The Castellammarese War
The feature bout of Maranzano versus Masseria was a brutal free-for-all that went the distance and left fifty known dead, though that number is probably much higher, since the Mafia is not known for reporting its homicide statistics to the public at large. Masseria thought it was going to be a breeze. He had more men and means than the younger upstart and his Sicilian sidekicks. But the ruthless and determined Sicilian underdogs gradually wrested more and more power in the violent struggle.
Rivalries Run Deep
The two Mustache Petes battled it out for supremacy of New York City, but the real machinations were going on among the ambitious young hoods who were coming to the conclusion that they did not want to serve the winner of the war, no matter which one it may be. And the leader of the pack of wolves in waiting was a young Charlie Luciano, who would prove to be very “lucky” indeed when the dust settled and the Tommy guns were silenced.
One of the four gunmen who shot Joe “the Boss” Masseria in a Coney Island restaurant was allegedly Albert Anastasia, the man who would later make a name for himself as the head of Murder Incorporated. The driver of the getaway car for the gunmen was Ciro Terranova, nicknamed “the Artichoke King.” He was so nervous he almost botched the getaway.
Lucky Luciano was, in a twisted sort of way, an insightful man of vision. He believed that Masseria and the other Mustache Petes were squandering great opportunities out of Old-World prejudices and their reticence to adapt to changing times. He wanted to do business with the other ethnic crime organizations, and Masseria would have none of it. Masseria, though slow to act, was not stupid. When he learned of Luciano's grumblings, he knew the younger man was a threat, and he took decisive action.
Lower Manhattan was full of other ethnic mobsters. There were Jewish gangsters like Sam Weiss, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, Harry “Happy” Maione, and Charles “Charlie the Bug” Workman. The Irish had men like Big Bill Dwyer and Jack “Legs” Diamond. And Chinatown was home to warring criminal gangs affiliated with the tongs.
Luciano was kidnapped at gunpoint by three goons and hustled into the back of a limousine, where he was bound, gagged, beaten, and stabbed. Luciano regained consciousness on a desolate beach. He was surprised to find himself still alive. He wandered off the beach and walked for about a mile before offering a policeman $50 to call him a cab. The cop took him to the hospital instead, and Luciano was subjected to interrogation from law enforcement officials. He kept mum. The code of Omerta forbids squealing upon threat of a painful demise. Luciano assured the police that he would take care of the problem himself.
It was Luciano's pal Meyer Lansky who offered the theory that it was Masseria who orchestrated the hit. They could only assume that the bumbling thugs had intended to kill him, leaving him for dead without making sure he was indeed deceased. Together, Lansky and Luciano devised the plan that would end the reign of the Mustache Petes and bring the Mafia into the twentieth century.