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 1944 to aid the Allied war effort in the U.S. invasion of Sicily that was a turning point in WWII.
In 1942, fears were growing that New York Harbor was vulnerable to sabotage. If the waterfront was infested with German and Italian agents, the U.S. Navy needed a secret plan 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 Uncle Sam in exchange for a fullpardon. Haffenden, though, wanted something in return—Luciano’s contacts in Italy to track the Nazis’ movements. The victorious U.S. invasion of Sicily in July 1943 might have turned out differently without Luciano’s help.
Operation Underworld is a tale of espionage and crime like no other, the unbelievable, first-ever account of the Allied war effort’s clandestine—and improbably—coalition between the Mafia and the U.S. Government to help the Allies win World War II.
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.