A Brief History
On October 25, 1957, notorious mob boss Albert Anastasia, known as “Lord High Executioner” and “Mad Hatter” for his role in ruling the mob assassination team known as “Murder, Incorporated” or “Murder, Inc,” was himself gunned down, a fitting end to a violent life.
Born in Italy in 1902, Anastasia (originally “Anastasio”) came to the US illegally in 1919, deserting the merchant ship he was serving on. Working as a longshoreman, Albert (born “Umberto”) made his first known “kill” in 1921, and was sentenced to death. Lucky for Albert, he was granted a retrial in 1922 and was released when witnesses disappeared. (Imagine that!) Not one to avoid crime, Albert was convicted on a weapons charge only a year later and served 2 years in prison.
The Roaring Twenties were good to Albert, as he rose up the ranks of the Longshormen’s union and likewise in the hierarchy of organized crime (aka, Mafia). In 1928 he again faced a murder charge, and again witnesses disappeared. (See the trend?) Anastasia associated himself with a collection of Italian and Jewish mobsters such as Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel, and when Luciano organized the mob into “The Five Families” Anastasia became the underboss of the Mangano family that became the Gambino Crime Family. In 1932 Albert was again charged with murder, and once more witnesses disappeared. A murder charge in 1933 was dropped because no witness would testify! (Well, duh!)
Operating during the 1930’s and 1940’s, Murder, Inc was first led by Louis Lepke (actual last name Buchalter) and then by Anastasia. Also known as The Brownsville Boys, this assassination squad killed between 400 and 1000 people for the mob. Ratted out in the early 1940’s, the group was broken up by many members being sent to prison. The main mob informer (rat) for the prosecution, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles died by “accidentally” falling out of a high window. Bad luck for him!
Incredibly, Anastasia joined the US Army in 1942 and was promoted to Tech Sergeant, training men to be longshoremen. For his service he was awarded with US citizenship! During the early 1950’s congressional hearings put pressure on organized crime and Anastasia was summoned before congress, but refused to talk. Anastasia then had the top of the Mangano family killed, perhaps out of self defense, and Anastasia took control of the family. The heat was definitely on Albert now, and proceeding to have him deported for lying on his citizenship application were started. In 1955 Anastasia got a 1 year sentence for income tax evasion, and somehow beat back an effort to deport him. Meanwhile, mob intrigue continued with a power struggle that saw mobsters murdered and Vito Genovese attempt to take over Anastasia’s crime family.
On October 25, 1957, Anastasia was at the barber getting a haircut when 2 gunmen (faces covered) came in and shot him to pieces. No one was charged with this murder, though speculation about which gangsters were responsible continues to this day, centered on Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, and Joe Gallo, et al. Genovese took over the family, but was soon supplanted by Gambino. Note: During his murder, Anastasia attempted to attack his attackers, but actually rushed at their reflection in a large mirror!
Question for students (and subscribers): Is assassination ever justifiable? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Federal Bureau of Investigations. Albert Anastasia – The FBI Files. The FBI Files, 2009.
Hill, Stefanina. Mobster Biography, Albert “Lord High Executioner” Anastasia. 2014.
Reynolds Jr., Robert Grey. Albert Anastasia: Mafia Kingpin Of The Brooklyn Waterfront. 2014.