Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Mafia Christmas - 1946

December 10, 1946. J. Edgar Hoover and Walter Winchell meet in NYC for the funeral of mutual friend Damon Runyan, who has just died of cancer. Hoover, who still doesn't believe in the existence of organized crime, outlines plans for the Damon Runyan Cancer Fund.

Meantime, thousands of miles away, a man hands a piece of paper with the words " "December-Hotel Nacional" to Lucky Luciano in Naples. Having recently been forced out of Rome, he is making plans to get back to the Western Hemisphere.

Luciano had been told that if he was able to protect East Coast ports from sabotage, he would be pardoned at the end of the war and deported to Italy as a free man. Luciano agreed to the proposal and helped win the war.

But, after the war ended, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey would only agree to Luciano's pardon on the condition that he never be allowed back into the U.S. The Fed's agreed and in February 1946 Luciano had been deported.

By November 1946, with 2 false passports, Luciano made his way to South America, and then to Cuba. The Christmas Summit began on December 22nd with the arrival of all of the heads of the various families.

Frank Sinatra arrived on the same plane as the NY families and the conference began that night. By the night of the 24th, Christmas Eve, the topics has become very serious. The future of narcotics distribution worldwide was the vision of Lucky Luciano. Previously the Mob had steered clear of two specific crimes which would involve them with the Feds; drug trafficking and hi-jacking of Interstate trucking.

Prior to the conference, Meyer Lansky suggested that Luciano purchase a $150,000 interest in the Hotel Nacional, the casino owned by Lansky and his silent partner, Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. This was supposed to insulate him from being deported should the US learn he was in Cuba and pressure Batista to deport him, possibly back to Italy, or worse, to the United States.

Another heated topic arose on the night of the 25th. The  Flamingo Hotel opening had been a complete bust. These men at the table had $6 million tied up in what appeared to be a total loss.

This was also the night when it was revealed that Virginia Hill, girlfriend to Bugsy Siegel, mastermind of the Las Vegas venture, had been squirrelling away about $2 million of that money in a Swiss account. Although his fate was not decided that night, plans for Siegel's future were being laid. Shortly after; he would be killed.

But, all was not guns and roses between the two biggest heads; Luciano and Genovese. By the end of the  Conference the tension between the two had reached a breaking point.

Meeting with Luciano in his room at the Nacional, Genovese told him that the U.S. government knew that Luciano was in Cuba and was now pressuring the Cuban Government to expel him. Since Luciano was going to have to return to Italy, Genovese suggested that he should turn over leadership of the Luciano Family to him and retire.

Knowing full well that it was Genovese who had tipped off the US of his being in Cuba, Luciano snapped. He  beat Genovese badly, using a chair leg to break three of his ribs. 

When Genovese felt better, Luciano and Anastasia put him on a plane to the States. Luciano also promised he would kill Genovese if he ever mentioned this incident to anyone.

By February 1947, the New York City papers became aware that Luciano was in Cuba. Bureau of Narcotics agent Harry Anslinger (always referred to as "Asslinger" by Luciano) demanded that Cuba deport him back to Italy. He correctly believed that Luciano was behind the recent surge of heroin into the United States.

When Cuba refused to comply, Anslinger took his case to President Harry S. Truman. The U.S. government then halted all shipments of medical supplies to Cuba while Luciano was still on the island, and the Cubans gave in to the demand.

That is the story of "Peace on Earth" and the Havana Christmas Conference. It would be 12 more years before J. Edgar Hoover conceded that there might be a Mafia, and 17 years until he reluctantly acknowledged it.

Note: Photo from Getty Stock. Luciano back in Sicily 1948.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas with Fruitcake Lady

Forgot all about these precious nuggets of wisdom from the feisty elder stateswoman..... it's a bit of Holiday Cheer for the big day coming.......

Thursday, December 12, 2019

My Friend Edgar.

One of the best things about talking with your grown children is finding outt what they were thinking back when they, and we, were both younger.

This photo is of My daughter, Sarah, at Edgar Allan Poe's grave in Baltimore, around 1997. We used to stop there on the way to Ft McHenry, where we spent alot of time, flying kites, or just horsing around.  This is her view of those visits to Poe's grave. It was written 10 years ago.

"Me at the burial site of Edgar Allan Poe, Westminster Hall, in Baltimore, MD. My dad used to take me there on weekend afternoons. This was my favorite of all the old graveyards we visited. I would run around and look at the cool and interesting graves with him.

I especially enjoyed looking for cracks and holes that... would allow me to peak into the old mausoleums. Before leaving, we would always stop at Poe's grave and say farewell.

I didn't understand the significance of that place until I was much older and had read many of Poe's works. I had always thought that he was just some dude my dad used to be friends with!"

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Ian Fleming and Pearl Harbor

In August of 1941 Cdr. Ian Fleming was attached to the BSC - British Security Commission. In that capacity he brought over to the United States another British agent named Popov, a Yugoslavian by birth, but a Brit by citizenship.

Popov had earlier supplied information after the German disaster at Tarino on Sicily. In that attack, the British used carrier based aircraft to annihilate a good portion of the German fleet. The Japanese quickly sent over a team to assess the damage done, and, more importantly, try and get a better understanding of how the attack was mounted.

A month later Popov had information concerning the Japanese. They were requesting information from their local Hawaiin agents as to the strength and positioning of ships berthed at Pearl  Harbor, the progress of the channel dregding, the depth of all channels and anti aircraft capabilities.

This information, coupled with the earlier intelligence, were pretty good indications that Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor. It was only a question of when.

This information became the property of J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. He was not pleased with the Presidents directive that he share information with the British. He was a notorious Anglophobe, which is to say that he, like the Japanese Colonel Sato in "A Bridge Over the River Kwai", hated the British. So, this info was locked away in August of 1941, having been dismissed by the Director as "nonesense."

In reality he was disgusted with Popovs playboy lifestyle and had even told others on more than one occassion that he considered the Yugoslavian to "be a double agent, using German and American money to live like a degenerate playboy."

And thus was born that old story about how FDR knew in advance of Pearl Harbor and did nothing. J. Edgar Hoover told him it didn't matter. That was in August.