New York mafia don Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno sent his criminal empire into chaos in the early 1960s when he unsuccessfully plotted to murder three rival mob bosses and take total control of the Five Families. The Commission found out about Bonanno’s plans and deposed him, naming capo Gaspare DiGregorio his replacement. Bonanno retreated to Arizona and fought a war for his crime family against DiGregorio, his acting boss Pete Sciacca and the entire Commission that spanned the rest of the decade and set the stage for further instability within the organization down the road. The east coast press dubbed the conflict that reached its zenith in 1968, the “Banana War.” Joe Bananas himself, one of the founders of the Five Families, never retained power and lived out the rest of his years in Tucson before dying of natural causes at the ripe old age of 97 in the spring of 2002. The Banana War Timeline (1964-1970) October 21, 1964 –Mob boss Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno stages his own disappearance after learning that The Commission had uncovered his plans to seize control of the Five Families. Bonanno names his white-collar minded, college-educated son, Bill, his consigliere and main proxy, breeding resentment within his harder-edged support base of soldiers and capos. Joe Bananas doesn’t emerge again in public for another 18 months. January 28, 1966: The Troutman Street Ambush – Bill Bonanno and his entourage are called to a peace conference at a relative’s house on Troutman Street in Brooklyn and when a call to reschedule from the DiGregorio-Sciacca camp prompts them to leave, they are met by a fusillade of gun fire from strategically-placed snipers on rooftops and gunmen in phone booths. Miraculously, nobody was killed, but the ensuing shootout on a public street in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood inspired a classic scene in the movie The Godfather Part II. Bonanno’s ambition to take over the Five Families by force also inspired a storyline in The Godfather Part III. May 14, 1966 – Joe Bonanno returns to New York following almost two years in hiding and holds a meeting with loyalists in Foley Square park in Lower Manhattan, claiming he had been kidnapped. Bonanno stays in New York for several weeks and then goes back into hiding. July 13, 1966 – Powerful syndicate capo Frank (Frankie T) Mari, the DiGregorio-Sciacca camp’s top muscle and field general in the war, is shot in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, but survives. March 17, 1967 – Genovese crime family capo John (Johnny Futto) Biello is killed on Bonanno’s orders for being one of those who tipped off The Commission about his plans to assassinate its members. Biello ran a Genovese crew in Florida. October 25, 1967 – Bonanno faction loyalists Vince (Jimmy Lefty) Cassese & Vince Garofalo are shot in front of a Brooklyn bakery November 10, 1967: The Cypress Gardens Massacre – DiGregorio-Sciacca faction captains and brothers Gaetano (Smitty) D’Angelo and James (Jimmy D) D’Angelo and the crime family’s policy boss Frank (Frankie 500) Telleri are machine gunned to death inside the Cypress Gardens restaurant in Ridgewood, Queens. March 4, 1968 – DiGregorio-Sciacca faction underboss Pietro (Skinny Pete) Crociata is shot getting out of his car on a Manhattan street corner. Skinny Pete Crociata was the conduit to all the crime family’s “old timers.” March 11, 1968 –Bill Bonanno’s bodyguard, Salvatore (Big Hank) Perrone, is killed, gunned down as he was purchasing a carton of cigarettes at a candy store in Brooklyn across the street from his cartage company. April 1, 1968 – DiGregorio-Sciacca camp soldier Mike (Bruno) Consolo is killed after a court appearance, shot to death as he went to get into his car a few blocks away from the courthouse, possibly by his own side of the war for considering switching allegiances back to the Bonanno contingent. April 5, 1968 – Bonanno camp associate Billy Gonzales, Big Hank Perrone’s best friend, is shot in the Bronx. April 17, 1968 – DiGregorio-Sciacca soldier Francisco (Frank Coffee) Crociata, Skinny Pete’s brother, is shot inside the Rossini Democratic Social Club in Brooklyn while sipping an espresso. July 22, 1968 – A stick of dynamite thrown is tossed into the Bonanno family compound in Hempstead, Long Island. August 16, 1968 – Bonanno camp capo Joseph (Little Joe) Notaro’s home is firebombed. September 18, 1968 – Newly-minted DiGregorio-Sciacca faction underboss Frank (Frankie T) Mari & consigliere Michael (Mikey Adams) Adamo are murdered. They vanished from The 19th Hole Bar in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn. September 23-October 28, 1968 – A string of bombings rip through Tucson, targeting Bonanno loyalists and their businesses. November 1968 – Joe Bonanno suffers a heart attack and steps aside, finally relinquishing the reins of the crime family he built and led for more than 35 years. February 6, 1969 – DiGregorio-Sciacca soldier Tommy Zummo is the last casualty of the war, shot to death in the lobby of his girlfriend’s Queens apartment building by up-and-coming wiseguy Joseph (Big Joey) Massino, who went on to become boss of the Bonanno crime family in the 1990s.
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