Mafia Allies: The True Story of America's Secret Alliance With the Mob in World War II

The subtitle of this book misleadingly promises more conspiracy than is delivered. Newark goes out of his way to refute the myth that the Allies struck "a deal with the Mafia to win the war in Sicily." They won through the hard slog of combat, and the Mafia's resurgence after the war came because it had never, despite Benito Mussolini's claims, been eliminated and because postwar chaos and shortages provided ample opportunities for organized crime. Newark does, however, provide a fascinating account of the interface between crime and politics in Italy and the United States and the minor impact this had on the war's conduct. In a total war, help was taken from unsavory quarters, and where the Mafia could buy political influence, it did so. The book is full of characters straight out of central casting, such as "Lucky" Luciano, who saw opportunities for an interesting mix of patriotism and business. The Jewish mobsters, such as Meyer Lansky, had their own reasons for getting at the Nazis. "Bugsy" Siegel found himself at a party in Italy also attended by Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring and was only barely restrained from killing them by the hostess. That, as Newark notes, was the closest the Mafia got to really changing the course of World War II.

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