Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Detectives Socha & Lynch Honored In World's Fair Bombing Tragedy Anniversary

Flushing Meadows Corona Park - July 4, 1940. A time bomb exploded killing Detectives Joseph Lynch and Ferdinand “Fred” Socha who seconds earlier had confirmed it was a bomb. The device was discovered in the British Pavilion at the  1939/40 World's Fair in Flushing Meadow Park and removed to a remote location behind the Polish Pavilion. The case is still unsolved and remains open after 75 years. 


By Geoffrey Croft

The NYPD Bomb Squad will conduct a wreath laying Ceremony for the 75th Anniversary of the World’s Fair Ground bombing. The ceremony will be held in Flushing Meadow Park at 10 AM on July 11th  near the Queens Museum of Art by the memorial plaque honoring two detectives and other officers who were injured. 

Detectives Joseph Lynch and Ferdinand “Fred” Socha were tragically killed on July 4th, when a bomb  they were inspecting suddenly exploded during the 1939/40 World’s Fair.   Four others were seriously injured.  

The detectives - members of the department’s Bomb and Forgery Squad - were killed while they were investigating a mysterious package which turned out to be a time bomb.  

Cops killed at 1940 World’s Fair to be honored

Detectives Ferdinand Socha (right) and Joseph Lynch were killed at the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on July 4, 1940. The Lynch family lived in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx and his partner Freddie Socha lived in the Polish community in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Those attending this year’s memorial ceremony include Easter “Essie’’ Miles, 85, the eldest  and only surviving of Lynch’s five children who was in the hospital battling osteomyelitis, a chronic and painful bone infection when her father was killed. 

“My mother didn’t tell me my father had died until I returned home in August,” said Ms. Miles,  who was 10 at the time. 

“She was the real heroine; taking care of five kids with the youngest only 22 months.”

An electrician found a suspicious satchel emitting a ticking sound, in a “fan room,” inside the British Pavilion according to reports at the time. 

Lynch’s daughter Easter "Essie" Miles holding photographs honoring her father will be at the July 11th  ceremony in Flushing Meadow Park. Essie was a 10-year-old schoolgirl in the hospital battling  osteomyelitis, a chronic and painful bone infection, when her father was killed. (Photo: Douglas Healey)

After receiving a tip about a suspicious package Detective Frederick Morelock removed the canvas bag and placed it under a tree in an unpopulated area behind the Polish Pavilion near the Van Wyck Expressway.

Detective Socha was off duty, but told his partner that if anything came up, he’d accompany him even though it was a holiday, according an account on the Detectives' Endowment Association website.

An hour before he was scheduled to go off-duty, Detective Lynch received a telephone call at home. A suspicious satchel had been discovered inside the British Pavilion at the World’s Fair. 

Emergency Service Squad personnel had cordoned off the location pending the Bomb Squad’s arrival.  Detective Lynch told his wife not to worry and that he’d be back in time for supper, and to go later to visit their eldest daughter, Essie, who was in the hospital. 

Lynch borrowed his sister’s car and picked up Socha en-route to the fairgrounds. The pair arrived at the location and learned that the satchel had been placed under a maple sapling next to a service road near where the elevated portion of the Van Wyck Expressway currently runs through Flushing.  After a briefing by police brass, the Detectives advanced toward the satchel to make a visual inspection. 

Margaret Fleming bending over the body of one of the dectives killed by a time bomb

Margaret Fleming, a nurse at the Fair is seen bent over the body of one of the defectives killed by the time bomb. In the background the second detective is being carried off.

Protective gear had yet to be invented, so they were only wearing business suits, the same as other Detectives. They carefully lifted the satchel off the ground and examined it thoroughly. Although a ticking sound was coming from inside the satchel, there was no way to confirm that it actually contained a live bomb (and most bomb runs turn out to be hoaxes). 

They decided they needed to peer inside to be certain. Lynch carved a small hole in the thin wood veneer of the satchel and peeked through it.  

He advised in a hushed voice, “It’s the business” — meaning the bomb was real. 

Those were his last words. The bomb suddenly exploded.

World’s Fair British Pavilion Bombing
New York City Police Detective Frederick Morelock, speaking with Police Commissioner  Lewis Valentine and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (seated on auto bumper) after the bomb detonated killing the two Detectives and critically injured five others.  Detective Morelock bravely carried the bomb to the rear of the Poland Pavilion.  Shrapnel from the blast penetrated  Morelock's left shoulder and back.   Detective Joseph Gallagher lost an eye.  Mayor LaGuardia presented posthumous Medal of Honor awards to the families of the officers for their, "Conspicuous bravery."

The closed casket wake was held in the family's living room in the Bronx where a reported five thousand mourners came to pay their respects. 

Yankee Legend Babe Ruth was one of the visitors.   

On May 27, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia posthumously awarded  the officers the Medal of Honor  for their, "Conspicuous bravery."

"It was a tragedy, but it could have been worse," Police Commissioner Lewis Valentine said noting that it was "only a miracle that hundreds of fairgoers weren't killed."

168,000 were in attendance at the Fair that Independence Day according to news accounts. 

The case is still unsolved and remains open after 75 years.

Today, a plaque and stone marker commemorating their heroism is located outside the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadow Park where the ceremony will be held on July 11th.

The building is the last original structure remaining from the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.

New York Daily News headline, July 5, 1940.

Read More:

Cops killed at 1940 World’s Fair to be honored 
New York Post - May 25, 2015 - By Philip Messing 

Queens Chronicle -  July 8, 2010 by Liz Rhoades  

New York Times - August 3,  2008 - By Michael Pollak

The Brooklyn Eagle - May 5, 1941

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this piece and for keeping the memory of Detectives Lynch and Socha alive. The upcoming 75th anniversary of the bombing at the 1940 World's Fair is an important commemoration. New Yorkers, when taking "a walk in the park" in Flushing Meadows-Corona, should take the opportunity to pause at the humble memorial plaque by the Queens Museum and give thanks for the brave men and women of the NYPD who serve our city "Fidelis ad mortem." (Faithful unto death.) The NYPD in general, and the Bomb Squad in particular have been on the front lines combating terrorism for over a century.
    Your article reflects most favorably upon the lives and memories of Detectives Lynch and Socha and their families. It merits a wide audience. Again, thank you.