Operation Underworld: How the Mafia and U.S. Government Teamed Up to Win World War II (Hardcover)
Not currently on our shelves, but available to order (usually within a few days)
Never has the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” had more truth than when the US government and the criminal underground joined forces to defeat the Nazi menace. For the first time ever the full story of how Charles “Lucky” Luciano—the U.S. Mafia boss who put the “organized” into organized crime—was recruited by U.S. Naval Intelligence in 1942 to aid the Allied war effort in the U.S. invasion of Sicily, a turning point in WWII.
In 1942, a rational fear was mounting that New York Harbor was vulnerable to sabotage. If the waterfront was infested with German and Italian agents then the U.S. Navy needed a recourse just as insidious to secure it.
Naval intelligence officer, Commander Charles Radcliffe Haffenden had the solution: recruit as his own spies, members of La Cosa Nostra. Pier to pier, no one terrified the longshoremen, stevedores, shopkeepers, and boat captains along the harbor better than the Mafia gangs of New York, who controlled the docks in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Haffenden was prepared to make a deal with the devil–the man who put “organized” into organized crime. Even from his cell in Dannemora State Prison, former Public Enemy #1, Charles “Lucky” Luciano still had tremendous power. Luciano was willing to wield it for Haffenden. But he wanted something in return—Luciano’s contacts in Italy to track the Nazis’ movements.
Operation Underworld is a tale of espionage and crime like no other, the unbelievable, first-ever account of the Allied war effort’s clandestine coalition between the Mafia and the U.S. Government to protect New York, vanquish the Nazis by taking the fight to the enemy in the 1943 U.S. invasion of Sicily. It was an ingenious strategy carried out by some of history’s most infamous, improbable, and unsung heroes on both sides of the law. It was a Faustian bargain that brought homefront enemies together but, as journalist and crime historian Matthew Black reveals, one that ultimately succeeded in helping the Allies win World War II.
About the Author
Matthew Black is a labor and crime historian who was recruited by James P. Hoffa’s office in 2016 to author Dave Beck - A Teamsters Life. Black has also worked as a staff writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune and has written articles for Alaska Airlines magazine. He has published dozens of articles on History101.com, digital website, where he has individually brought some 42 million readers to his work. Born and raised in Seattle, he is a graduate of the University of Washington with an honors degree in history. While he travels the country and the world at a feverish pace in search of stories, he calls San Diego home, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Praise for Operation Underworld by Matthew Black:
“Black spotlights in this colorful history the collaboration between the U.S. military and the Italian mob during WWII. A winning mix of true crime, espionage, and military history, this WWII tale thrills.” —Publishers Weekly
“Black’s dogged research uncovers never-before-seen details of a secret collaboration…Operation Underworld is believed to be the first-ever account of the war effort’s clandestine partnership between the Mafia and the U.S. government.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Details the ingenious strategy carried out by some of history’s most infamous, improbable, and unsung heroes on both sides of the law.” —Arab News
“The author tells this story in a clear and engaging manner that makes the text read almost like a crime novel told on a personable, almost heartbeat level.” —New York Journal of Books
“A dark, twisting tale of a Faustian bargain that forever changed the course of not only American history, but the fate of the world.” —Werd.com