The FBI prepared a 10-page "criminal intelligence" report which it described by a cover memo dated March 9, 1970 as "an analysis of the warfare which has raged within the Bonanno La Cosa Nostra 'family' since Joe Bonanno's expulsion from the Commission in 1964," and "details the various leadership changes, gangland slayings, internal maneuvers, and prosecutive efforts by both Federal and local authorities affecting the Bonanno organization." The report is set forth in full as follows:
The "Bananas War"
With the exception of celebrity-loving Sam Giancana, murderous Albert Anastasia, and power-mad Vito Genovese, few La Cosa Nostra mob leaders have surrounded themselves with as much internal controversy as has Giuseppe (Joe) Bonanno. Also, with the exception of his cousin Steve Magaddino, few have survived as long. A greedy and ambitious barber who maneuvered himself to the top ranks of the Prohibition underworld, Bonanno became a charter member of the national La Cosa Nostra Commission when it was formed during the latter part of 1931. And he was still there more than 30 years later, while planning to expand his New York empire into Canada and his Arizona enclave into California.
In fact, it was Bonanno's greed and ambition which eventually led to his undoing and the start of what the press now likes to refer to as the "Bananas War."
Uneasy at the threat Bonanno posed to the delicate power balance within the organized criminal structure, his fellow Commission members closed ranks and banned the California invasion. If they thought this had stopped their wily compatriot, however, they received a rude awakening in the Summer of 1963 when it was discovered that Bonanno and Joe Magliocco ("acting boss" of the late Joe Profaci's "family") had launched a conspiracy to murder Commission members Thomas Luchese, Carlo Gambino, and, apparently, Magaddino. Magliocco admitted his role in the plot, was deposed as head of the Profaci "family," and later that year died of natural causes.
Bonanno, on the other hand, fled to Canada rather than face his accusers. After nearly a year he was uncovered and deported back to the United States where, despite the inexplicable leniency granted to Magliocco, he still ignored the Commission's demands for a "sit down." Instead, his followers began arming themselves for possible warfare, and the negotiations -- which were being handles on Bonanno's behalf by his son Salvatore (or Bill) -- came to an abrupt halt. In September, 1964, the Commission voted to expel Bonanno, remove the top leadership of his "family," and withdraw recognition of all the rank-and-file members. Subsequently, reports began to circulate that both the Bonannos were scheduled to be "executed" by the Commission for their activities.
Elder Bonanno Disappears
Before either "contract" could be carried out, though, Joe Bonanno vanished during the early morning hours of October 21, 1964, in what was reported to the New York City police as a street-corner kidnapping. Even to this day, knowledgeable sources disagree as to the authenticity of the abduction, coming as it did the day of Bonanno's scheduled appearance before a Federal grand jury. But there was no disputing the chaos that prevailed when he finally elected to surface some 19 months later. His mob had split into three rival factions, at least one major attempt had been made on Bill's life, and the Commission's choice as "family" head had proved so unsatisfactory that they were about to replace him with still another candidate.
Originally appointed in either January or February, 1965, to succeed Bonanno was a 59-year-old hoodlum named Gaspare DiGregorio, who had previously been expelled from the "family" and whose main qualification appeared to be the fact that he was Magaddino's brother-in-law. Suffering from poor health and the reputation of being a "weakling," DiGregorio found that his selection was not a popular one. The Bonanno group distrusted him, the anti-Bonanno forces felt that he should have taken more vigorous steps in crushing the former leadership, and the Commission itself expressed a disappointment at his failure to solve the "family's" internal problems. As a result, Bonanno's reappearance in May, 1966, was followed by an announcement from the Commission that DiGregorio had been demoted and that a committee of capos would run the "family" until a more suitable substitute could be found.
Brooklyn Gun Battle
One factor which complicated the search for a replacement was the growing aura of violence. Amid rumors that bloodshed was about to erupt, Bill Bonanno took three aides to an alleged "negotiations meeting" in January, 1966, and was ambushed late at night on a Brooklyn sidewalk. There, despite the fact that some half a dozen gunmen blazed away at one another more than 20 times in a short-range skirmish, apparently no one was injured.
The Bonanno retribution, on the other hand, was not so bloodless. At 5:55 p. m., July 13, 1966, a dark blue automobile swung up alongside a Brooklyn curb, spraying machine-gun bullets in the general direction of Francesco (Frankie T) Mari and wounding him three times. A notorious loan shark and dealer in narcotics, Mari had reportedly been given the "contract" on Bill Bonanno shortly before the January shoot-out and was among those identified by Bonanno as having participated in the gun battle.
With Mari's hospitalization, the feud began to simmer down again, but the problem of replacing Joe Bonanno had become even greater. Joe Zicarelli, a notorious hoodlum figure and the head of the third faction within the "family," declined an invitation to take over for fear of being shot by one of the other two groups.
In fact, it was not until June, 1967, that DiGregorio's chief adviser, Paul Sciacca, agreed to assume the leadership on a temporary basis. Sciacca's permanent appointment was approved by the Commission during the latter part of October and, less than three weeks later, one of his top aides, Gaetano (Smitty) D'Angelo, was machine-gunned to death -- along with two associates -- in a Queens, New York, restaurant. Ballistics tests determined that the murder weapon was the same one which had been used in the earlier shooting of Frankie Mari.
Expecting the worst, Sciacca had himself admitted to a local hospital as a cardiac patient several hours after the D'Angelo slaying, but again a tentative peace settled over the "family," and Zicarelli launched a campaign to bring the warring factions back together. Basically a Bonanno man, Zicarelli may have been lulled into believing that Joe and Bill were ready to settle their differences with Sciacca and the Commission. If so, the months of March and April, 1968, quickly taught him the futility of his efforts.
On March 4, 1968, Peter Crociata, Sciacca's "underboss," was wounded six times by a fusillade of shots while sitting in an automobile near his residence. The leading suspect was almost immediately identified by police as Samuel (Hank) Perrone, Bill Bonanno's bodyguard. That the underworld had arrive at the same conclusion was evidenced a week later when Perrone was found shot to death with multiple wounds in his head, chest, and extremities.
Bonanno retaliation for the Perrone murder came on April 1, 1968, with the fatal shooting of Michael Joseph Consolo, a "captain" under DiGregorio and a candidate to succeed DiGregorio prior to the appointment of Sciacca. Then, in a series of nonfatal attacks, came the wounding of [name redacted], a close associate of Bill Bonanno's, on April 5; the wounding of [name redacted] whose garage had reportedly been used by the Bonanno faction for concealing "hit" cars, on April 16; and a near-miss shooting incident involving [name redacted] of the Bonanno group, on May 2.
The resulting truce was highlighted by a peaceful gathering of some 200 hoodlums, friends, and relatives at the September, 1968, wedding between Sciacca's son and "Frankie T" Mari's niece, which one newspaper claimed marked the end of hostilities. As subsequent events were to prove during the coming months, however, nothing could have been further from the truth.
To begin with, very few people -- including many of the participants themselves -- understood all the facets of the war and the developments leading up to them. As more and more information came to light, for example, it appeared that Vito Genovese, the master manipulator, had been the motivating force behind Bonanno's original plot to murder his three fellow Commission members. It also was reported that Joe Colombo had pushed the appointment of Sciacca to consolidate his own power base in New York City, and that one of the main obstacles blocking Joe Bonanno's offer to retire and hand over control of his former "family" to his son, Bill, was Steve Magaddino. Disappointed at the failure of his own protege, DiGreforio, Magaddino referred to [name redacted] as "a raving maniac" and to Bill as an "idiot," a "jerk," and a "cucumber." Magaddino also feared their designs on his Canadian operations and the strength that Bonanno could wield on a seriously weakened Commission (with Genovese imprisoned, Luchese dead, and Sam Giancana in exile).
Mari Pulls Coup
At several points proposals were made that the troublesome "family" be dissolved and its members assigned to other units but, since this would merely have resulted in more bloodshed, the Commission finally decided to ride with Sciacca and hope for the best. All of which helps to explain the general consternation caused by "Frankie T's" coup of 1969.
As Sciacca's latest "underboss" and a relative by marriage, Mari should have added a measure of stability to the "family's" hierarchical structure. Unfortunately, from the mob's standpoint, he also happened to be both ambitious and mentally unbalanced.
Reportedly the victim of a head injury in his youth, Mari is said to have suffered from severe headaches ever since. Army doctors described him as "schizophrenic"; his first wife left him, stating that he was a "sick man"; and Bill Bonanno confided to an associate that he could not trust Mari because of the latter's mental instability. In fact, Bonanno added, he did not believe that any semblance of peace could possibly return to the "family" until either he or Mari was dead.
Just how and when Mari's gnawing ambition led his distorted mind to oust Sciacca is still unclear. The first report that Sciacca had "resigned" and that Mari had replaced him was received in early March, 1969. By May it was generally considered that Mari had completed his takeover, although Bill Bonanno drily commented that it would be interesting to see what happened when "Frankie T" had his first collision with the equally power-hungry Colombo over some common territory. Mari reciprocated by offering amnesty to all of the rebel faction except the two Bonannos, but for once it appeared that he was talking when he should have been listening.
On the evening of September 18, 1969, Mari received a telephone call from his consigliere, Mike Adamo, advising him that the two of them had been summoned to an emergency meeting of the Commission. Shortly thereafter, Adamo picked up Mari and neither was ever seen again.
Although rumors persist that the missing men were eliminated by the Bonanno group, Bill Bonanno professes complete innocence, and a number of sources agree with him. At least two insiders claim that Mari and Adamo were ordered to appear before the Commission and explain the cavalier manner in which they had ousted Sciacca and seized control of the "family." The answers reportedly resulted in a split vote but, with the majority turning thumbs down, Mari and Adamo were summarily ordered to be executed, and the "contract" was given to the Colombo "family."
Two months later, Salvatore D'Ambrosio and Fred (No Nose) De Lucia, of the Colombo "family," vanished under similarly mysterious circumstances, and speculation grew that they had been slain by Mari's followers for carrying out the Commission's ukase.
As might be expected, Mari's coup and disappearance left the "family" leadership in a chaotic condition. Sciacca returned temporarily but announced his resignation less than two months later. Across the bay, in New Jersey, Joe Zicarelli shook his head and predicted disaster. The "family" had had four heads in five years, it was still split into two irreconcilable factions, and there was no indication that the shootings had stopped. As a matter of fact, Zicarelli told his friends, his biggest fear was that the Commission would compel him to fill Sciacca's vacated post and thereby make him one of the gunmen's leading targets. Instead, reports indicate, the mantle fell to Natale (Joe Diamond) Evola, a former Bonanno "captain," who was ordered to assume command whether he wanted it or not.
A 63-year-old garment-industry racketeer and narcotics dealer, Evola allegedly wears a nightcap to bed because of sensitivity regarding his baldness and claims that he never married since he does not believe that criminality and family life go together. At the present time, however, the new chieftain has more important things to worry about. In addition to coping with the dissension in the mob and the possibility that he may be its next victim, he also has to address himself to the financial squeeze being applied by the rival New York City "families," a number of which have taken over operations and territories formerly belonging to the Bonanno group.
On the other hand, just as Federal and state prosecutions aided in breaking up the notorious Gallo-Profaci War of 1961-1963, so, too, that may eventually be the answer to the present impasse. Joe Bonanno has been indicted for Obstruction of Justice in connection with his failure to appear before the Federal grand jury in 1964 and is currently awaiting trial. On November 14, 1969, Bill Bonanno was convicted in the Southern District of New York in Mail Fraud charges. Joe Zicarelli is incarcerated on local Contempt of Court charges. And Carl Simari, a prime suspect in at least four of the New York slayings, has been in hiding for nearly two years, including sojourns to Florida, and, possibly, California.
For his part, Joe Bonanno is described by close associates as being almost fatalistic about his own future. He allegedly feels that if he is not sent to prison he will undoubtedly be killed, and his main struggles against the rest of the organization now are part of his campaign to leave an empire for his son to rule over after the father is no longer around to protect him. Because Joe and the Commission are equally adamant in refusing to give any ground to the other, mournful Joe Zicarelli is probably correct in asserting that the "Bonanas War" is not yet over.
Further reading that may be of interest: