Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Death at the World’s Fair

From the NY Times:

Q. Recently, on a visit to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, I came across a brass plaque near the Queens Museum of Art: “Dedicated to the memory and heroism of two N.Y.P.D. detectives in 1940 when they were killed trying to defuse a bomb planted at the British Pavilion.” Can you tell me more? Was the crime ever solved?

A. It was the afternoon of July 4, 1940, at the New York World’s Fair. Across the Atlantic, Britain fought Nazi Germany. In Flushing Meadows, diagonally across the Hall of Nations from the Court of Peace, detectives had been mingling with visitors in the British Pavilion for two days after a telephone caller warned that the pavilion was going to be blown up.

About 3:30, an electrician took another look at a canvas bag in a second-floor fan room. He heard it ticking. After it was examined, it was carried outside near a fence. The World’s Fair police notified the bomb squad.

At 5 p.m., the peak of the pavilion’s teatime holiday business, two squad members, Detectives Joseph Lynch and Ferdinand Socha, squatted near a 20-foot maple tree, crouching over the little buff-colored bag. They gingerly cut away a two-inch strip. Inside, they could see sticks of dynamite.

A detective was telling the World’s Fair police commissioner that this was the real thing when the bomb exploded. Most visitors thought that loud fireworks had gone off.

Detectives Lynch, 33 years old, and Socha, 35, were killed. Where they had crouched was a crater 5 feet wide and 3 feet deep. Five other officers were wounded, two critically. The fence was ripped open. Every leaf and most of the bark of the maple tree were gone.

Despite a $26,000 reward offer, the crime was never solved.

Photo from Forgotten New York

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