Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years: How Whitey Met Howie. Part Ten

Another Bridge
From Southie

Before the 1972 gangster sit-down between Whitey and the Mullens gave South Boston a peace pact, Whitey knew unless he made a bold proposal it would be a very tenuous peace. He saw that standing opposite him were the Mullens with their huge advantage in age, desire, capable men and arms. Whitey knew he would be forced to eat a little crow and surrender part of his empire.  He understood that without more the outcome of the Chandller Restaurant meeting would be nothing more than the same thing the United States accomplished to get out of the Korean War, a cease-fire.

Coming out of prison after nine years Whitey had developed a trilogy of personal habits he would maintain the rest of his life: a strong commitment for working-out to keep in good shape; an inordinate ability to remain disciplined, focused, and sober; and passion for the study of war, military history and crime. The books found in his apartment in June 2011 after his arrest attest to the latter desire.

Whitey with his study of military history especially WWII had to know if all he left with was the cease-fire he’d have accomplished nothing. In that case Whitey knew his situation as he returned from Chandler’s would mirror that of  Neville Chamberlain returning from Munich in 1938 who proclaimed he had achieved “peace in our time.” The agreement Chamberlain made with Hitler for peace was to have England forego any objection to Germany’s gobbling up Austria and Sudetenland.  Whitey knew that before Germany could properly digest those areas it was already nibbling at more of Europe in the form of Czechoslovakia and Poland.

He’d understand that if all he left with was the 50% split that status quo would not last. Having eaten half the pie, the Mullens before long would want to eat up the rest, after all since the dust-up started the score was Mullens 2, Killeens 0. Remarkably, the score after months of dealings by England with Germany before the Munich conference was Hitler 2, Chamberlain 0.

Whitey knew a cease-fire without more would be a humiliation. He had to go into the meeting with a grand strategy. He needed to come out with protection from a power greater than the Mullens.

This would give him the time to gain revenge. Two powerful criminal groups existed in the area which could do this for him: the North End Mafia run by underboss Gennaro Angiulo which did not admit Irish and with whom Whitey would never like or be comfortable; and the Somerville/Roxbury gang (Winter Hill) run by Howie Winter, Johnny “Murderman” Martorano, and his brother Jimmy. A mixed group of mostly Irish and Italian mobsters.

Whitey even had a problem with the latter gang. Pat Nee wrote that he had connections with Howie Winter; newspaper reports indicated that it was the Mullens who were joining up with Howie Winter. On July 5, 1973. John Cullen of the Globe wrote: “Loose merger between two Southie factions has emerged after a year of secret negotiations. Four weeks ago the Mullins and Killeen gangs ended their 18 month war by accepting a compromise and merged operations. New leadership of operation will move from Southie to underworld operatives of Winter Hill, Somerville.

Whitey’s dilemma was how to ingratiate himself with the larger power when his enemy had already established a beachhead there. Howie was the biggest fence in the area and the Mullens were mostly tail gate guys so they often interacted as business associates. Whitey’s goal had to be to ease himself into the good graces of Howie who could give him cover with the Mullens. He figured the Mullens might want to take him out but they wouldn’t do it without getting the clearance from Howie who wouldn’t give it if Whitey became an indispensable part of their operation.

Whitey was planning out his long-term strategy to win the war. He’d let the Mullens have their Pyrrhic victory but like Rome he would come out victorious in the end. Nee always regretted the Chandler deal because he thought Whitey beat him because he became an informant. Whitey beat him because he was into strategic planning, he was looking years down the road while Nee was trying to make it through the day.

The first time Whitey met Howie was during the sit-down with the Mullens. Whitey knew this was going to be his one opportunity. He was well prepared. Due to his readings he knew what he had to do; with his verbal abilities he knew how to carry it off. He was willing to give up half of his holdings in exchange for being named liaison to Howie.

Howie who sat as the arbitrator between the negotiating parties was impressed with Whitey’s toughness and mind. He grabbed at Whitey’s idea that they could join together and take over all the non-mafia gambling business. Why should the Mullens and Killeens be fighting over the slim pickings of Southie when the whole of Eastern Massachusetts laid in their grasp if they cooperated and joined up with Howie and Martorano. The Mullens were sucked in. Howie found it an  irresistible spiel that Whitey spun out reminiscent of the Temptation of Christ where the Devil offered Jesus the whole world. Jesus had the will to resist, no gangster ever would.

The Mullens left happy with half of Southie’s gambling action and a feeling they had put Whitey in his place; Winter left happy having made the peace, having acquired a tough and smart new partner, and a feeling he could be boss of a huge new empire. Whitey left happy having bonded with Winter for the small price of giving up half of his Southie revenue for a cut of a bigger pie and knowing he had the protection he needed to ensure his safety while he carried out the rest of his plans.