Lucky Luciano (1996)

Biography Channel

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Charles ("Lucky") Luciano was born Salvatore Lucania on November 24, 1897 on the island of Sicily, immigrated to New York City in 1906, joined the Five Points gang of John Torrio, and became a member of the Italian crime organization that would be called the "Mafia" later by the Kefauver Committee in 1951. During Prohibition he rose to leadership of the family led by Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, and became a millionaire, specializing in prostitution and extortion. With friends Meyer Lansky and "Bugsy" Siegel he challenged the conservative traditional mob leadership. He was nearly murdered in 1929 and his throat slashed from ear to ear, but survived and acquired the nickname "Lucky." In1931 Luciano allied with the Sicilian family of Salvatore Maranzano, arranged the murder of Masseria April 15, and then turned against his allies and arranged the murder Maranzano on September 10, 1931. Luciano reorganized the mafia into a national crime syndicate emphasizing the common business interests of the separate families. Luciano became the Chairman of a board of directors, known as the Commission that included Meyer Lansky, Joe Adonis, Dutch Schultz, Louis Lepke, and Frank Costello. The Commission's policies were enforced by Murder, Inc., professional hit men led by Louis Lepke. After the election of President Franklin Roosevelt, a new federal effort began to control organized crime. Thomas E. Dewey, U. S. Attorney in New York, led the special investigation and prosecution of Luciano, resulting in his 1936 trial and conviction of running one of the largest prostitution rings in the country. He was sentenced to 30-50 years in prison, sent to Sing Sing in Ossining, New York, and later transferred to Clinton Prison in Dannemora, New York, but remained active in the Commission and the New York mob. "In 1942, with World War II well underway, the suspicious destruction of the Normandie, a luxury cruise ship being renovated as a troop carrier in New York City, and sabotage on the New York docks prompted Navy intelligence to request assistance from Luciano. Keeping the waterfront free of sabotage was necessary to the war effort since supplies needed by the Allied forces flowed through New York. In order to assist the Navy, Luciano was moved to the Great Meadows penitentiary in New York. Luciano, who still had a strong influence on the syndicate's decision-making process, was able to convince the syndicate (whose membership included the International Longshoremen's Union) to halt sabotage on the docks. In 1943, when the Allies planned to invade Sicily, Navy intelligence again sought Luciano's help. Assistant District Attorney from the State of New York, Murray Gurfein, also with the Office of Naval Intelligence, negotiated a deal with Luciano. In exchange for his release, Luciano would convince the Sicilian Mafia to join with the Allied forces during the invasion of Sicily. " (Gale 1999)

Luciano deported 1946

During the "Happy Time" for German submarines January-March 1942 the United States lost 216 ships off the East coast. The ONI was desparate for intelligence after the German Navy changed to the Triton cipher Feb. 1. Luciano persuaded his mob to cooperate with ONI. Joe "Socks" Lanza controlled the immigrant fishermen who supplied the Fulton Fish Market. Lanza's fishing fleet reported locations of U-boats. George Scalisi controlled the Longshoremen's Union and eliminated any sabotage and espionage efforts among the dockworkers of the kind that was suspected of causing the burning of Normandie Feb. 9 (but in fact there was no sabotage and the ship burned due to an accident). Luciano's cooperation continued for the invasion of Sicily and Italy. Mussolini had tried to suppress the Mafia, but during the American occupation of Sicily it revived and after the war cooperated with the American government in the fight against communism. On jan. 3, 1946, Dewey commuted Luciano's prison sentence and on Feb. 10 he was deported to Italy, died of a heart attack in Naples. His body was returned to the United States and was buried in St. John's Cathedral Cemetery in Queens, New York.


* Ambrose, Stephen E. and Richard H. Immerman, Ike's Spies. 1981.

* Battle of the Atlantic

* Campbell, Rodney. The Luciano Project: The Secret Wartime Collaboration of the Mafia and the U.S. Navy. 1977.

* Gale Group. "Charles ("Lucky") Luciano." Biography Resource Center Online, 1999.

* "Paisan: World War II In Italy Re-visited in Upcoming Film" from Sicilian Culture, May 18, 200


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