He got his start in the "Five Points Gang", a group of around 1,500 New York thugs and con men which began operations way back before the prohibition area. Later "Lucky" Luciano joined up with some of the most well known and feared gangsters at that time: Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Dutch Schultz, and Frank Costello. On June 4, 1942, Polakoff and Lansky go to the Great Meadows Prison to talk to Luciano. He is delighted with Lieutenant Commander Haffenden's plan. So the entire Luciano crime family joins hands with our United States Navy! Talk about sleeping with an enemy, these were some of the "strangest bedfellows" ever hatched out! (And of course, this was one of the most "hush-hush" secrets of World War Two!) Because the U.S. Navy worked so closely with the mafia, by the end of 1942, everything was serene and secure on the waterfronts.
On January 14, 1943, British War Premier Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met in Casablanca, Morocco (North French Africa.) "Casablanca" means "white house", so Hitler believed their conference would be held in Washington, D.C. Our two allied leaders and their chiefs-of-staff decided to invade Europe through Sicily, Italy on July 10, 1943. Sicily is a large island off the southwest corner of Italy. Until 1861, Sicily and the southern part of Italy was known as the kingdom of the two Sicily's. The capital was Palermo. Now, gathering intelligence for the coming invasion became top priority and again the navy turned to Lucky Luciano for help. Because Sicily was the big headquarters for the mafia, he volunteered to take charge personally. (Even if that meant parachuting in, which the navy declined.)
Again Lieutenant Commander Haffenden was "the man with the plan" in dealing with Luciano, and again the Luciano mafia crime family joined hands with our U.S. Navy!
This is a dark page or blot in the history of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. government. It should not have happened, but it did. Undoubtedly the navy's connections to the mafia were very helpful in its intelligence gatherings. It helped for the successful allied landings in Italy. But we paid a shameful price for their help.
Much of the records have now been lost, or deliberately destroyed, so no one knows how fully orders were carried out. But when we (the allies) liberated the Italian cities, the choice positions were supposed to be given to Luciano's boys. And just what was Lucky Luciano's own reward for helping our U.S. Navy? In 1936 U.S. Attorney Thomas Dewey of New York sent Lucky to prison with a 30-50 year sentence. In December of 1945, the same Thomas Dewey is now Governor of New York and now he completely pardons Lucky and sets him free!
On February 8, 1946 Lucky has a final meal with some of his longtime mafia pals, and boards the steamship SS Laura Keene. After serving 9 years of his long sentence, he is as free as a bird and headed for Sicily, Italy. Suddenly, the New York Herald Tribune newspaper has the U.S. Navy-Luciano secret deal on the front page. The New York Commissioner of Investigations, William Herlands, and his committee, meet to "look into the big scandal".
They never did reach any kind of conclusion. The navy refuted Lieutenant Commander Haffenden's whole story! Why, he must have had one beer too many and dreamed up the whole shocking deal! Charles "Lucky" Luciano died of a heart attack in Naples, Italy on January 26, 1962. He is buried in a family plot in Queens, New York.
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