Allied Invasion And The Mafia

Operation Mincemeat was the beginning of the invasion of Sicily. The Allies’s plan was to place a corpse disguised as the British officer adrift off the coast of Spain. The body had a briefcase with fake documents indicating the Allies were planning to invade Greece and Sardinia. The German high command believed the documents were authentic and placed their forces away from Sicily to Greece.

In the early morning of July 9/10, Lieutenant General George Patton’s Seventh Army invaded the eastern tip of Sicily. It was 3 A.M. when the first ships and landing crafts deposited some 160,000 men between the villages of Gela and Licata.

General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s British and Canadian Army’s target was Siracusa and the armada moved swiftly toward it.

There are a number of small villages that claim, with the help of the local mafia, aided the Allied forces in their efforts to drive the German Army from their land.

These villages and towns will be explored and the Mafia’s assistance will be chronicled.

*Most of the research for these posts were gathered from two must read books: Tim Newark’s Mafia Allies, and John Dickie’s Cosa Nostra.

Licata and Gela

Operation Husky started when the 7th Army landed off the coast of Sicily, between the villages of Licata and Gela.

As the infantry landing craft landed on the beaches the American Navy smashed each Italian and German pillbox that fired upon the American infantry.

German bombers flew overhead, dropping flares before they delivered their bombs, but they didn’t hit a thing. At the end of the day there were few American casualties between the soldiers and sailors.

Two teams of Navel Intelligence were assigned to Operation Husky.

One of their plans was to contact the people who had been deported for any crime in the United States to Sicily. They were extremely cooperative and helpful because they spoke the dialect of southern Sicily and spoke some English.

Meyer Lansky told of a man who Lucky Luciano helped flee the United States after shooting a New York policeman. In Licata, the cop-killer became the head of the local Mafia. The password for American Intelligence agents was, “Mafia and Lucky Luciano.” These words were said to be like magic.

The Sicilians were rushing into the streets, greeting the tanks, shouting, “The Americans are coming! The Americans are here!

The local Mafioso gathered his men and they attacked the German head-quarters at Licata, killing the German guards outside. They blew open the safe that contained maps of German and Italian defences on the island and radio code books, as well as map overlays of marine mine fields and the safe routes through them. The local fishermen were instruction to acquire food for the villages where the landing of the allies had been effective.

Moving through Licata, General Patten’s Seventh Army passed hundreds of Italian prisons sitting along the countryside. Next was the control of Corleone and their push to Palermo.

Villaba

Michele Pantaleone, whose family lived in Villaba, is the source of the most famous story told about the Allied invasion of Sicily and the battle of Cammarata.

On July 14, four days after the Allied landing, an American fighter plane flew over the village of Villaba. A yellow pennant could be seen fluttering from the side of the cockpit. The plane dropped a nylon bag that contained a yellow flag with a black ‘L’ on it.

A second bag was dropped near a farmhouse belonging to Don Carlo Vizzini, the head  of the Mafia in all of Sicily. Don Carlo knew what the yellow flag meant. It was a password and the ‘L’ stood for Luciano.

Don Vizzini wrote a code letter to Don Russo, the second most important Mafioso in the area.

Turi, the farm bailiff, will go to the fair at Cerda with the calves on Thursday July 2oth, wrote Ruzzo. “I’ll leave on the same day with the cows, cart-oxen, and the bull. Get the faggots ready for making cheese, and provide folds for the sheep. ‘Cows’ meant the U.S. Army, cart-oxen meant tanks, and bull meant the US commander.

Don Carlo was telling Don Ruzzo to make the Americans happy and secure. Five days later, on July 20th, when the tanks drove into the village, the lead tank had a yellow flag flying from its turret. About 2 o’clock that afternoon three tanks moved into the Villialba asking, il capo del paese,  the person in charge. Not long after, the people of the village formed a procession with Don Carlo at its helm, chanting: ‘long live Don Carlo, long live America, and long live the mafia.’

Two days later the Axis commander lost two-thirds of his men to desertion. Some of the Italian troops later claimed they were told by the local Mafia the situation was hopeless had they were told to leave. The battle of Cammarata, had been won with a single shot being fired, according to the Mafia.

The Americans then pressed on to Palermo.

Vellelunga

The next village north of Villalba is Vallelunga. There the 45th. division overcame a battalion of the Italian army. The strength was reported as 200 German/Italian soldiers and 5 tanks. at Vallelunga was On July 21, the 45th joined forces with the 3rd division on highway 121 north of Lercara Friddi and pushed north west toward Palermo. Don Carlo was invited to join them so as to enlist help from the locals.

On July 21-22, the 2nd Platoon came under fire near Chuiusa Sclafini, where they came under fire from mortars, machine guns and artillery. They returned the fire, destroyed the enemy defences and took thirty-four prisoners.   The road to Corleone was now clear.

When the AMGOT, The Allied Government Occupied Territory, entered a village they would provide relief, food, cigarettes, news and things the Sicilians had not had for the last five years.

The collection of arms from the civil populations came to them as a complete surprise. In one town there were over 200 shotguns.

The Carabinieri Reali, state police, and most mafia leaders, were allowed to keep their arms, and were instructed to keep there normal police duties, while routing the Axis army.

Coreleone

This mountain town that has now became famous for the birthplace of Mario Puzo’s Godfather , was next.  General Patton’s Seventh Army blanketed this village enfolded in desolate hills. It was known as the cradle of the Mafia and when the Allies reached Coreleone much of the Italian and German troops and equipment had been run out-of-town by the men of honor. Naturally, that is the Mafia’s story. Actually, word had spread throughout, Lercara Friddi, the desert village south Coreleone, that the American Army was on its way. Italian soldiers dropped their arms and blended in to the locals and when engaged in battle, the Germans surrendered.

The road to Palermo and the eventual control of Sicily was less than a few days off.

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