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Don Croce Malo was born in the village of Villalba, Sicily. He sprang from a religious family who groomed him for priesthood in the Holy Catholic Church. He had one brother, Benjamino, who became a secretary to the Cardinal of Palermo.
Flight and rise to power
As a young adult he impregnated a young girl of the village and refused to marry her. The girl's family demanded matrimony or death and so he fled to the mountains. After a year as a bandit, he had the good fortune to make contact with the Mafia. Five years after Don Croce's flight into the mountains, he was well known as a "Man of Respect", and after making certain arrangements, he returned to live in his native town of Villaba. By combining generosity with prudence, Croce Malo acquired the respectful title of "Don". By the time he was forty years old he was acknowledged as the foremost of the Friends of the Friends and was called upon to adjudicate the most desperate disputes between rival cosche of the Mafia, to settle the most savage vendettas. He became known as the "Don of Peace" throughout the Sicilian Mafia, and Don Croce became a rich man.
After Benito Mussolini came to power he turned his baleful eye on Sicily and the Mafia. Mussolini sent his most trusted Minister, Cesare Mori, to Sicily as a Prefect with unlimited powers and with the task of eradicating the Mafia. Don Croce submerged himself in the murky waters of the Sicilian underground. He entered a monastery as a pseudo Franciscan monk, under Abbot Manfredi's protection.
When World War II erupted, Don Croce immediately took this opportunity to very quietly build up lines of communication with the remaining Mafiosi, sending messages of hope to the old Mafia stalwarts who had been exiled on the tiny islands of Pantelleria and Stromboli. He befriended the families of those Mafia leaders who had been imprisoned by the Prefect Mori. He made contact with underground partisan groups and gave orders to his men to aid any Allied pilots who survived being shot down. When the American Army invaded Sicily in July of 1943, Don Croce extended his helping hand. Don Croce's men persuaded thousands of Italian soldiers to desert and retire to a hiding place prepared for them by the Mafia. Don Croce personally made contact with secret agents of the American Army and led the attacking forces through mountain passages so that they could outflank the entrenched German heavy guns. Don Croce himself, though now almost sixty-five years of age and enormously heavy, led a band of Mafioso partisans into the city of Palermo and kidnapped the German general commanding its defense. He hid with his prisoner in the city until the front was broken and the American Army marched in. The American Supreme Commander of southern Italy referred to Don Croce in his dispatches to Washington as "General Mafia".
Capo di tutti capi
After the conquest of Sicily, Don Croce became the chief advisor to Colonel Alfonso La Ponto, who was the American Military Governor of Sicily. The first problem to be solved was appointing new mayors for all the small towns in Sicily as the former mayors had been Fascists and were thrown into American prisons. Don Croce recommended Mafia leaders who had been imprisoned. Since their records clearly showed that they had been tortured and jailed by the Fascist government for resistance to the aims and welfare of the state, it was assumed that the crimes of which they were accused were trumped-up charges. Within a month most of the towns in Western Sicily had as their mayors a set of the most diehard Mafiosi to be found in Fascist prisons. And they functioned superbly for the American Army. As the war continued on the mainland, there was no sabotage behind American lines, no spies roamed. Black-marketing by the common people was held to a minimum. Don Croce's Mafia mayors enforced the smuggling laws with the utmost severity and the carabinieri patrolled the roads and mountain bypasses ceaselessly. Don Croce gave orders to both. Don Croce requested and received the loan of American Army trucks to transport foodstuffs to the starving cities of Palermo, Monreale, and Trapani, to Siracusa and Catania, and even to Naples on the mainland. The Americans marveled at Don Croce's efficiency and awarded him written commendations for his services to the armed forces of the United States.
Don Croce, not trusting to the gratitude of the Americans or the blessings given by God for virtue, was determined that his many good works in the service of humanity and democracy be rewarded. So these cram-filled American trucks, their drivers armed with official road passes signed by the Colonel, rolled to quite different destinations designated by Don Croce. They unloaded at the Don's own personal warehouses located in small towns like Montelepre, Villaba and Partinico. Then Don Croce and his colleagues sold them for fifty times their official prices on the flourishing black market. So he cemented his relationships with the most powerful leaders of the resurgent Mafia. Don Croce Malo had everything in position to resume his former power. Mafia chiefs all over Sicily were in his debt. He controlled the artesian wells that sold water to the population of the island at prices that would give him a good profit. He created the monopolies on foodstuffs; he levied a tax on every market stall that sold fruit, every butcher shop that sold meat, the cafes with their coffee bars, and even the strolling bands of musicians. Since the only source of gasoline was the American Army, he controlled that also. He furnished overseers to the huge estates of the nobility, and in time planned to buy their lands at cheap prices. He was on the road to establishing the kind of power he wielded before Mussolini took over Italy. He was determined to become rich again. In the coming years he would, as the saying goes, put Sicily through his olive press.
Malo and Giuliano
Personality and traits
Don Croce was known as reasonable, clever, a born diplomat, but most important of all, he did not turn faint at the sight of blood.
Don Croce Malo is believed to be distinctively based on Don Calogero Vizzini, who also helped the Allies during their conquest of Sicily and was one of the most influential and respected Mafiosi. Vizzini was also born in Villalba.