Castellammarese War

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The Castellammarese War is the name given to a bloody internal power struggle between two factions of Italian-American mafia figures that took place in 1930 and 1931. It culminated in the brief establishment of Salvatore Maranzano as capo di tutti capi, before he himself was killed and "the Commission" of five mafia families of equal stature was established.

The name is derived from the fact that one side in the conflict consisted, at least at first, of immigrants sent by powerful Sicilian mafioso Don Vito Cascio Ferro from the vicinity of the town of Castellammare del Golfo in western Sicily, including Joseph Bonanno, Stefano Magaddino, Joseph Profaci, Joseph Aiello, and the faction's leader, Salvatore Maranzano. Their adversaries, who hailed both from elsewhere in Sicily and adjacent of regions of southern Italy such as Calabria and Campania (particularly Naples) were led by Joe "The Boss" Masseria and also included Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Albert Anastasia, Vito Genovese, Willie Moretti, Joe Adonis, and Frank Costello.

Tensions between the two factions were readily evident as far back as 1928, with one side frequently hijacking the other's alcohol trucks (alcohol was then illegal in the United States due to Prohibition); but ironically, the opening salvo in the war itself was fired not by one side against the other but rather within the anti-Castellammarese faction, when on February 26, 1930, Gaetano Reina (whose daughter Mildred would marry Joe Valachi two years later) was murdered by order of Masseria, so that Masseria could seize control from Reina of the bulk of New York City's ice distribution system (highly valued since most of the city's homes were not equipped with electric refrigerators in those days). This caused mobsters loyal to Reina, including future family bosses Thomas Gagliano and Thomas Lucchese, and also Valachi's mentor, Dominick Petrilli (known as "The Gap"), to turn against Masseria.

After Reina's murder, Masseria appointed Bonaventura Pinzolo to take over the ice-distribution racket - but on September 9, 1930 Pinzolo was shot to death by Reina's former subordinates at a Times Square office rented by Lucchese. Meanwhile, on August 15, 1930, Maranzano loyalists executed a key Masseria-allied mob enforcer, Pietro Morello, at Morello's East Harlem office (another man who had been visiting the office, Giuseppe Pariano, was also killed). After these two murders, which were carried out independently of one another, the Reina crew formally joined forces with Maranzano, whose side suffered a setback on October 23, 1930 when Aiello was murdered in Chicago, presumably on Capone's orders (in Chicago during this time separate - and mutually hostile - Sicilian and non-Sicilian factions existed within the Italian-American organized crime apparatus).

Following the death of Aiello, however, the tide of the war rapidly turned in the Maranzano faction's favor (a key member of Masseria's gang, Stefano Ferrigno, was murdered, along with Alfred Mineo, on November 5, 1930) and members of Masseria's gang began to switch sides, rendering the original battle lines of the conflict (Castellammarese versus non-Castellammarese) meaningless. After another important Masseria lieutenant, Joseph Catania, was gunned down on February 3, 1931 (he died two days later), Luciano and Genovese agreed to betray Masseria if Maranzano would end the conflict thereafter - and on April 15, 1931, Masseria was killed while eating dinner at Nuova Villa Tammaro, a restaurant in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn.

After Masseria's death, Maranzano laid out the organizational structure of the Mafia in the United States which has since remained essentially unchanged - the basic family unit headed by a boss, assisted by an underboss (the third-ranking position, that of consigliere, was added somewhat later) and divided into crews, each headed by a capo and staffed by soldiers, the latter often assisted by associates not yet members (or as they became known later, "wiseguys"). Except for New York City, major urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest were organized into one family per city; New York City was organized into five separate families (whose respective bosses, appointed by Maranzano, were Luciano, Profaci, Gagliano, Bonanno, and Vincent Mangano). It is also believed that the term "La Cosa Nostra" (meaning "this thing of ours") was coined during this period.

Maranzano set himself above, and apart from, the five families of New York City, appointing himself Capo di tutti capi, or "boss of all bosses"; however, his reign would prove to be shortlived. On September 10, 1931 Maranzano was shot and stabbed to death in his Manhattan office by Jewish gangsters hired by Luciano and Genovese, who believed Maranzano was plotting to have them killed. On the same day, approximately 40 other Cosa Nostra mobsters were also slain from New York to Chicago, almost all of them older gangsters not born in the United States and loyal to Maranzano (about 60 had died in the original conflict that culminated in Maranzano's victory over Masseria). The effective takeover of the Mafia by a younger, more ruthless generation of mobsters, headed by Lucky Luciano, was then complete.

See also

de:Krieg von Castellammare


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