At nighttime hours of June 13, 1942, a German U-boat surfaced off the coast of Long Island.
4 saboteurs, under the leadership of 1 George Dasch, buried explosives beneath the sands of Amagansett as a part of an elaborate plan to explode Astoria’s Hell Gate Bridge, together with chemical plants getting used within the American war effort.
Naval intelligence Lt. Gen. Charles Radcliffe Haffenden had gotten word that 4 men had been spotted and sped out to Long Island’s East End.
But his investigation didn’t follow standard military protocols. Haffenden stopped at Millie’s Inn by Napeague Beach for dinner with a number of known organized crime associates. They were essential to a top secret surveillance network he had created with the assistance of the Mafia.
Fearing plans from German U boats off American shores, the Navy secretly partnered with the mob to guard US ports.Bettmann Archive
The mob played an important, secret role in World War II, using its power and control over Recent York City ports, dock employees and fishermen to maintain a watch out for U boats and other suspicious characters. The Mafia even employed its leverage to get the Navy inside an off-limits foreign consulate believed to have crucial information on the Nazis.
“The Navy realized that they didn’t have full security control over the Port of Recent York … They couldn’t get into the unions, they couldn’t get next to the shopkeepers, the longshoremen. No one was talking to them.” Matthew Black, writer of “Operation Underworld: How the Mafia and U.S. Government Teamed As much as Win World War II,” out Tuesday, told The Post. “The Navy was surprised to learn that not only would the Mafia be able to help, but they’d be completely satisfied to. Lots of them were loyal. They loved america of America.”
In early 1942, months before the U boat landed on Long Island, Haffenden concocted a top secret plan to unofficially deputize a known enemy of the state to protect Recent York from the Nazis.
Meyer Lansky was one in all the bosses giving orders during military-sanctioned meetings behind bars.Bettmann Archive
Recent York was one of the vital crucial waterways used during World War II.Getty Images
Through a series of lawyers, Haffenden organized a “cloak and dagger” midnight meeting at Riverside Park between Frank “Socks” Lanza — a k a the czar of the Fulton Fish Market, who answered to the notorious Lucky Luciano — and a district attorney.
Socks was was a bona fide “patriot” who hated each Hitler and Benito Mussolini, so he was easily convinced to sign on. Together with his help, deep-water fishing captains who previously pretended to not know a word of English began singing to Naval officials.
“Socks” Lanza was capable of get the Navy behind the scenes of the Fulton Fish Market and other parts of Recent York’s waterfront.Bettmann Archive
“Inside a brief period of time, you had America’s fishing fleet as the primary line of defense on the lookout for for German U boats,” Black said. “As the connection progressed, [the Navy] was capable of get access to an increasing number of places on the waterfront. Contacts led out to Long Island and all around the East Coast, especially in Recent England.”
As helpful as Socks was within the war effort, there have been still a fantastic deal of ports and piers the mafioso didn’t have leverage over. It was time for Operation Underworld to leap a pay grade as Socks recruited Luciano himself. There was only one problem: He was doing 30 to 50 years behind bars and arranging a gathering with him was complicated.
“[The Navy] didn’t want the FBI to find out about what they were doing. In order that they needed to give you all forms of measures to transfer him to a distinct prison and make it appear like it wasn’t the a part of any sort of major deal. Luciano was kept at midnight for a whole lot of it,” Black explained.
Charles “Lucky” Luciano was instrumental in brokering a deal by which the Mafia would protect America’s ports during World War II.(Photo courtesy of the Recent York
Unlike Lanza, Luciano wasn’t entirely operating as a bleeding-heart patriot. He used the military technique to run his empire from inside the can, getting orders out to his major bosses — Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Willie Moretti — during military-sanctioned meetings behind bars.
“He had 20-something visits along with his bosses,” Black said. “So he’s sort of using operation underworld to sort of further his criminal goals.”
Underworld in motion
Operation Underworld proved crucial through the allied invasion of Sicily.Getty Images
A 12 months after the Dasch affair, Operation Underworld evolved from port protection and espionage to helping allied troops invade and occupy Sicily — Luciano’s former home. It was a campaign codenamed Operation Husky.
“The USA was in a foul position to fight a war in Europe. All of the maps, all of the charts, all the info, all of the intelligence that had been collected from World War I had been destroyed,” Black said.
“So, the target shifted to finding details about Sicily. The Mafia was really helpful in developing contacts, individuals who had been to Sicily recently, who had worked within the harbors there, they usually were capable of bring this to Naval intelligence.”
The Mafia used its ties to Sicily to assist allied troops during Operation Husky.AP
The mob used its influence on locals in Sicily after the U.S. invaded.AP
Mob contacts ended up instrumental to the primary wave within the 1943 Sicilian invasion. Recent York mobsters acted as ambassadors of the armed forces to natives — including the local Mafia — in efforts to point out that the Americans were a friendly force through the occupation.
“The large objective was to get the Italians to activate the Germans and that’s exactly what happened,” Black said. “The Mafia was a real ally to the Allies in World War II.”