Put on your wet suit, dear reader, because we’re about to dive into one of the most bizarre tag team duos in history: the Mafia and the military.

Think of it as an unlikely buddy-cop movie plot, except it does not involve cops. It’s mobsters and military folks. We know what you’re thinking: “What on earth would the upstanding military and the notorious Mafia have in common?” Well, quite a bit, especially when the world is in a massive war.

Our story takes us back to World War II, a time when alliances were shifting, battles were raging, and, believe it or not; the U.S. military found themselves seeking help from none other than the Italian-American Mafia.

But why, you might ask, would the government turn to organized crime for help?

Stay tuned because we’re about to dive into the fascinating, slightly shady world of Operation Underworld, where the lines between good guys and bad guys got a little blurry in the name of national security.

A Look Into Operation Underworld

It’s 1942, the middle of World War II. The U.S. is involved in a global conflict, and back home, there’s a constant fear of sabotage from enemy powers. 

The situation goes from bad to worse when a massive French ocean liner called the SS Normandie suddenly catches fire and capsizes in New York Harbor. It’s an enormous blow, not just because the ship was being converted into a troopship for the war effort but also because it stokes fears about enemy spies and saboteurs.

Charles “Lucky” Luciano had a hand in Operation Underworld. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Now, the Navy is scrambling, trying to figure out how to prevent something like this from happening again. The problem? They need the resources or know-how to secure the extensive docklands effectively.