Mobsters – Carlo Gambino

He was a quiet man who dressed inconspicuously and was known to never loose his temper. But there is no doubt, Carlo Gambino, with his huge hawk nose and enigmatic smile, was one of the most powerful mob bosses of all time.

Gambino was born in Palermo, Sicily on August 24, 1902. The area of Palermo, called Caccamo, in which Gambino grew up in, had such a intense Mafia presences, the police and even the military, were afraid to enter into its domain. That left the Mafioso to rule the area with impunity, knowing whatever they did would not be reported to the police, if the police even cared what happened there in the first place.

Carlo’s mother’s maiden name was Castellano, and she used her influence with her family, who were Mafiosos, to introduce Gambino to “Men of Respect” when Gambino was barely a teenager. Gambino, who was slight of built and only 5-foot-7, quietly impressed his superiors with his calmness, his intellect, and his ability to do what was necessary to be done, even if it mean killing someone who needed to be killed.

In 1921 right before his twentieth birthday, Gambino was rewarded for his good work by being inducted into the Mafia, or what was known in Italy as the “Honored Society.” However, because of Benito’s Mussolini’s vendetta against the Mafia (Mussolini had arrested many Mafioso, including top Mafia boss Don Vito Cascio Ferro, who was sentenced to life in prison), many Mafioso, including Gambino, decided that Sicily was too dangerous for them to exist in the manner that they had been accustomed to. As a result, there was a huge exodus of Mafioso to that mountain of gold across the Atlantic Ocean called America.

In late 1921, Gambino left Sicily on the freighter SS Vincenzo Florio, which was headed for America. For the entire trip, Gambino subsisted on nothing but wine and anchovies, which besides olive oil, were the only food substances on the ship.

The SS Vincenzo Florio docked in Norfolk, Virgina, on December 23, 1921, and Gambino disembarked as an illegal immigrant. Wearing a natty three-piece suit and a black fedora, Gambino walked down the gangplank looking for a car, he was told when he left in Palermo, would be waiting for him when he docked in America, with flashing lights at the end of the dock. He spotted the car and when he arrived at it, Gambino saw a Castellano cousin sitting behind the wheel. The two men embraced, and in seconds they were headed to New York City.

When Gambino arrived in New York City he was pleased to discover that his Castellano cousins had already rented him an apartment on Navy Street in Brooklyn, near the waterfront. They also put Gambino to work in a trucking company owned by his first cousins Peter and Paul Castellano. Soon Gambino segued into the illegal bootlegging business, run by his Palermo pal Tommy Lucchese. Prohibition was instituted by the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919, which banned the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquors, but not the consumption. On thing led to another, and soon Gambino was a main cog in the crew of Joe “The Boss” Masseria, the most powerful Mafioso in America.

However, another Mafioso had escaped Mussolini’s wrath and arrived in America in the mid-1920’s. His name was Salvatore Maranzano, second in command to Don Vito Cascio Ferro in Sicily. Maranzano figured the Sicilian Mafioso were much superior to those in America, so it was only natural that he should become the top Mafia boss in America. This did not sit well with Masseria, and the result was the Castellammarese War, which flooded the streets of New York City with scores of dead bodies from 1929-31.

Masseria’s crew was soon joined by top Mafia men like Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia, and Vito Genovese, who were well-connected to Jewish gangsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. However, since Masseria did not like his men doing business with non-Sicilians (Costello, real name Castiglia, was from Calabria), Luciano, Costello, Anastasia, and Genovese bided their time, hoping that maybe both Masseria and Maranzano would knock each other off, so that the younger men could take control of all their operations.

However, it was Gambino who made the first move in rectifying this situation. Sensing that he was on the losing side of the battle, Gambino secretly approached Maranzano and offered to jump to Maranzano’s side. Maranzano readily agreed, and soon Luciano, Costello, Anastasia, and Genovese, also wanted to join Maranzano’s forces. Maranzano accepted their offer, on the stipulation that they do away with Masseria, once and for all. That task was accomplished on April 15, 1931, when Luciano lured Masseria to the Nuova Villa Tammaro Restaurant in Coney Island. While Luciano was taking a bathroom break, Siegel, Genovese, Anastasia, and Jewish killer Red Levine burst though the front door and filled Masseria with lead, rendering him quite dead and ending the Castellammarese War.

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