In 1933, the repeal of Prohibition dealt the Corleone family a crippling blow but Vito Corleone had taken his precautions. He sent emissaries to the man who controlled all the gambling activities of Manhattan, Salvatore Maranzano, a big shot of the New York underworld. The Corleone emissaries proposed to Maranzano an equal partnership beneficial to both parties. Vito Corleone with his organization, his police and political contacts, could give the Maranzano operations new strength to expand into Brooklyn and The Bronx. But Maranzano spurned the Corleone offer with contempt, which touched off the great war of 1933 which was to change the whole structure of the underworld in New York City.
Salvatore Maranzano had a powerful organization with strong enforcers. He had a friendship with Al Capone in Chicago and had a good relationship with the Tattaglia family, which controlled prostitution in the city and what there was of the thin drug traffic at that time. He also had political contacts with powerful business leaders who used his enforcers to terrorize the Jewish unionists in the garment center and the Italian anarchist syndicates in the building trades. Against this, Don Corleone could throw two small but superbly organized regimes led by Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. His political and police contacts were negated by the business leaders who would support Maranzano. But in his favor was the enemy's lack of intelligence about his organization. The underworld did not know the true strength of his soldiers and thought that Tessio in Brooklyn was a separate and independent operation.
Maranzano sent a call to Capone for his two best gunmen to come to New York to assassinate Vito Corleone. The Corleone family had friends and intelligence in Chicago who relayed the news that the two gunmen were arriving by train. Luca Brasi and his men intercepted the Chicago hoods at the railroad station and brought them to a warehouse near the docks and hacked them to pieces. A few days later in Chicago the Capones received a message from Vito Corleone, and shortly after, the Capones sent back word that they would not interfere anymore. The odds were now equal, and Vito Corleone had earned an enormous amount of 'respect' throughout the United States underworld with his humiliation of the Capones.
For six months Vito out-generaled Maranzano. He raided the crap games under that man's protection, located his biggest policy banker in Harlem and had him relieved of a day's play not only in money but in records. He engaged his enemies on all fronts. Even in the garment centers he sent Clemenza and his men to fight on the side of the unionists against the enforcers on the payroll of Maranzano and the owners of the dress firms. And on all fronts his superior intelligence and organization made him the victor. Clemenza's jolly ferocity, which Corleone employed judiciously, also helped turn the tide of battle. And then Don Corleone sent the held-back reserve of the Tessio regime after Maranzano himself.
Death of Maranzano
By this time Maranzano had dispatched emissaries suing for a peace. Vito Corleone refused to see them, put them off on one pretext or another. The Maranzano soldiers were deserting their leader, not wishing to die in a losing cause. Bookmakers and loan sharks were paying the Corleone organization their protection money. The war was all but over. And then finally on New year's Eve of 1933, Tessio got inside the defenses of Maranzano himself. The Maranzano lieutenants were anxious for a deal and agreed to lead their chief to the slaughter. They told him that a meeting had been arranged in a Brooklyn restaurant with Vito Corleone and they accompanied Maranzano as his bodyguards. They left him sitting at a checkered table, morosely munching a piece of bread, and fled the restaurant as Tessio and four of his men entered. The execution was swift and sure. Maranzano, his mouth full of half-chewed bread, was riddled with bullets. The war ended and what was left of the Maranzano empire was incorporated into the Corleone operation.
The Olive Oil War is based on the Castellammarese War when Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano fought for supremacy in New York. It was Joe Masseria, the most powerful mobster at the time, who allied himself with Al Capone. Masseria was eventually betrayed by his top lieutenant, Lucky Luciano, who conspired with Maranzano. While dining at a restaurant in Brooklyn, Masseria was shot to death by some of his own henchmen.