Luciano, his best friend was Meyer Lansky, you know, a Jewish gangster, you know, he, he was doing deals with Irish, you know, Irish games as well. And his his approach was more to keep the peace, like there was plenty of money to go around. Why do we need to be killing each other all the time, you know. And so that approach made him extremely valuable, even though he’s in Dannemora. Prison, when they decide that they want to approach him and see if he’ll help. They know that His word would go a long way everywhere in the city. So so they decided to try and bring him on board. But Dannemora again, was just just too far. So they have to kind of go through some cloak and dagger methods, you know, in order to get him transferred to prison. That’s closer. And you know, even Luciano doesn’t know why he’s being transferred.
And then I bet he was happy because ever gangster I ever knew here in Kansas City. They get they put him in a penitentiary way down in Texas or up in the north central part of the United States. There was some that they went through. They want to be at the farm at Leavenworth, which is only about 40 miles north of Kansas, they want to get to Leavenworth they even wanted to get one up to 11 because it’s only like an hour’s drive or a little less per family and Associates and everything to beat him but boy when it’s long ways off, but it’s tough. Though he really wants to give back to New York, anyhow.
Yeah, I mean, he must have been like, well, you know, because his nickname is lucky. I mean, he must, what stroke of luck has happened that I’m that I’m going here, you know, and I mean, they call Dannemora, little Siberia, you know, the walls would freeze in the winter. And there was actually a memoir written by a prisoner who did time with Luciano and Dannemora. And I found his memoir, and you actually able to learn a lot about his daily routine in prison, you know, not much is known about his life in prison there. You know, and we get into the nitty gritty, you know, like, how he goes to the bathroom, and you know, when, you know, the terrible, terrible activities yesterday, but once he gets to great meadow, you know, just just something like having decent toilet paper was just a huge, you know, was a big deal for him.
Now, where did Tom Dewey figure it out? He aided Luciano, and Luciana who actually saved his life by having that she’ll skill but he hated Luciano and that they like just operate outside of somebody like Tom was doing.
Yeah, you know, when I first started doing research for this book, I thought that I knew that there was cooperation between the Navy and the district attorney’s office, and I just assumed that that would be Thomas Dewey. But I was I was wrong. He actually left his position as district attorney right before operation underworld began. Okay. But, you know, as your your listeners probably know, but might as well just, you know, go into it that, you know, Thomas Dewey made his career as a prosecutor by successfully prosecuting Lucky Luciano 62 counts of pandering, I believe it was, that got him a 30 to 50 year prison sentence. And so Luciana, I think, is only about six years into that sentence, you know, when Operation underworld begins, so he’s been, you know, in Dannemora, for six years, he’s got a long way to go. And then that
said, do a to the governor’s office and write for President in 1948, the famous picture of our, our Missourian. Harry Truman was holding up the picture saying
Truman and right, yeah, yeah, no. And, you know, it’s, it’s interesting how, you know, because obviously, I read Luciano, his memoir, and it’s just incredible how much Luciano thought about Dewey. It just, I mean, he just thought about them all the time. And I guess, you know, when you’re in prison, and you Dannemora is one of those prisons that’s designed to make you reflect you’re alone. Yeah. Right. And yeah, yeah, exactly. 16 hours, you know, being alone on your cell a day, you’re gonna, you’re gonna do a lot of thinking, you know, unfortunately. And so, you know, when Operation WonderWorld gets going, within, you know, within a few months, I think it was at the bid yet the beginning of 1943. Dewey, yeah. sends to the governor’s governor’s office in New York. And now all of a sudden, he’s in a position where he could potentially pardon Luciano. And much has been made about a bribe that Luciano offered Dewey in order to get himself out of prison. And those rumors persisted for years and years and years, well after Operation underworld. And they just they haunted Dewey, unfortunately, and you know, in the book, I talked about it and you know, I certainly believe that, that Luciano and you know, his faction offered a bribe Dewey, but I don’t believe for a second that he accepted it. He was pretty straight laced guy. And, you know, even Luciano just he thinks that Dewey’s you know, playing along with them he thinks he plays by the same set of rules you know, like you said he saved his life actually twice once the Dutch Schultz and then Anastasia wanted to have a go at him and so yeah, you know, Luciano feels that Dewey owes him and Deweys just not that kind of that kind of person you know there’s no you don’t owe favors you don’t you know you don’t get you don’t get rewarded for not doing something terrible
and you don’t become President of the United States with a p[artner like Lucky Luciano and your background either? No, no. Yeah, politician wants to have their background. No, not at all. He’s got the surface you know, it’s just don’t go any further. So. So then how did that how did lucky crack the whip? Did he have somebody that he sent out to talk directly to people because there’s still I’m not going to, he’s not going to call him into penitentiary and you know, be streaming in while he says, you know you do you do take care of this commander half a dozen or so he had to sin word out somehow out that. Yeah, so
one of the reasons why they moved him to Great Meadow prison is the name, you probably haven’t heard of it because it’s far less notorious. It’s not SingSing or Rikers Island, you know, probably be the one you’d want to go to if you had to go to. But anyway, one of the reason why they moved him is to make him more accessible to the people who you know, would be able to, you know, spread the word, and who are those people? They’re his top bosses, you know, his lieutenants. So, you thinking about, like, uh, uh, you know, King type of the underworld getting access to all of his, you know, to his royal court, so to speak, is just unprecedented. And so, as I mentioned earlier, you know, his best friend, Meyer Lansky, you know, famously known as the the mobs accountant, you know, very good with numbers, and very, very well respected. And they need him, you know, to talk to Luciano, because they’re not sure he’s going to go along with it. And if anybody could convince them of it, you know, it’s Lansky. And, you know, I should, I should emphasize that there were no deals given to these criminals for their cooperation. Operation underworld, you know, like, it’s, it’s your patriotic duty, you don’t get time off your prison sentences, you know, because you’re helping and so when, you know, they finally convinced Luciano to help. You know, they bring in Socks Lanza, you know, from from Fulton Fish Market. And then some other names you’ve probably heard of like Frank Costello, and Willie Moretti. And, you know, Lansky was, you know, had connections with the Irish gangs. He had connection with the Longshoremen. He had connection with the Italian families, so he could go to the leader, you know, I was like, Well, how do they keep this a secret? You know, they’re like, going to every longshoreman, you know, on the waterfront and saying, Hey, Luciano is behind this, you know, like, he wants you to help. And it wasn’t like that, you know, they went to lead leadership, you know, and like Joe Ryan and Jerry Sullivan, you know, where, you know, the International longshoremen Association, president and chief organizer and major criminals and, you know, you go to them and then all sudden you can have access to anywhere in the piers or longshoremen anywhere in the piers. So you have Navy agents, you know, going into these situations where they’re getting hired, you know, during the shape ups and getting selected and working side by side with these longshoreman. You notice that figure out what spill out if there’s any, any, any any activity.
Joe Adonis, didn’t, didn’t he? Wouldn’t he particularly close to Luciana. No.
Yeah, yes, he was. And I don’t I don’t have a record of him visiting Luciano in prison, which is kind of surprising because Luciano had what was called his board of directors. Yeah. And, you know, four names that I’m going to name here. Oh, really, you know, jump out at you. Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, of course, Joe Adonis, and then Bugsy Siegel, as well, who actually does end up visiting Luciano later on, because of Operation underworld as well. But yeah, Joe Donna’s, you know, not not someone not a boss that I’ve heard much about prior to this story. And I was surprised that I hadn’t, because he’s right there, you know, and in their rise, and, you know, he was actually part of the Brooklyn family and was a capo, the Mangano family, and he was kind of like, equal in rank to Anastasia. And one of the thing that’s kind of unknown about Operation Underworld is that Anastasia played no part in operations. Yeah, so prior to it, you know, there’s this murder investigation that’s going on, and he was actually on the run for two years. Nobody had seen him since like, 1939. But then, lo and behold, you know, one of the first conversations that Luciano has, is about getting rid of this. This witness, you know, who was a former member of Murder Inc. And, and so once they take him out, you know, Anastasia comes out from hiding and he ends up joining the army, you know, kind of a tactic of old to hide out in the military. You know,
during World War Two, I mean, mob guys joined the army and fought. I know, the kind of fame As he was more of like a mob associate, Alan Dorfman, up in Chicago was big time Teamster and fell with the Las Vegas skimming operation in the 70s. He got I think he won the silver star. And I talked to an old mob guy here. And he says, oh, yeah, I joined the military served overseas and, and he said, I started. I’ve started on troop ships coming home, and I opened the canteen and made so much money that I just stayed in there going back and forth on troop ships running the campaign that that he had some offers officer that he would pay off, of course, would would allow him to do this, and he’d sell things to soldiers. So movie stars, everybody, you know, was involved in the war effort.
Yeah, it’s funny, it just goes to show, you know, again, you think of the mafia, and they’re like enemies of the state. Well, perhaps they understand that they need this state to survive in order to be able to operate within it. You know, I don’t think they would not have much success in fascist Europe.
No, they found that out under Mussolini.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. For sure. But, you know, one of the things to to get back to Adonis, you know, one of the things that go into in the book is because I was really fascinated and wanted to know, what kind of business dealings the the mafia was into during World War Two. And, of course, there’s the union exploitation, you know, which we kind of got into, and then the other big one is gambling, you know, and it appears that Joe Adonis, and Luciano were jointly invested, I can’t remember which, which, which establishment it was, and they were kind of moving money around because they were getting ready. They had developed so many gambling dens and actually built some into first versions of the casinos that we know today, you know, enter lavish entertainment, you know, you know, beautiful game rooms, you know, over the top restaurants, you know, all you know, in a hotel, you know, all play so you can stay. And this kind of used to happen a lot in New Jersey and upstate New York. You know, and Adonis was was heavily connected with the jersey crews over there. That’s actually were Willie Moretti, who was Frank Costello’s underboss. You know, that was kind of his his headquarters. But anyway,
they changed to they were there. Yes. Frank Costello’s deal with slot machines.
Yes. Certainly. The one armed bandits. Yeah. So in New York that got busted up in the mid 30s, by LaGuardia, and then Costello moved his operation down to Louisiana. I believe it was so right. You know, it’s kind of this this interesting point in the Mafia’s history where they’re like, you know, the prosecution of Luciano certainly rattled everybody. You can see them getting their business holdings out of New York City. And so, you know, Lansky and Adonis are, you know, pushing into Florida, you know, racetracks casinos. And then of course, they’re also pushing into beginning to start to push into Havana, which, you know, you probably probably know some of those efforts and for the people love the Godfather, you know, that’s, that’s what Godfather two, you know, was based on those efforts. So you got Adonis is just kind of kind of moving money. And then he’s also Luciano is kind of right hand man and the Manjaro family so he helps deliver some, some informants. When operation underworld starts gathering Sicilians because, you know, the fight ends up going from the homefront, to Europe.
And I wondered about that when they landed, they were going to do some landings on Sicily as they go up the soft underbelly of Europe as he used to call it and go all the way up the spine of Italy. So to get intelligence and maybe even have agents on the ground over in Sicily, you know, your sis aliens in New York gonna have family over there. And yeah, I gotta know, the lay of the land. So what they then moved from the waterfront to Sicily is minders. Yeah,
I mean, like, as a storyteller, you couldn’t, you couldn’t hope for a better connection right? Here, you’re talking about the home front. And, you know, I don’t want to spoil the story, but we got the home front buttoned up. Everybody knows that. Yeah. Right. And, you know, and then, and then we took the fight to the enemy. And it’s just this interesting thing that, you know, the United States in New York City in particular, you know, had more Italians than any other place in the planet, except for Italy, you know? Yeah. And a lot of those a lot of those people had fled Mussolini’s regime. So they were not loyal, you know, to the government there. And when they realized that operation underworld you know, it was realized that these guys were in a perfect position to develop these these networks of informants and so the mafia went from, you know, I mean, of course they were still keeping, you know, the watchdogs and the docs, you know, keeping everything in order. But then they started you know, nagging all these longshoreman, you know, who were known to be Sicilians. They even find like a town mayor, you know, and they, they’re bringing them into the map rooms, you know, of intelligence officers, and they’re, they’re drawing maps and Sicily there. They’re told to bring postcards with them, you know, if they have any pictures of the coastline, you know, just any way they can glean intelligence, you know, of what it looks like, because unfortunately, all the maps and charts and data that we had collected from World War One was lost, you know, we didn’t, we didn’t keep it, you know, so we had nothing, we didn’t even have up to date maps, they were getting their maps from Rand McNally, you know, that the Navy was getting their maps. And so that intelligence, you know, certainly wasn’t valuable to war planners, it’s like, you know, officers are coming every day, you know, in the Map Room, and, you know, learning more and more, and then it also becomes evidence of the military planners, you know, that if the Italian people are not necessarily loyal to Mussolini, perhaps we can get them to turn on Mussolini. But they’re like, Okay, if we’re gonna do that, we need somebody in our army who can actually contact these people, you know, let them know that we’re not trying to fight you, you know. And so. So there are officers who are plucked right out of Operation underworld, right out of Commander happened, and it’s command, and they’re given commando training in North Africa, and they develop contacts and they’re they land and the first waves of the Sicily invasion and gala and Kata. And I won’t, I won’t go into the how that all ends up. But they ended up making mafia contacts, the you know, from, from sources in New York City, you know, end up helping them out in Sicily, and there’s a mission that they take on that has success because of that range. All right,
go alright, Matthew, that Yeah, we don’t want to give away everything. We want to write a book guys. Yeah. I recommend you get this book. I’ll have links in my show notes down below. And, and so I really appreciate you coming on here. Matthew, this is a heck of a book and I’m gonna get back to working on I’ve glossed over it and took some notes because I just got them then I’m when they hadn’t, and the interviewer didn’t get this ready to go. But it’s just a fascinating story. And oh, by the way, those those places you talk about, I did a story on that though, called carpet joints, really, throughout the United States. They did like country clubs would be just outside city limits of major cities. And they would develop the country club clubhouse into a carpet joint and have really nice dining and entertainment and and gambling room in the back. So
that’s great. Yeah,
it was an interesting time in the in, in our history. It’s yeah, yeah, for sure. And when the mafia was and the government and the criminal justice system and society, all across society were more intertwined with each other, and it wasn’t, I don’t know, it was just a different time. But it’s not like that anymore, of course, but certainly it is such a fascinating time. Indeed, yeah. Agreed, agreed. That you I really appreciate you coming on here and tell my guys’s story and I know they’re gonna be all over this book. So I know I’m gonna appreciate it. Thanks a lot for coming on Matthew.
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Gary. Thank you,
guys. Now don’t forget, I ride motorcycles. So watch out for motorcycles when you’re out there on the streets. And if you have a problem with PTSD, if you’ve been in the military or you know somebody with PS PTSD problem, and they’ve been in the military, especially, you know, go to the VA website and get that hotline. there’s help available. Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks a lot.