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.
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.
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.
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]