In this episode we’re going to cover the life in times of Vincent Mangano, aka “The Executioner,” aka “Don Vincenzo,” who was named head of what would eventually become the Gambino family when the American Cosa Nostra officially formed in 1931.
Hello everybody and welcome back to another episode of The Member’s Only Podcast. I am your host Jacob Stoops, and I’m a long-time history buff and mob aficionado.
Before we get into the episode, I’d like to quickly apologize for taking a while in between videos. I ruptured my eardrum which has made it quite difficult to record, and I’m still feeling the effects but trying to push through it to get you the in-depth mafia content that you deserve.
Aside from that, I’ve done a ton of research on our subject today Vincent Mangano, who is one of the most underrated figures in the history of the American Mafia.
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Okay, so let’s get started. As mentioned in the teaser, today, we’re bringing back the biographies! The first biography around Tommy Gagliano was incredibly well-received and today I’d like to cover another original 1931 Commission Boss, Vincent “The Executioner” Mangano. Funny enough, I had originally picked Gagliano because I wanted to cover a boss where there wasn’t a lot of available information, and as it turns out Mangano was almost as difficult to find information on as Gagliano, but never fear as I did a ton of digging and think I’ve put together what will be one of the most comprehensive overviews of Vincent that you’re going to find.
As previously mentioned, Vincent Mangano was the first “official” head of the Mangano family when the Cosa Nostra Commission was formed in 1931 by Charles “Lucky” Luciano. This family eventually becomes known as the Gambino crime family. (And for those of you out there that are going to comment he wasn’t the first official boss, just know that I’m counting the first boss as who was the leader when Lucky formed the Commission in 1931 and not the previous leaders of the clans ahead of that timeframe. So save your comments.)
“Don Vincenzo” reigns over the family for a period of 20 years, and while he is overshadowed by the likes of the bosses that came after him, he was incredibly powerful in his own right and really helped to lay the foundation for the success of the family – which is typically considered to be either the 1st or 2nd most powerful of the New York families (which by proxy makes it the most powerful in the country) depending on the time period, and it is also one of the largest of the five New York borgata’s historically.
Okay, so let’s get started by first digging into Vincent’s early life.
Vincenzo Giovanni (Vincent) Mangano was born sometime in 1888 in Palermo, Sicily. The actual date of his birth is in dispute as some sources show him being born in March 1888, while others show him being born in December 1888. Vincent’s declaration of intent to naturalize, signed in 1906, his 1920 passport application, and his WWI and WWII draft registrations all give his birth as 14 December 1887 in Palermo. Additionally, on his family headstone, his date of birth is listed as December 14th, 1888, so we’re inclined to believe that.
Vincent is the son of Vincenzo and Serfina Mangano, as well as the older brother of Fillippo (Philip) Mangano, who would eventually join him in organized crime. According to his passport application in 1920, Vincent immigrated to the United States around April of 1906. However, his name appears on at least two manifests in 1905 and 1906 with a line through his name, indicating he did not sail.
Then in May 1906, Vincenzo Mangano and his sister, Lorenza, appear in lines 432 and 433 of the manifest of Il Piemonte. Vincenzo is 18, single, and lists his occupation as a gardener. His sister, 20, is listed as a launderer. Oddly enough, she is marked as a man on this record. According to the record, they last resided in Palermo and were travelling to Brooklyn to join their brother, Francesco.
According to records, after his initial immigration there appears to have been some travel back to Sicily as there are immigration records around 1911 that indicate he has been in the United States previously. On November 13, 1911, Vincenzo Mangano appeared in Line 1 of the manifest of the San Guglielmo. At that time, he was 24 years old, did not list an occupation, his line was stamped “Non Immigrant Alien” and he was listed as American by nationality. He had no living relatives in Italy and was headed to Brooklyn to join his mother, Serafina Simonetto, at 60 Union Street. On his person he had $1,000 (worth approximately $25k in today’s money). He is listed as having been in the United States before, and he is described as 5’6”, of natural complexion, with chestnut hair and eyes.
On January 1st, 1912, Vincent married Carolina Cusimano in Kings, New York, and the couple went on to have four children between 1913 and 1919.
In June of 1917, Vincent registered for the WWI draft. The application lists his trade as “Fish store clerk” and describes him as tall, stout, with brown eyes, black hair, not balding, and with a hernia (though it doesn’t specify where).
In June of 1920, Vincent applied for a passport which states that he became a naturalized citizen in November of 1919 and lived at 222 Degraw St, Brooklyn, (still in Cobble Hill, about three blocks west of his old location on Union). He lists his occupation as an importer. He stated that he was going to Italy to settle his estate there and planned to return in six months. He passed through France and Switzerland while en route, and was sailing on the SS San Gennaro on 29 June 1920. On the second page of this record, there is a photo of a young Vincent Mangano, where he is described as 32 years old, 5’8.5” tall, with a medium forehead and mouth, round chin, broad nose, oval face, ruddy complexion, black hair and brown eyes. No marks.
There are some indications that Vincent may have travelled back into the United States in 1921 with friend and fellow future mafia boss, Joe Profaci.
Vincent shows up in several U.S. census reports beginning in 1920 and through 1940. In 1920, as previously mentioned, his occupation was listed as an importer, but by 1930, his occupation had changed to Proprietor with the industry listed as Real Estate. He also lists himself as a real estate agent in the 1940 census.
So his cover during prohibition was as an importer, but afterwards was in real estate, but as you’ll find out, those “occupations” were just a front for what would ultimately become Mangano’s bread and butter – the Brooklyn waterfront.
Now if you’re like me and you like to visualize in your mind what a person must have looked and even sounded like, this is one of those cases where there simply isn’t a whole lot to go on as there aren’t many pictures of Mangano. Not only that, but he hasn’t been portrayed in movies or TV often – and when he has been it’s been only a few seconds here and there of screen time.
So here’s my best attempt to liken what is known about Mangano’s physical characteristics and some content that’s been attributed to him to pop culture.
Based on the combination of appearance and general demeanor, I most closely associate Mangano with the character of Peter Clemenza, famously portrayed by actor Richard Castellano, in The Godfather. As you’ll see, Mangano had both the brutality necessary to be a mob boss combined with a jovial attitude amongst friends.
There is also another actor who I felt bore a striking resemblance to Mangano, and that’s Don Joseph Zaluchi, the head of the Detroit family in The Godfather. You can see Zaluchi, played by actor Louis Guss, during the famous bank scene.
If you’re looking for a more modern representation, one site in my research suggested the actor Kevin Pollak bore a decent resemblance, and I can’t say that I disagree there either.
Anyhow, let’s move on and dig into Vincent’s criminal rise.
Criminal Beginnings & The Rise to Underworld Prominence
Before we talk about how Vincent ultimately becomes the boss of his borgata, let’s give a brief history lesson on his predecessors within what eventually becomes the Mangano crime family (and of course eventually the Gambino crime family).
Going all the way back to 1888, ironically the year Vincent was born, Nicola Taranto is in position as the first boss and leader of the family which at the time specialized in counterfeiting. Around this time he is convicted of counterfeiting and sentenced to five years in prison, which essentially costs him his position within the organization. So he’s out.
Stepping in to fill the leadership vacuum is the infamous Ignazio Lupo, better known as “Lupo the Wolf.” Lupo himself was a feared killer who developed an awesome reputation for violence (and was suspected of over 60 murders) and is known to have engaged in Black Hand activities. Building upon the foundation set forth by Taranto, Lupo pulls together the organization and centers operations in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The family gets involved in business bankruptcy, protection rackets, counterfeiting, and of course, murder.
Lupo becomes close with Guiseppe Morello, boss of a Mafia of Corleonesi in East Harlem and Lower Manhattan. In 1903, the two men became brothers-in-law with Lupo’s marriage to Morello’s half-sister, Salvatrice Terranova. The marriage of Lupo’s sister made him also an in-law of the Palermo-based Gambino clan. Lupo appears to have been related to the Mangano clan of Palermo through the marriage of his uncle. It is at this time that Lupo merges his portion of the family with the Morello-Terranova factions, which forms what was then known as the Morello crime family, which at the time was the leading Mafia family in New York City.
Then in 1910, Lupo as well as Morello were arrested for running a large-scale counterfeiting ring and sentenced to 30 and 20 years in prison respectively.
It’s at this time that leadership of the family passes between Morello’s half brothers, the Terranova’s, as well as top captain Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila who separates his organization from the Morello clan.
When Morello is released early from prison in 1920, he finds that his former captain, now a Mafia boss in his own right, Salvatore D’Aquila now considers him a threat and within a year D’Aquila orders Morello killed, Morello orders D’Aquila killed, and war breaks out between the two factions. It is at this time that you also have the rise of Joe “The Boss” Masseria who is a Morello ally.
After losing some of his top men, D’Aquila’s power eventually begins to fade and he is eventually murdered in 1928 with his family’s leadership passing to Manfredi “Al” Mineo. Following the assassination, Al Mineo then becomes a part of the Masseria alliance (and is said to have been directly involved in the D’Aquila assassination).
Guiseppe Morello, sensing his time to rule had passed and the power of Masseria was on the rise, became consigliere to Joe Masseria and prospered under him throughout the Prohibition years of the 1920s.
So that’s the background. A lot of treachery, jealousy, and war set against the backdrop of the immigration wave of the early 1900’s and of course eventually, Prohibition.
Let’s take a quick step back to Vincent so that you can understand where he fits into the picture.
In the 1920’s there is very little information surrounding Vincent’s activities. One thing we do know of course it that as of 1921, he had been documented as travelling with future fellow boss Joe Profaci on a trip to and from Italy, which likely indicates that his Mafia ties began around or slightly before 1921 as Profaci had ties to the Villabate Mafia in Sicily. Of course all of this is pure speculation.
There are also some newspaper mentions of Mangano in the 1940’s and 1950’s that indicate he was at one time in the 1920’s part of the crew of Anthony Carfano, better known as “Little Augie Pisano,” who came up in the organization of Frankie Yale, and which was absorbed by the Masseria organization after Yale’s death.
While there isn’t a great deal of documentation on just how Mangano got his start, it’s clear that at sometime in the 1920’s, Vincent and his brother, Philip, become a part of Salvatore D’Aquila’s Mafia clan in and around Red Hook, Brooklyn. The family was particularly strong in the waterfront rackets, and other early members of the D’Aquila family were Albert Anastasia and Frank Scalise.
From there the Mangano brothers go on to begin their careers extorting the docks in Brooklyn. When he eventually becomes boss, there are some accounts that suggest Vincent and his brother Phllip have been a power on the Brooklyn waterfront “for some time.”
In 1928, Mangano shows up on the criminal radar when he is one of 23 men, along with future Cosa Nostra boss Joe Profaci, to be detained at the infamous Cleveland Statler Hotel meeting.
Little is known about the reason for the Hotel Statler meeting. However, some believe the goal was to discuss the killing of Brooklyn Mafia boss Salvatore D’Aquila as well as recent assassinations in Chicago. The Chicago PD believed it was a “meeting of ‘captains of the industry’ to elect a successor to [Unione Siciliana president] Tony Lombardo,” who had been killed three months earlier. Still others suggest that it was a meeting to recognize the eminence of Joe “The Boss” Masseria and crown him the U.S. Mafia’s new “boss of bosses.”
Critics of this view rightly note that Masseria was not among those taken into custody. However, the recent murder of D’Aquila on a Manhattan street left Masseria’s appointment as boss of bosses a mere formality. Though Masseria’s own home base was in New York City, many of his kin resided in Cleveland, and Masseria allies in Cleveland had recently defeated a pro-D’Aquila faction there. The city would have been an entirely appropriate selection for a Masseria coronation.
Of course, all of this is pure speculation. No matter the reason for the meeting, Mangano was there which is a likely sign of his growing underworld power at the time.
And this brings things to around the years 1930-1931.
Becoming a Boss
In the early 1930’s the underworld explodes as The Castellammarese War breaks out between Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano.
It is leading into this conflict that Al Mineo, a close ally of Joe Masseria is ultimately murdered by Maranzano forces. After this killing in 1930, Francesco “Frank” Scalise steps in to become the family’s new boss, and at this time the family shifts allegiances from Masseria to Maranzano, which of course is a huge coup for the Maranzano’s forces.
It is the splintering of the Mineo family that ultimately sets the stage for the downfall and elimination of Joe Masseria. Joe Bonnano describes the highly complex situation in the aftermath of the assassination of Mineo:
“We celebrated our latest victory, and the end of another year with a week-long party around Christmastime at a farm in upstate New York, near Hyde Park. In addition to Maranzano and his personal staff, the party was attended by Stefano Magaddino and some of his men from Buffalo; by Joe Zerilli and some of his men from Detroit; by Gaetano Gagliano, together with Lucchese and some of his men from the Bronx; by other leaders from Brooklyn; and even by some early defectors from the Mineo Family, such as Frank Scalise and Joe Traina.
From Detroit we heard that the man whom Masseria had backed to lead the former Milazzo Family, Cesare Lamare, was no longer among the living. The situation in Buffalo had remained stable, with the people there remaining solidly behind Magaddino. In Chicago, although we had lost an ally in Joe Aiello, it didn’t seem likely that Capone would seek a protracted fight with the Castellammarese in light of Masseria’s waning fortunes.
In New York City, it was a particularly tense time for people in the Mineo Family, which in terms of numbers was the largest in the city. Frank Scalise had been among the first to defect from that Family and openly embrace Maranzano’s cause. Another defector, although he came later, was Vincent Mangano, an old-fashioned gentleman who had established himself on the Brooklyn waterfront.”
So Mangano and the entire Mineo Family are essentially caught in the middle of it all, essentially trying to switch their allegiances in time to back the winning horse so to speak.
And then finally as we’ve previously discussed in the Gagliano episode, in 1931 Masseria is famously set up and murdered on the orders of his top-lieutenant, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, who had made a side-deal with Maranzano to end the conflict, and thus Maranzano becomes the “winner.”
It is at this time in 1931 that Maranzano helps to establish the rules and regulations and sets up the original five family Mafia structure. However, it is not Vincent Mangano, but instead Frank Scalise who is recognized as head of the family by Maranzano due to the fact that he had been head of the former D’Aquila borgata at the unofficial end of the war.
However, this arrangement only lasts for roughly 5 months whe Luciano also has Maranzano killed, which marks the true end of The Castellammarese War. After this event, the structure that Maranzano had set in place is kept for practical purposes, but Luciano makes some strategic modifications and changes.
The change of course that we’ll talk about here is that Luciano decides to demote Frank Scalise from being the head of the family, and passes the baton to Vincent Mangano, thus making him the first “official” boss of the newly renamed Mangano family and making him one of the original members of the first Mafia Commission.
Joe Bonnano shares from A Man of Honor, “Once again, the leaders of my world realigned and repositioned themselves according to the new political reality. Charlie Lucky’s star was on the rise. Stefano’s star seemed undiminished, and perhaps even enhanced. Scalise’s star fell. Scalise had been too close a supporter of Maranzano. With Lucky’s rise to power, Scalise became a liability to his Family, which didn’t want to antagonize the powerful Luciano and his cohorts. Scalise was replaced as Father by Vincent Mangano. Therefore, the five New York Fathers were Luciano, Gagliano, Profaci, Mangano and me. I was a newborn star.”
So I guess the obvious question is why was Vincent Mangano chosen? While I don’t know if anyone will ever know the full answer because there really isn’t a lot of information available on Mangano, I think this is a situation where you can make some assumptions.
First, like his friend Joe Profaci, Mangano was a survivor (at the time) and somehow managed to stay neutral in an incredibly messy gang war when there were bodies littering the streets, even within his own family. Despite that, Mangano was able to establish good relations with the Young Turks even though he himself tended to be a little more from the old school.
Second, it’s clear that by this time he had built enough of a powerbase and had established enough relationships within the underworld to be a significant power in his own right.
Third, the end result of The Castellammarese War was to stop the fighting in the streets, and focus on making money and not headlines. Many of the old “Mustache Pete’s” were eradicated at this time. While Mangano clearly had some of the old-world values, he must have been considered enough of a forward thinker to have been trusted with a key position by Luciano.
It’s worth noting that most reports suggest Vincent as being much older than his contemporaries at the time which tends to go along with the sentiment that he retained some of the qualities of the Mustache Pete’s. However, this is not entirely true. While Vincent was 9 years older than both Luciano as well as his friend and fellow boss, Joe Profaci, and 17 years older than the youngest boss, Joe Bonnano, he was actually 5 years younger than fellow boss Tommy Gagliano. In actuality, even Salvatore Maranzano and Joe Masseria themselves were only born 2 years before Vincent. This means that most of the leading combatants were within 10-12 years of age of each other.
So I think it’s fair to say that age wasn’t necessarily a factor in determining whether someone was a “Mustache Pete” or not – it was more around the belief system each boss brought to the table. And judging by the selection, Mangano A) must have been progressive enough to meet Luciano’s vision going forward and B) he must have secured enough power, and respect to be elevated into such a high position.
This had to have been a pinnacle moment for Vincent to be present and one of the key players at the table during the formation of modern families of Cosa Nostra. He was still only 43 years old, which in the grand scheme of things makes him fairly young (which people tend to forget) and had a fairly bright future ahead of him atop one of the largest criminal borgata’s. Over the years after he becomes boss, he is involved in many major events that shaped the mob throughout the entire 20th century.
That being said, even at his brightest moment, the ultimate seeds for his demise had been planted when Albert Anastacia, aka “The Lord High Executioner” was made his Underboss. And as an astute mob genre fan would know, Anastasia would become a mob legend in his own right in the coming years. At the time, Luciano figured that they’re both waterfront guys and that their polar opposite styles would compliment each other.
Additionally, as Luciano felt the Mafia needed an enforcement arm to do hits for the families, he chose Albert Anastasia to co-run the organization that would become known as Murder, Inc. Although Mangano remained technically his boss, Albert developed closer ties to crime heavyweights like Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Frank Costello and of course was already close to Lucky Luciano. This fact led over the years to increasing conflict between Mangano and Anastasia; they often had to be separated by other crime bosses to prevent fisticuffs.
On Albert’s side, he enjoyed being Mangano’s underboss at first and felt it was a nice place to be. There was enough power but he didn’t yet have a direct target on his back. This position allowed him to squeeze the piers dry and maybe every once in a while his head didn’t have to be on a swivel. Plus, it was “legitimate” and the families operated with great impunity in those days.
Mangano was Sicilian and still maintained ties with the actual Sicilian Mafia. This meant that he came with the Sicilian stamp of approval which carried a lot of weight.
Personally speaking, Albert felt that Mangano was an aloof, a rich man with clean fingernails, having little or no contact with the sweat and grime of the piers that buttered his considerable bread. He left the sweat and grime to Albert.
To Albert and many others, Mangano was a bit of a character. He fancied himself a cook and prepared large meals for his crew. And what was often on the menu? Fish, of course. On the piers all he had to do was turn around and there was fish.
So initially, at least on Albert’s side, the relationship was amicable. However, Albert liked being Mangano’s underboss a lot more than Mangano liked having Albert as his number two. There just wasn’t much good will between the men.
Eventually, it became well documented that they had a physical dislike for one another, and discussions deteriorated into pushing, shoving and, at least once, punching. It’s been said that they often had to peel Albert off of the older Mangano. WIthin the underworld, the two men were both known by the nickname “The Executioner.” They were both hot-blooded. The only question was whose blood ran hotter. Clearly, it was Albert’s.
To put it in perspective, it’s pretty wild and a direct violation of a well-known rule that “made” men are not supposed to raise hands to each other, let alone get into a fistacuffs. Not saying that it never happens, but you don’t often hear about someone getting into a fistacuffs with the family’s Boss which would be a death sentence. However, I think because of Albert’s reputation, people let it go.
Over time it was common knowledge that Mangano didn’t want Albert, didn’t trust him, but because Albert was appointed by the Commission—that is, Luciano himself—Mangano had to put up with it. Luciano had a guy in Mangano’s crew and he would just have to deal with it. They were stuck with each other.
Truth was, it was more than Mangano just not liking Albert. Anastasia made Mangano nervous. Mangano knew that Anastasia was a favorite of Luciano and Costello, and he couldn’t help but
fear that Anastasia’s presence just below him in the pecking order meant that decisions would bypass him.
Eventually, his worries would prove to be very well founded.
As it turned out, Anastasia was more than a threat to Mangano’s power. He was a threat to Mangano’s life. As Albert’s power grew, Mangano would be Boss in name only, with Albert calling the shots for the borgata—especially on the waterfront, where Albert’s broth-
ers had his back.
I’ve always wondered if Luciano created this setup knowing that it would hamstring Mangano or if it just played out that way? If it was a sort of Machiavelli strategy, then it was somewhat brilliant on Luciano’s part. That said, I don’t know if we’ll ever truly know for sure.
Anyways, for a while at least, Albert Anastasia killed only the guys that Vince Mangano told him to kill.
So while Mangano and Anastasia managed to co-exist for a long period of time after 1931, ultimately it would all unravel in the end and their personalities would clash often. Albert was at best a sociopath and at worst a psychopath, and would be increasingly a source of concern for Mangano as time passed. This all puts Mangano in an extremely awkward position that begins as a slow simmer and will ultimately come to a boil later on down the road.
But we’ll get back to this brewing conflict shortly.
As a new Boss, Vincent Mangano continued to concentre his family on waterfront rackets, working closely with Emil Camarda, a vice president of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) who were secretly in control of locals 327, 903, and 1199, as well as Anthony “Tough Tony” Anastasio, younger brother of Mangano Underboss Albert Anastasia, who was president of Brooklyn Local 1814 of the International Longshoremen’s Association. This essentially means that the Mangano family had the ability to control the flow of all goods coming in and out of New York, and by proxy the entire Eastern seaboard, which would continue well after Don Vincenzo’s and even into Carlo Cambino’s reign as boss.
Additionally, Mangano and Emil Camarda also started the City Democratic Club, among whose charter members were such devotees of the principles of democracy as Anastasia and Mangano’s lethal brother, Philip Mangano. Investigators later learned that many of the crimes committed by Murder, Inc., were plotted in the City Democratic Club.
According to Joe Bonnano, Mangano chaired Commission meetings for over 20 years, rapping the gavel for the distinguished panel, the five New York Godfathers—plus Chicago and Buffalo.
And of course, the Commission was first tested in 1935, when it order Dutch Schultz, head of what many experts called “The Sixth Family,” to drop his plans to murder Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who had been applying significant pressure to lock Schultz up. Charlie Luciano argued that a Dewey assassination would cause massive law enforcement heat, and when they couldn’t come to an agreement an enraged Schultz said he would kill Dewey anyway and walked out of the meeting. After some deliberations, Luciano, Mangano and the other bosses agreed to instead put out a contract on Schultz, and the Dutchman was murdered instead.
Of course famously, the decision to pardon Deway and kill Schultz came back to haunt Luciano as Dewey turned his attention, arresting Charlie Lucky soon thereafter. Joe Bonnano relates an interesting discussion between the bosses on whether or not to put a hit contract on Dewey. According to Bonnano’s recollection of the meeting:
“I remember a Commission meeting in the early 1930’s in which was discussed the advent of Thomas E. Dewey as a special prosecutor in New York City. Dewey had made it very plain that he was out to jail Charlie Luciano, whom he called the vice overlord of the city.
At one point in the meeting, Albert Anastasia, the second in Vincent Mangano’s Family, suggested that Dewey be eradicated. Anastasia was a hot-tempered man and a close friend of Lucky Luciano’s. The audacity of his suggestion made the Fathers pause in disbelief. The rest of us turned to Luciano to see how he reacted.
Lucky hesitated to give his view. Since Albert and Lucky were such close friends it could have been the case that Lucky had let Albert make his suggestion to see how the rest of us felt about it. In any case, both Albert and Lucky seemed at least willing to entertain such a stupid notion, whereas the rest of us were totally against it.
Seeing us recoil at the suggestion of killing a law-enforcement agent, Luciano deferred the matter to the other Fathers present, all of whom rejected it outright.
—If we all lose our heads, I recall Vincent Mangano saying forcefully, we’ll wind up burning our own foundation.”
Eventually, Dewey did put Luciano away on 62 counts of compulsory prostitution. It’s ironic that Luciano’s is the first boss to go down, but you can see the effectiveness of the groupthink put forth by the other bosses, Mangano included, as it likely helped the mob really avoid significant law-enforcement scrutiny for at least another 20-30 years by vetoing that hit.
Bring things back to Mangano, there are many amusing anecdotes and references throughout Joe Bonnano’s book Man of Honor that I think are worth sharing as they speak to who Mangano was as a man.
In the introduction of the book, we get this funny quote as Bonnano explains some of the differences between himself, a Sicilian with a college education and some of his less book-smart contemporaries:
“Among my Sicilian friends, in America, I was always singled out as a man of learning, if for no other reason than my ability to recite from The Divine Comedy or to expound on a few passages from The Prince. Most of the men I knew in the New World were not what you would call bookish. Men such as Charlie Luciano, Albert Anastasia and my cousin Stefano Magaddino were baffled whenever I would slip a literary allusion into our conversations. When I spoke Italian, they often complained that I used words they did not understand. They had grown up in the impoverished fields of Sicily or in the tenement streets of America. Their language was coarse and expedient.
My friend Vincent Mangano, when exasperated over one of my intellectual flourishes would say: ‘Peppino, but with you, we have to look things up in the books. How do you expect us ever to finish our meal?’”
Speaking of meals, there’s another funny story that I thought worth sharing about his interactions with Mangano coming out of his book:
“On many occasions, I would go to Mangano’s city home or to his farm for a feast. Often Joe Profaci would be there, as would Profaci’s right-hand man, Joe Magliocco, a prodigious eater. We’d have a fine time. Not only was there good talk, but the meals that Mangano and Magliocco cooked were often better, and certainly more elaborate, than those served at fancy restaurants.
These home meals were endless. We’d start dinner with fresh fish, which fisherman from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn would provide Mangano daily. At one meal we might sample halibut, snapper, shrimp, clams and lobster. Then Vincent would bring out platters of meat—veal and filet mignon. Each plate and each course appealed to a different taste bud. We would eat the pasta last. Magliocco always insisted on eating pasta last, almost as an afterthought.
By the time we reached the pasta, we’d have drunk many bottles of wine and it would usually be early in the morning.
—How can you think of leaving now? Vincent would say as the rest of us made ready to depart his home. It’s two A.M. and it’s snowing outside. Why don’t we rest a bit, and then we’ll start cooking all over again?
Meals such as these, prepared and presided over by us men only, were fraternal occasions that ranked among the finest pleasures of life. We’d drink, eat, sing, recite poems, tell jokes and swap stories. Every five minutes it seemed someone or other would be raising his glass to propose a toast.
The time-honored Sicilian manner of proposing toast requires the recitation of a rhyming couplet. Each man at the table would take turns proposing a toast, displaying as much wit and ingenuity as he could.
—Lucky are we sitting at this table
For if we stand up, we may not be able.
We’d all chink our glasses (which had to be full) and then, in a little while, another spontaneous toast would ring out. As the evening wore on and we emptied more wine bottles, our verses usually lapsed into doggerel.
—Friends, if after this meal I die in Brookulino
I ask to be buried with my mandolino.
Since we spoke in Italian, it’s difficult to capture in English the exact spirit of our poetic attempts. But I think the idea is clear. Vincent was very good at this toasting ritual.
Now I personally find these types of anecdotal stories fascinating as it humanizes these men and can make us realize that even though they are mob bosses, they are still human and take pleasure in many of the same things you and I might.
But of course, the clear distinction is that most in life are sociopaths and as an occupation must regularly order murders or other crimes that either directly or indirectly affects society.
And Mangano was no different in this respect. In fact, there is evidence of at least one murder personally ordered directly by Vincent during his tenure as boss, though there were surely more.
In the particular case I’m referencing, the murder victim was Irving “Puggy” Feinstein.
“Puggy” Feinstein was a thirty-year-old clothing salesman, who’d had a disappointing past as a boxer that left his nose flattened—which is where his nickname came from. In terms of his place within the criminal underworld, his exploits were hardly noteworthy. He was reputed to be a small-time crook and a smash-and-grab guy who was trying to go legitimate.
However, after a bad breakup with a local girl from Flatbush Brooklyn sent him spiralling, he got back into the underworld in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn and began to throw lavish parties with lots of gambling action going on. More or less, he personally devolved into a degenerate gambler and began to owe money to certain neighborhood wiseguys.
His issue was that all of this action is occurring in Borough Park, and all the gambling in Borough Park is under the control of the Mangano family. So he’s taking in profits from gambling that isn’t paying tribute to the Mangano family, which is a huge “no-no.”
So on September 4, 1939, Mangano hands his Underboss and Murder Inc. leader Albert Anastasia and envelope with Feinstein’s name in it as simply says, “Al, he’s got to go.”
Years later it would come out that Feinstein had “crossed” Vince and that is why the contract was put out on his life.
This execution would become one of Murder Inc.’s most famous assassinations, in which hitmen Pittsburgh Phil Straus and Buggsy Goldstein combined forces for the contract. The murder scene was incredibly grizzly – even by Murder Inc. standards.
While Mangano got his nickname as the “The Executioner” by a Brooklyn newspaper much earlier in his mob career, this gangland slaying is certainly one worthy of the name.
The murder occurred in the living room of future mob rat Abe Reles’ house on E. 91 St. in Brooklyn. While Harry Strauss was ice picking Puggy Feinstein to death, Puggy fought back and took a few bites out of Strauss’s finger.
Irate over the turn of events, Strauss and Goldstein decided to make Feinstein’s demise more painful and lengthened. They did so by a process which incorporated a rope being looped around Feinstein’s neck and feet, so that as he struggled, he would slowly strangle himself.
Still aggravated over the wound on his finger, Strauss and Goldstein then took the body to a vacant lot and set it on fire.
In September of 1940, both Straus and Goldstein were arrested and ultimately charged with the Feinstein murder. During testimony, Reles stated the following when asked a question by prosecutor Burton Turkus: “What else do you remember about the killing of Puggy Feinstein?”
“It was a job we did for Albert Anastasia,” Twist said. “Albert was our boss—the big guy in the gang. I met Strauss in a crap game in a lot behind a fence. He told me he was over to Albert’s house for supper and Albert gave him a contract to wipe out a guy named Puggy. I asked him, for what? And he said Puggy double-crossed Vince.”
Turkus replied, “And Vince is?”
After some hesitation, Reles said, “Vincent Mangano.”
Ultimately, both Pittsburgh Phil Straus and Buggsy Goldstein were convicted and on June 12, 1941 were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison in upstate New York.
As you get into the 1940’s, Vincent Mangano is still firmly in charge of the Mangano crime family. By that point, he had firmly insulated himself and had not drawn a pinch or any serious issues with law enforcement after the Feinstein murder failed to entangle him.
Of course in 1941, you have the outbreak of World War II and while Mangano still wasn’t in the habit of getting his hands dirty, he did try to help the Allied war effort. He had an import-export business and used that capacity to become the Army’s number-one liaison between the American and Italian Mafias (this credit typically goes to Luciano due to his more highly publicized efforts during World War II, but his “protection” on the docks most certainly had to be facilitated through the Mangano family).
After World War II ends, a very significant event takes place for the American Mafia and that of course is the famous 1946 Havana Conference organized by Lucky Luciano held at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba. At this event, you have bosses and top members of Cosa Nostra from all over the United States gathering to convene on the affairs of the national crime syndicate. Of course, top of the agenda was Luciano’s desire to reinstitute the “Boss of Bosses” title as a way to neutralize Vito Genovese who’d as we’ll discuss in a few minutes had been making a play to push Lucky out in order for himself take over leadership of the Luciano Family.
Other topics on the agenda involved Cosa Nostra’s role in the global narcotics trade (which is hugely significant as it leads to the United States being flooded with heroin in the next several decades and positions the mafia as the leading suppliers of drugs in this country), as well as what do do about Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel who was responsible for The Flamingo casino is Las Vegas and who had allegedly pocketed a great deal of the mob’s money during the construction.
On most conference attendee lists, while you may see members of the Mangano family such as Albert Anastasia present, you won’t see Vincent Mangano himself mentioned anywhere. However, there is some evidence that indicates he attended or was close by for deliberations with his underlings in the days leading up to the Conference.
Vincent’s name appears on an air passenger manifest for Pan American World Airways Plane originating from Havana Cuba, destined to Miami, Florida, on December 17, 1946. As it turns out, the conference took place from December 20th through the week of December 22nd. Also showing up on the flight manifest are Luciano Family members Gerardo “Jerry” Catena, 44 at the time, and William “Willie” Moretti, 53 at the time. Though Catena doesn’t seem to show up on many attendee lists, Moretti is often cited to have been there. Each man in their own right was a mob juggernaut and their individual status within the syndicate dictates that their presence would not have been unusual.
Now, this flight may have simply been a major coincidence, and maybe these three mafia members simply decided to vacation together in Cuba. That said, I highly doubt that they’d be present by accident at the exact location and time of one of the biggest conferences in the history of the mafia. Additionally, I contend that it’s likely that Mangano, as a major New York City boss in good standing, was either at the meeting and just wasn’t noted by any publications, or was nearby communicating with his family members about meeting developments.
By all accounts, the meeting was productive and all in attendance were able to enjoy some fun festivities and entertainment including a performance by the great Frank Sinatra, but there would be nothing fun about what would happen next.
The Death of the Mangano Brothers
And of course, as is well documented in mob lore, the Mangano-Anastasia conflict finally came to a head in 1951. But let’s first discuss the immediate events that led up to this power struggle.
As the 1940s wore on, the New York underworld again became a tangled mess of shifting allegiances, plots and subplots, all of which eventually would cause the simmer to become a boil. To go back to the Joe Bonnano well, it’s fair to say that he really does a great job of illustrating the complexity of the situation in New York and the declining climate and rising tensions at the time:
“I never saw Luciano after he was convicted and sent to prison. His position as Father of one of the New York City Families was taken over by Frank Costello. Vito Genovese, a member of the same Family and the only other man who could have challenged Costello for the top spot, was not around to complicate Costello’s life. Vito had fled to Italy after being charged with murder in the U.S.
Costello was a sauve and diplomatic man. His skill at cultivating friendships among politicians and public officials was such that it earned him the nickname “the Prime Minister.” He preferred to settle arguments at the conference table rather than in the streets.
Despite his moderate ways, Costello knew that to survive in our world a man had to be versatile, and thus Costello was not without his “muscle.” In the 1940s, Costello’s strong-arm was Willie Moretti—the man who had bailed me out of a detention center when I came to this country in 1924. In the 1920s, Willie was under the influence of my cousin Stefano Magaddino. Later, he moved to New Jersey and joined Luciano’s Family. Willie was an exuberant man, colorful, quick to act and not afraid to speak his mind.
One of the reasons Costello relied on Moretti was to foil any lingering ambition Vito Genovese might have to become Father. Vito resurfaced in the mid-1940s when murder charges against him were dropped, clearning the way for him to leave Italy and return to the Volcano.
For a while, Genovese acted dutifully toward Costello, but trouble was brewing. If Costello was often seen in the company of Moretti, Genovese was now seen in the company of Tommy Lucchese, who belonged to a different Family. Meanwhile, Albert Anastasia, from yet a different Family, was known to like Costello; but Carlo Gambino, in the same Family as Anastasia, was very close to Lucchese. These inter-Family alliances were common in New York as no place else, and complicated all our lives.
By the late 1940s, New York City was like a firecracker that could go off anytime. We conservatives on the Commission viewed these developments with dismay. The Commission was supposed to alleviate such discord, but things seemed to be getting increasingly out of control. Although I knew all the men just mentioned, I didn’t associate with them as closely as I did with such Fathers as Vincent Mangano, Joe Profaci and Stefano Magaddino, with all of whom I had either kinship, social or philosophical ties.
Vincent Mangano felt the pressure more than the rest of us, because he was older and younger men in his Family coveted his position. He had to be especially wary of Anastasia, who probably had the most fearsome reputation in our world. I used to call Albert il terremoto—the earthquake. Albert’s ambition did not sit well with Mangano.”
Bonnano would continue on to describe a conversation he had with Mangano in the time leading up to the clash with Anastasia:
“Vincent was constantly alarmed at the new direction our Tradition was taking in America. He believed that as a Father it was his responsibility to guide his “sons.”
[Mangano] —These boys nowadays, he would complain, they all think they’re thoroughbreds. They don’t listen.
[Joe Profaci] —Aii-iiaai! Joe Profaci would exclaim. These Americans are going to dirty us with their new ways.
[Mangano] —Peppino, we’re going to lose our Tradition.
Once we were sitting on the porch of Magliocco’s farmhouse in Long Island when Vincent pointed to a nearby tree.
[Mangano] —See that tree? Vincent said.
It was an old tree with no leaves. I sensed that Vincent wanted to make some comparison to himself, but I didn’t want to encourage his pessimism.
[Bonnano] —Come on, I said, they’re waiting for us inside.
[Mangano] —See that tree?
[Bonnano] —What are you talking about?
I also sensed, as can only a Sicilian who had been used to it all his life, that in trying to make the tree analogy Vincent wanted to test me. He was trying to judge how open he could be with me and he was trying to decide whether I wanted to hear everything that was on his mind.
[Mangano] —That tree, Vincent persisted. There in front of us.
[Bonnano] —What about it?
I was being noncommittal. It does no good to hear certain information. If you don’t know certain things, you can remain neutral. Once you find out certain vital information, you have to take sides. The general rule in my world is that unless you’re prepared to take sides, it’s better not to know certain information.
Vincent was feeling me out to see if he could reveal certain information about his situation and his enemies, but from my evasive replies he realized that I was not prepared to get involved. Therefore, he used the allusion to the tree merely to make an obvious point about our respective ages, rather than as the starting point for the disclosure of privileged information.
[Mangano] —That’s me, Vincent said of the old tree.
Then he pointed to another tree, a straight, young tree.
[Mangano] —See that tree?
[Bonnano] —Are we going through this again? I said in mock resentment.
[Mangano] —That tree is you.
That was Vincent’s way of telling me he understood my position and would not pursue the matter.
[Mangano] —I think you see what I see, Vincent said with great delicacy.
Don Vincenzu, as Mangano was known in Sicilian, was in his sixties then. No man his age relishes a knockout fight. Vincent had probably seen enough fighting from his days on the waterfront. After leaving Palermo for Brooklyn, Vincent made a name for himself along the wharves and docks. Out of his Brooklyn waterfront also emerged Albert Anastasia. If I had let him, Vincent would have talked about Anastasia.
Among other things, Mangano didn’t like Anastasia’s closeness to Costello. In 1950 or so, when Costello spent a short time in prison, it was said that Costello had asked Anastasia (whom he knew from their days with Luciano) to help Moretti look after his interests while Costello was in jail. Costello feared that while he was in prison Vito Genovese might make a move to seize power in that Family.
What bothered Mangano was that Costello, by asking for Anastasia’s help, had never consulted Mangano and therefore had, in effect, snubbed the head of a Family by going directly to a subordinate. In my world, such a breach of decorum is a sign, a signal of new alliances and possible intrigues.
Fear is when you think ahead about what may happen to you. Fear is anticipating the future and assuming the worst possible scenario. Mangano and Anastasia were at a stage where they feared one another. Each man feared the other would act first; each wanted to be the first to act.”
So this is the context as we head into 1950-1951 and a Senator from Tennessee named Estes Kefauver decides to launch a series of hearings across the United States with the purpose of exposing the mob and bringing it’s leaders into the public light to testify before his committee – all of which was aired on national television and served to captivate the country.
The Kefauver Committee investigations targeted Vincent and Phillip in 1951 and there is actually some newspaper speculation at the time that Phillip may have been talking to the Feds in an effort to leave the life. However, on April 19, 1951, before the Committee could officially talk with either one, the body of Philip Mangano was found in the tall grass of a marshland near the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.
He was dressed only in a white shirt, white shorts, white undershirt, black socks and black tie. Police noted three close-range bullet wounds to his head – one at the top rear of the neck, one in the right cheek and one in the left cheek. Time of death was estimated at 10 to 20 hours earlier. There were no identifying papers on the body. He was identified through an examination of fingerprint records.
Finding no dirt on the bottoms of Philip’s socks, detectives concluded that he was murdered at another location and carried to the Bergen Beach marsh for disposal. They surmised that a ten-foot length of rope found near the body was used in its transport.
When police attempted to contact Vince Mangano to inquire about the fate of his brother, they were unable to reach them because Vince had also gone missing. For a while at least, the authorities believed he was hiding out. He would never resurface.
His so-called friends Joe Bonnano and Joe Profaci, despite knowing the perilous situation Mangano was in, played ignorant and refused to support their friend in his time of need.
It doesn’t take a detective to figure out what happened. Anyone with a pair of eyes and ears can ascertain that the boss had been murdered. And anyone with half a brain knew it was coming.
The interesting thing is that while I quote Bonnano’s book often, I certainly don’t believe all of the information in it, much of which is meant to paint Joe Bonnano in a positive light. However, some of his stories about the early days, I will admit that I actually believe a good deal of the information, and the fact that he admits that he knew his friend was in trouble and chose to remain neutral is a surprising admission to me.
I mean, it’s common knowledge at this point that Joe Bonnano always put himself and his personal survival first above all else, but this is a very cold betrayal of a supposedly dear friend, and even as fearsome as Anastasia was, with the power of his own borgata, the Bonnano Family, and possibly the Profaci Family, I seriously believe that Mangano might had stood a good chance of winning this conflict at least in the political sense if not from an outright manpower perspective. But unfortunately for Mangao, that simply did not come to pass.
Now here’s a bit of drama to add to the story that comes from a biography of Albert Anastasia written by Frank DiMatteo and Michael Benson. DiMatteo specifically had once been a part of the “Crazy Joe” Gallo crew of Red Hook (Anastasia territory) and had an Uncle Joe who was also a member of the life and who had direct knowledge of the talk on the street at the time.
It’s difficult to validate if the story is true or not, but if it is true it’s quite amazing and makes a ton of sense when you consider who Albert Anastasia was.
Uncle Joe: “You know I was with Albert in the old days with Costello and Lucky,” he said
DiMatteo: “We know, Uncle Joe.”
Uncle Joe: “Smart ass kids. You know the history books say Albert ordered the hit on Vincent Mangano, but that’s a load of bullshit.”
DiMatteo: “Who ordered it?” they asked, stunned.
Uncle Joe: “No, you squirts, Albert killed Vincent Mangano himself. His days of doing the dirty work were long past. He could have gotten anyone to do it, could’ve been miles away, keeping his hands clean. But that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to do it himself, just so he could see the expression on Vincent’s face.”
According to DiMatteo, the notion filled Uncle Joe with great joy. He told DiMatteo that Albert
and Vincent could never get along, argued about everything. Albert heard that Vincent was going to have him killed, and so killed Vincent first.
Uncle Joe: “Albert did the right thing,” Uncle Joe said, “he got the okay from Frank Costello and Lucky Luciano. He had to get word to Lucky in Italy, and Lucky sent back his blessing. Lucky said Mangano was not whacking up to him like the old days.”
Uncle Joe (cont.): “Albert set up a meet with Vincent on Columbia Street at a warehouse. Vincent was to pick up some gambling money that Albert was whacking up to Vincent. ‘That’s not the only thing getting whacked,’ Albert said.”
It was April 18, 1951. According to DiMatteo, Uncle Joe relayed that there was no chit chat, no dramatic dialogue. Albert shot Vincent as soon as he walked into the warehouse. Vincent had a smile on his face and his arms outstretched when Albert shot him.
DiMatteo asked his Uncle: “How come they never found Vincent’s body, Uncle Joe?”
Uncle Joe: “They didn’t even look for him for a long time. They thought he was hiding.”
DiMatteo: “Where was he?”
Uncle Joe: “He was taken out to sea, gutted, and fitted with concrete shoes. He looked like the mummy.”
So there you have it, if you believe this account Anastasia executed Mangano personally. Honestly, this sounds incredibly cinematic and the truth is usually less interesting, but this is one of those cases where given all the parties involved, I think that I actually believe this story to be more fact than fiction.
To this day, Vincent Mangano’s body has never been found. He was officially declared dead in 1961 and his headstone can be found at Holy Cross Cemetery in Kings County Brooklyn.
In the immediate aftermath of the Mangano murders, Albert Anastasia, Joe Adonis, Frank Costello, and a few others were all hauled in by law enforcement for questioning. All expressed deep sorrow over the disturbing demise of their dear friend.
Anastasia was obviously a prime suspect in the murder and disappearance of the two Mangano’s, but the police seem to have concentrated more on the likes of Frank Costello and Joe Adonis, neither of who had apparently anything of substance to offer them. Adonis did, with a perfectly straight face, express the callous opinion that Phil Mangano must have been involved in an affair of the heart since he had no pants on when he was found.
Of course the prevailing theory in the immediate aftermath was that Phillip Mangano was murdered to keep him from testifying at the Kefauver Committee hearings. However, when it was later discovered that Vincent Mangano was missing rather than on the lam, that theory shifted from silencing a rat to an all-out coup within the crime family. Clearly, Albert had gotten rid of Vincent in order to become the boss, and had also hit the brother to stifle any potential vendettas.
This type of brazen move wasn’t taken lightly by the Commission whose Cardinal rules set out by Lucky Luciano himself were that bosses could not be murdered. While the murder of a boss seems relatively commonplace today, at the time it hadn’t happened since the end of the Castellammarese War.
For Albert, who had previous transgressions, this was a major strike when it came to the national Commission. They knew what happened to Mangano, and they called Albert in for a sit down. Albert broke Lucky’s rules. It was forbidden to take power by killing the man above you. Lucky made Mangano boss, and it wasn’t up to Albert to unto that.
At this sit-down, without admitting anything, Anastasia accused Vince Mangano of plotting to kill him. According to DiMatteo’s Lord High Executioner, Anastasia stated the following:
“But Mangano had a contract out on me. Even if I did it, which I didn’t, it was kill or be killed. What could I do?”
This claim was corroborated by Luciano family boss Frank Costello, and faced with a fait accompli, the bosses decided to acknowledge Anastasia as the new boss of the Mangano crime family and rename the family after him into the Anastasia crime family. Whether or not Mangano had actually put out a contract is unclear, but there has been speculation to that effect. It’s hard to say if it’s true or not, but given Albert’s ambition, my bet would be that this was just a clever ruse to give him the justification he needed in order to make a move.
According to fellow boss Joe Bonnano, after Mangano’s demise he took over the role of presiding over Commission meetings, and unfortunately Albert Anastasia, Lucky Luciano’s maniac psychopathic friend, now had a seat at the table. Everyone felt it in their bones that Anastasia had disappeared Mangano, but Albert rarely spoke on the subject. The implication to the other bosses was clear, he was to be feared and respected, but never could be trusted.
As mentioned earlier, there actually had been considerable political maneuvering on several sides prior to the Mangano murders. Vincent had realized he was becoming increasingly isolated, and appealed to his old friend, crime boss Joe Profaci, for aid. All he seemed to get was neutrality. He then hinted to Joe Bonanno that he wanted support. Instead, in what authorities have long noted to be a Joe Bananas trait, Bonanno left town on vacation, returning only after the Mangano affair had been concluded.
Anastasia had clearly had ambitions to take over the Mangano crime family, but he was also goaded into it by Costello. At the time, 1951, Costello was himself facing strong pressure from Vito Genovese and needed protection. Until then, Costello had relied on the muscle of New Jersey mobster Willie Moretti, who maintained a powerful army of 50 or 60 button men. However, Moretti was, at the time, going out of his mind due to the ravages of untreated syphilis, and Genovese was lobbying earnestly with other crime leaders that Moretti be “put to sleep” for his and the organization’s good.
With Moretti out of the way, Costello knew he needed another source of support, and Anastasia, with the full might of a crime family behind him, would make a powerful counter to Genovese. Thus undoubtedly Costello revved up Anastasia to make his bid for power when he did.
After he was given a pass by the Commission, the Mangano Family became the Anastasia Family. However, as it ultimately turned out, Anastasia’s run at the top seat would be short-lived and would last just 6 years. First, in 1957 Vito Genovese would order the assassination of Anastasia’s close friend and ally Frank Costello. While the murder contract on Costello was ultimatly botched, it was enough for Costello to decide to step down and abdicate his position to Genovese.
And later that year on October 25, 1957 Anastasia was famously gunned down while he relaxed in a barber’s chair in the Park Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The plot was hatched by Genovese and Anastasia’s Underboss, Carlo Gambino (who ultimately took over as Boss of the family, which was renamed The Gambino Family, for the next 19 years).
So that’s that.
In closing, I’m actually going to state what might be an unpopular opinion. I believe that Mangano, as old-school as he might have been, was actually a better overall boss than Anastasia turned out to be, despite Albert’s popularity and notoriety.
Let’s compare it side-by-side:
- Mangano was boss for 20 years with no prison sentences, while Anastasia was boss for 6 years before being assassinated (he’d been to prison prior to becoming boss and was most certainly headed there before being murdered).
- Mangano liked to make money, not headlines. Anastasia was constantly in the news, even going so far as to order a hit contract on a civilian after he took over as boss – which led to intense media scrutiny.
- Mangano was hands-off as a boss, which is actually good in the sense that he understood the importance of insulating his position. Albert relished murders and often took part, even up to the point of taking his position as boss. While murder is a necessary part of being a boss, too much murder creates law enforcement heat and leads in most cases to dissension in the ranks (just ask Nicky Scarfo).
- Mangano was a traditionalist and stuck to the mob’s core rules and principles, while Anastasia was more of the Luciano mindset on Cosa Nostra traditions and regularly broke protocol by operating outside the boundaries of his individual family. Additionally, Anastasia was actually caught selling mafia memberships, a transgression that he threw Frank Scalise under the bus for (Scalise was ultimately murdered) and a massive breach of Cosa Nostra rules.
As if those points aren’t enough, I’m also reminded of parallels between this situation and the developments 30 years later between John Gotti and Paul Castellano. In that situation as well, I think it can be argued that despite his obvious faults, Castellano was a better Cosa Nostra boss than Gotti turned out to be.
The way I see it, the Mangano-Anastasia situation was the original Castellano-Gotti conflict. Almost like the mafia version of World War I before you had World War II.
Both Castellano and Mangano were aging bosses who were able to successfully in many respects run the borgata for many years, but whose personal style over time disenfranchised their underlings who eventually rose up to kill them and take over.
Anastasia was nearly as high-profile as Gotti for his time, and had he not been killed, he most certainly would have gone to prison for life as the legal walls had been closing in on him for some time. As you may know, Gotti went to prison for life in the early 1990’s after his short stint as boss.
In the case of both the Anastasia coup and the Gotti coup, the families ended up being much better off after their reigns ended. After Anastasia’s assassination, Carlo Gambino took over immediately and steered the family to prosperity for the next 19 years, while after Gotti goes away, it takes a while to phase out the Gotti regime and the family undergoes some turmoil, but eventually it gets back on the right track under leaders like Domenico Cefalù and Frank Cali.
In the end, this isn’t to say that Mangano was the perfect boss or that he wasn’t losing touch with his men. Those things may have still caused him issues down the road as his friend Joe Profaci would find out in the 1960’s.
However, Mangano’s contributions to the American Cosa Nostra and the overall success of the Gambino Family as it’s founding Godfather are often overlooked in favor of the Gambino, Gotti, and Castellano eras as boss.
I’m here to tell you that without Vincent Mangano, the next 60 years of that family don’t happen, and the family may not have been as successful as it was.
Anyhow, that’s it for this episode. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Until next time, gratzie!
- https://www.italiangen.org/databases/search/?db=nycgroom (Accessed on 10-16-21)
- Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C. Supplemental Manifests of Alien Passengers and Crew Members Who Arrived on Vessels at New York, New York, Who Were Inspected for Admission, and Related Index, compiled 1887-1952. Microfilm Publication A3461, 21 rolls. NAI: 3887372. RG 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Index to Alien Crewmen Who Were Discharged or Who Deserted at New York, New York, May 1917-Nov. 1957. Microfilm Publication A3417. NAI: 4497925. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger Lists, 1962-1972, and Crew Lists, 1943-1972, of Vessels Arriving at Oswego, New York. Microfilm Publication A3426. NAI: 4441521. National Archives at Washington, D.C.
Books & Other Sources:
- Critchley, David. “Buster, Maranzano and the Castellammare War, 1930-1931.” Global Crime. Vol 7 No. 1 Feb 2006.
- DiMatteo, Frank and Benson, Michael. “Lord High Executioner: The Legendary Mafia Boss.” Albert Anastasia. Citadel. May 26, 2020.
- Block, Alan. “East Side, West Side: Organizing Crime in New York, 1930-1950.” 1980. Routledge. 1st Edition. Accessed via Google Books on 10-23-21.
- The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida; NAI Number: 2774955; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85
- Bonnano, Joseph. “A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno.” St. Martin’s Publishing Group. 1984.