A July Fourth bomb goes off at the World’s Fair

There’s still a lot of nostalgia for the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and 1940—an ode to progress and optimism that helped distract the city from the harshness of the Depression and an escalating war in Europe.


But amid the fun spread out on 1,200 acres along a former ash heap in Queens, the fair has a grim distinction.

It was the site of a mysterious bombing that killed two policemen. The crime remains unsolved 76 years later.

BombworldfairmcnyairviewThe blast happened on Independence Day in 1940. An electrician in the British Pavilion noticed a suspicious canvas overnight bag—then realized it was ticking.

The electrician brought the bag to his boss, who had security carry it out of the pavilion to a fence about 150 away.

The NYPD bomb squad was contacted. Squad members were already on alert, as a call came in two days earlier warning that the pavilion would be blown up.

“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,” explained the New York Times in a 2008 article.

Bombbritishpavilion“They gingerly cut away a two-inch strip. Inside, they could see sticks of dynamite.”

Almost instantly, the bomb exploded in their faces, killing them and critically injuring five other security and law enforcement officers.

Fair-goers nearby thought the explosion had come from firecrackers, which had been set off intermittently throughout the day for the Fourth of July holiday.

Police were unable to trace the call that warned about the bomb. While trying to gather clues, they rounded up “Bundists, Fascists, or members of the Christian Front” who were attending open-air meetings in Columbus Circle.

BombplaquelynchsochaNone of those suspects were charged, and the city apparently had no leads. Police thought maybe IRA sympathizers planted the bomb. An ex-Bund member was questioned but let go.

Despite a $26,000 reward, no one was ever arrested.

Before the start of the 1964 World’s Fair at the same site, a plaque was dedicated to Lynch and Socha, killed in the line of duty 24 years earlier.

[Top image: MCNY; second image: AP; third image: MCNY; fourth image: findagrave.com]

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One Response to “A July Fourth bomb goes off at the World’s Fair”

  1. robert dowling Says:

    with todays technology, has there been any movement at all on reopening, if closed, the murder of 2 nypd dets 76 years ago or is this consigned to the coldest of the cold case files. as far as I know murder in nyc is never closed till solved fully and esp 2 cops. may be someone can do a follow up story on them and their families. hate to see this be a case like po cardillo murdered in mosque 7 in harlem in 1970s and from all outwards appearances the perpetrators, if not dead, are still roaming free. like I said as I understand it, at least in nyc, a murder case is not fully closed until all the t-s are corssed and the I-dotted. side not: if the pic that has accompanied this article is the plaque at the bomb site, it seems to need refurbishing-I am sure some nypd fraternal org would jump on the band wagon.

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