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KPBS Midday Edition

Partnership between the U.S. Navy and members of the mafia during WWII explored in new book

Ann Pryor
The cover of "Operation Underworld" is pictured in this undated photo.

A new book by San Diego writer Matthew Black details the unlikely partnership between the U.S. government and the American mafia during the onset of World War II.

"Operation Underworld" explores the ways unscrupulous dealings of prominent organized crime figures at the time were used to the advantage of the Allied war effort.

What began as information control over the Port of New York was used to help win the Battle of the Atlantic, as criminal information rings helped root out Axis spies in the United States.

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Later, the Navy-mafia collaboration proved useful during the Allied invasion of Sicily where the Italian-American makeup of the mafia was used to make inroads within fascist Italy.

The little-known operation involved landmark figures in organized crime such as Charles "Lucky" Luciano, and was classified for years.

Author Matthew Black joined Midday Edition on Wednesday with more on his new book.