I order to add some context to the Whitey Bulger case we are following we felt a short history lesson in its roots and that of organized crime in New England would be helpful.
The Irish Gang Wars
The Irish gangs and the New England Mafia co-existed in the early 60’s but the peace between the Irish gangs wouldn’t last
Charlestown, Massachusetts 1961. Charlestown is a historic town, one of the oldest Boston neighborhoods located north of Boston on the banks of the Boston Harbor and Mystic River. The USS Constitution, a.m. “Old Ironsides,” is docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Bunker Hill Monument is to the north. On Halloween afternoon in 1961, the residents of Charlestown would be witnesses to a new historic happening, but this incident left no landmark to visit, it was the beginning of the Irish gang wars.
It was two o’clock on Halloween afternoon when Bernie McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Brothers gang walked towards Richards Bottled Liquors. Casually observing the flurry of activity in the vicinity of a local utility street opening. With the distraction caused by jackhammers and backhoes, he failed to notice a man with a yellow hard-hat emerging out of the other end of the gaping hole in the street.
Bernie was caught off guard, the man wearing the hard-hat was Buddy McLean, from the McLean gang. Buddy turned sharply and headed purposefully for Bernie. Bernie desperately yelled, “Buddy, wait….hold it….we didn’t know….we woulda never…”
Buddy didn’t want to hear no explanation.
“Tell it to the devil,” McLean yelled back as he pumped a slug from his .45 automatic weapon into Bernie’s eye socket and cheekbone. He back-peddled along a sidewalk and fell to the ground from the impact. McLean pumped more slugs into McLaughlin until he no longer moved. A car pulled up and McLean jumped in and sped away.
Blood leaked from McLaughlin’s body onto the sidewalk and into a nearby gutter. The Boston police would estimate that close to sixty people witnessed the execution, but true to the Charlestown code of silence, nobody saw a thing.
The McLean gang – They were from the Winter Hill section of Somerville, Massachusetts. Headed by James “Buddy” McLean and Howard “Howie” Winter. They were primarily hijackers, took part in the sale of untaxed cigarettes, loansharking and bookmaking. They did not handle contract hits for the Mafia that was the McLaughlin domain.
The McLaughlin gang – Charlestown, Massachusetts. George McLaughlin, Bernard “Bernie” McLaughlin, and Edward “Punchy” McLaughlin. They ran most of the gambling at nearby Charlestown and much of the Boston waterfront. They were also handling contract “hits” for the Mafia.
The McLaughlin’s were the Mafia’s useful, lethal idiots. Local Irish hoodlums didn’t trust the McLaughlins or the Mafia, but they would never admit it. The term “hits” was actually coined in the Boston underworld of the 1950’s to describe the number of “contract” murders the McLaughlins carried out.
The Irish gang wars were a fairly welcomed war to the New England Mafia. The New England Mafia was headed by Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca who ran his business from his office on Atwells Avenue in Providence, Rhode Island. His underboss was Jerry Anguilo located in Boston. The New England Mafia controlled 70% of the organized criminal activity in New England during this period including the bulk of the gambling and loansharking but it wasn’t 100%.
Patriarca, along with Anguilo and Mafia capo Peter “Big Peter” Limone agreed that their strategy in the Irish gang wars would be: support both sides in the gang wars with guns, money and conversation. The undisciplined, and super-violent Irish gangs would do the work for them. When they killed each off, the Mafia would step in and take over.