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Nicole Stout, James Quirk, Ph.D.

A Dance with the Devil Himself?

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While most people are aware of the main battles and major facts of World War II, few have knowledge of the important role that organized crime, specifically the contributions of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, played in the Allied victory over the Axis Powers.  Noting the negative views towards organized crime, and the stereotypical ideas many people have regarding the Mafia, the findings of this research may be a surprise to some, leading one to ask if Luciano was “the devil himself” or someone helpful to the cause of protecting the freedoms of the world.

This research came about after a conversation with my father and his friends, who spent a lot of time with Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and other members of Murder Incorporated in New York City in the 1940’s.  Upon hearing the history of Lucky Luciano and the American Government, I felt a closer look at the topic would prove interesting.  Though Luciano later revealed that his participation was simply a way for him to gain release from prison, his contributions to the cause of freedom cannot be denied.

This paper asked, “What was the contribution of organized crime during World War II, especially in Operation Underworld (the predecessor of Operation Husky) and Operation Husky (the Allied attack on Sicily)?"  The methodology was conducting personal interviews, viewing recorded interviews and analysis, and primary (government documents) and secondary (biographies) research materials.  The research and analysis showed the major role that a particular subset of cultures, often seen in a negative light, played on a distinctly American military operation.  Had it not been for Lucky Luciano and his connections to both the New York docks and Sicilian Mafioso, it is believed that a key aspect of WWII certainly could have ended very differently.

The poster presentation includes:  A brief outline of WWII up to and including Operation Underworld, a summary of information regarding both Operation Underworld and its major players as well as Operation Husky and what was involved, including information from military sources as well as visual aids in the form of photographs.  Also included is a background of Lucky Luciano, briefly covering his rise to power, imprisonment, deal with the government and his eventual return to Sicily.

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