I noted yesterday the so-called war between the Killeen and Mullen gangs started in July, 1969. Using the word war to describe this conflict seems to be greatly exaggerating what occurred. It was more what we’d call a small gang fight with a few guns thrown in. It seems there were less than a dozen active participants on each side. One newspaper article stated the Boston police said the Mullen gang had 60 members but if true, which seems unlikely. I’d suggest it had less active participants in the shootings than the number of days in a week.
Another strange aspect of this fight is the territory in which it took place, South Boston. Southie is divided into three small sections: City Point, the area generally to the east of Dorchester Street which is about 1/2 mile wide and one mile in length and includes the beaches and water front; the Lower End, to the west of Dorchester Street an area of 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile bordering the railroad tracks and the South End; and the third is around Andrew Square including the Old Colony and Old Harbor Village projects which is even of a less area than the Lower End. These are densely populated postage stamp-size areas and it is hard to see how the combatants were not constantly bumping into each other. It seems clear that they all knew each other, at least by sight.
Sometime between July and November 1969, Billy O’Sullivan and Whitey ran into Buddy Roache, a Mullen, in a Southie bar room or had a sit down meeting with him at a lounge, depending on whose version is believed. O’ Sullivan and Roache got into a heated argument which resulted in O’Sullivan taking out his .22 caliber and shooting Roache in the shoulder. The bullet came out through Roache’s spine and he ended up being paralyzed for life.
On Tuesday, November 18, 1969, Donald McGonagle, who had nothing to do with the Mullen gang, was driving his brother Paulie’s car on Broadway. Being mistaken for Paulie, the Mullens’ leader, he was murdered. The fanciful Kevin Weeks who was 13-years-old at the time said Whitey was the hit man. But then again Kevin has to have Whitey doing lots of evil deeds. That is how he got his wonderful deal with the feds.
Little credence can be accorded to Weeks’s story. It is unlikely Whitey was packing a gun at this point. Further, the killer was probably Billy O’Sullivan. Paulie McGonagle and the rest of the Mullens believed O’Sullivan killed Donald. O’Sullivan is the person they planned to retaliate against.
It would take over a year for Paulie to gain his revenge. On March 28, 1971, Paulie and two others Mullens confronted O’Sullivan as he entered his home at 300 Savin Hill Avenue around midnight. He fled down the street in the direction of the Woods. They chased after him. He tripped and fell. They caught up to him as he lay on the ground. Homicide detectives said he died from bullets in the head and chest fired at point blank range.
It was a little over a month later when FBI agent Condon directed his memo to Hoover suggesting Whitey was in fear of his life. He well should have been since O’Sullivan’s murder left him as the only one in the Killeen gang who the Mullens held in high respect because of his reputation.
Twelve days after the first memo to Hoover, Agent Condon wrote a follow up. He said Whitey would be “a very valuable source of information relative to the organized criminal activities in South Boston.” On June 6, 1971 Condon said Whitey told him that the murder of Billy O’Sullivan was a problem for him and “feels he will be murdered if he lets his guard down.”
Then around July 10, 1971, he writes Whitey told him, “there has been no change in the South Boston gang war situation since his last contact. . . . the young group under the direction of Paul McGonagle and Pat Nee are still attempting to “eliminate” Donald Killeen and his associate James Whitey Bulger.” Condon emphasized that Whitey felt if he did not make a move (actively defend himself) he and Donald would be killed.
Condon, who was experienced with handling informants felt that Whitey was being less than forthright and putting distance between them. He concluded: “Contact with this informant on this occasion was not overly productive and it is felt that he stills has some inhibitions about providing information . . . if his productivity does not increase, consideration will be given to closing him out.” Whitey had a change of heart.
The murder of O’Sullivan had caused Whitey to panic. He went to the FBI seeking help. Meanwhile he must have figured that with his life under such direct threat there was no succor with the FBI. Only by stepping up his game could he survive. He decided to fight fire with fire, literally.
He was now going to fight back and that meant moving away from the FBI. On September 10, 1971, two months after noting Whitey was backing off, less than four months after opening him, Condon closed him out saying, “Contacts with captioned individual have been unproductive. Accordingly, this matter is being closed.”
If Nee is correct, Whitey actively moved against the Mullens. He had lined up some gunmen to help him. Nee went in hiding in a Charlestown project. Whitey tracked him down. He had a bead on him but backed down because a young girl was there. Two other times Whitey and his cohorts came shooting at him and the other Mullens according to Nee.
Considering the limited space in which these combatants roamed and the hiatus between episodes it seems no one’s heart was really in the fight. The best I can figure is the total dead in this battle that has been ongoing for two and a half years was one combatant, Billy O’Sullivan of the Killeens, and one innocent victim (or if you consider this dust-up a war, one piece of collateral damage), Donald McGonagle, the brother of a Mullen. Less than a half-dozen had been wounded, some badly.
The one notable change that came from it happened to Whitey. Prior to these episodes there is no showing he carried a weapon. He was probably still in fear of having his parole violated. Now having felt his life was in danger, he has begun to carry to protect himself. Not only carry, he is now actively shooting at other people. At age 42 Whitey has yet to kill anyone but that is not for lack of trying.