The Mafia at War

B1770

This fascinating book provides an insight into the relationship between the US Government and the Mafia during World War Two as the Allies plotted to detach Italy from the Axis and assist an invasion of Sicily and then of mainland Italy. The combination of covert forces, secret societies and criminals provides an excellent basis for a thriller novel and some exciting if misleading histories. The author has produced a well-researched history that is no less exciting for that. He has rebutted some of the myths that have sprung up but any history of such a murky subject will never dispel widely held beliefs, or expose all of the facts.

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NAME: The Mafia at War
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
FILE: R1770
DATE: 270912
AUTHOR: Geoffrey Howse
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 320
PRICE: £14.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Mafia, Sicily, WWII, covert operations, irregular forces, bandits, resistance fighters, organized crime, conspiracy theories, 1939-1945, World War Two, Second World War, crime
ISBN: 978-1-84832-679-8
IMAGE: B1770.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/9nhwj6r
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The Mafia started out as a resistance movement to protect Sicilians against the Italian oppressor. As a secret society, it had the capacity to operate as an organized criminal group and the boundary between resistance and crime is always narrow. From that base, the Mafia spread beyond Sicily and is most infamous as the major organized criminal group in the United States.

This fascinating book provides an insight into the relationship between the US Government and the Mafia during World War Two as the Allies plotted to detach Italy from the Axis and assist an invasion of Sicily and then of mainland Italy. The combination of covert forces, secret societies and criminals provides an excellent basis for a thriller novel and some exciting if misleading histories. The author has produced a well-researched history that is no less exciting for that. He has rebutted some of the myths that have sprung up but any history of such a murky subject will never dispel widely held beliefs, or expose all of the facts.

When WWII broke out, criminals were recruited into the service of nations at war. That has a long heritage and is entirely logical when governments are in the process of doing things that in peacetime are regarded as crimes, and training young people to go out and kill. The criminal potentially brings many skills to the activities of covert forces. The ability to open a safe or steal sensitive items suddenly becomes highly desirable. The downside is that criminals often prove difficult to control and can be more trouble than they are worth. There is also the problem of how to transition from war back to peace when what has just been commended by the State becomes something that must be suppressed.

It is therefore only natural that the US Government should have turned to the Mafia to assist in the ware against Germany. The Mafia soldiers who were busy exploiting dockyard labour and the goods passing through ports was in a good position to look out for foreign agents who might be attempting to spy on, or sabotage, port installations. The origins of the Mafia also provided a unique resource within the Axis. That resource could be used to detach Italy from the Axis and it could also be used to assist any landings in Sicily. That this new relationship also brought new risks with it, the short term situation made those risks acceptable.

The Mafia had two different benefits to be provided by this relationship with the US Government. High on the Mafia agenda for centuries has been revenge and this relationship gave them the backing to take revenge against Mussolini for his crack down on the Mafia and his attempts to totally destroy the Mafia families in Sicily and Italy. Equally attractive was the opportunity to use wartime support to build a stronger Mafia for the period after the war.

The author has provided a dramatic and provocative account of the criminal organization exploited its wartime relationship to revive its fortunes and build an enlarged organized crime base that was ready to operate internationally after the end of the war. The author has concentrated on the period in WWII when there was clear evidence of some formal links between the US Government and the Mafia, but the relationship was to continue and may continue today at a much lower level. There is evidence of a love-hate relationship between the Kennedy family and the Mafia, which may have included a contract being placed on Cuba’s Castro. There is also some evidence of Mafia assistance being sought as part of a war on terrorism. Much of this is dismissed as “conspiracy theory” but just because there is a conspiracy theory does not mean that there is no conspiracy. The challenge is in sorting out the real evidence from a mass of misdirection and myth.

As the author has demonstrated, arms were delivered to insurgents in Sicily who attached police and military targets before and after Italy changed sides. These irregular troops were interested in Sicilian independence and many of the soldiers were members of the local Mafia. Every government has communication with criminals, as do the police. When it suites the authorities to draw intelligence and other assistance from criminals there is a willingness to work outside the law. On occasions this operation with criminals can descend into simple criminality between police or other agencies of government and organised crime. It is a very murky area and the defence of actions is sometimes impossible to justify in a law-abiding, democratic society. Writers of fiction will use what may be occasional events to build an exciting story that portrays a very different environment.

This book will not dispel all the conspiracy theories about Mafia involvement in support of the Allies during WWII and some parts of it may be used to build new theories, but it is a great read, its provoking and its entertaining. What more can be asked of any book? The research appears solid and the conclusions are supported. Its also available at a very low price and although its not lavishly illustrated there is a very good plate section for mono photographs that includes rare images.

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