Tuesday, April 30

The Allies got a Lucky Break

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1942 (according to published reports), the U.S. Navy turned to rather unusual sources for military information.

Actually, if you are any kind of student of U.S. history, and particularly of military and covert operations, the Navy's source may not have been all that unusual.

At this time, World War II had recently begun (for the U.S. anyway) and, while most eyes were on the Pacific, the Navy was already thinking about the invasion of Europe. And, since the only place the Allies were holding their own was North Africa, they figured that invasion would have to be across the Mediterranean. And, that meant Sicily would be the key.

Now, if this was 1942, and you were the U.S. Navy and, you went in the chart room, you'd have a problem. Because if you looked in the drawer marked Sicily, you might find its latitude and longitude but little else. There would be few files on the depth of harbors and almost no data on shore defenses. Not a very good data base on which to plan an invasion. So..…to get data on Sicily, you began to think what a less politically correct government might assume in time of war.

Having read the tabloids, the Navy assumed a guy named Lucky Luciano might know something about Sicily. And, since he was early in on a 40 to 50 year sentence, he would have time to listen. Mr. Luciano (according to the same published reports, your honor) did not recall much direct detail of Sicily but (according to the same reports) thought he might know a guy or two who did. And boy, did he!

Over the next 10 months the Mafia (er... an unknown group of partisans) provided enough data on Sicily's defenses that when the allies invaded (7/10/43), they captured the whole island in 37 days. And they killed 167,000 of the enemy while losing under 24,000 - - remarkable in any invasion at that time.

The story, of course is, we are sure, just a coincidence of history. And, the fact that Mr. Luciano's sentence was changed three years later (he was released from jail in 1946 and deported to - where else - Sicily - - despite about 35 years left on his term). The whole thing is, of course, wild conjecture (except for the facts). We also hope to disprove the Mafia/Castro/ Assassination linkage in a future episode. Imagine, the U.S. Government cavorting with gangsters. How very, very unlikely!

To mark the day find some guy named “Don” and see if he has any contacts in Afghanistan.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

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