Flushing, N.Y. -- One of today’s speakers called the July 4, 1940 bomb explosion at the New York World’s Fair a first act in the war that was coming to our shores. The bomb rocked the entire city with sensational banner headlines, if only for a brief time. By the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 18 months later, the two deaths that resulted from the Fair bombing became even more difficult to sort from casualty lists that eventually numbered in the millions.
Today’s commemoration, at Flushing Meadow Park, in New York City’s borough of Queens, helped mark the incident’s 75th anniversary. The 30-minute service, which drew more than 100, highlighted the bomb’s impact on the families of the men called to defuse the threat, as well as on police protocols in handling bomb threats. The ceremony was assembled by the New York Police Department’s Bomb Squad, which brought along an honor guard, a continent from NYPD’s Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and a state-of-the-art truck designed to handle bomb threats.
Detectives Joseph Lynch and Ferdinand “Freddie” Socha, assigned to the NYPD’s then-6-man Bomb and Forgery Squad, were killed while trying to disarm a time bomb left in a dark satchel. Two other detectives earlier carried the bomb from the British Pavilion, where it was discovered by a watchman, to a clearing by the shuttered Polish Pavilion.
It took today’s quiet, sunny, warm morning, a week beyond the 75th anniversary, to afford enough quiet to hear the ripples across the decades and the generations. With witness provided by surviving family members, onlookers could sense and trace wounds that endured for the family of the two police detectives who lost their lives and the four officers so gravely wounded that they were forced to retire.
Detective Lynch’s daughter Easter Miles, 10 years old at the time of her father’s death, spoke about the loss of his father, who was off-duty, at their Kingsbridge home when he got the call for assistance with the bomb threat. Lynch told his wife, Easter, he’d be back for supper. Both he and Socha died at 4:45p, according to a bronze plaque embedded near the Queens Museum of Art, which was built for the World’s Fair as the New York City Pavilion and is the last original structure remaining from the ‘39-’40 Fair.
Easter Miles, 85, was full of emotion as she spoke, after pushing herself up to the podium with the help of a walker, assisted by oxygen. Lynch’s colleagues in the Bomb and Forgery Squad became proxy fathers to her and her four siblings for years to follow, she said. They visited the family every Thanksgiving and many other holidays, providing food, encouragement, companionship and the kind of devotion they could have expected from their slain father.
Francine McLean, Lynch’s granddaughter, born after her grandfather’s death, recited a poem recalling the legacy of her grandfather, all that remained for her. In response to a question, she later mentioned that Lynch’s family originally hailed from Leinster, particularly the counties of Kildare and Wicklow.
Emil Vyskocil, the son of NYPD Officer Emil Vyskocil, talked about the last entry in his father’s duty notebook, in which the officer noted that he was busy working with fellow officers to keep the public a safe distance from the bomb location. More than 50 feet away from the explosion, he received extensive leg and back wounds from the bomb’s metal shrapnel, shrapnel that he was still having removed more than 20 years later. The other wounded officers are Detectives William Federer, Martin Schuchman, Joseph Gallagher.
NYPD lieutenant and writer Bernard Whalen shared the podium, as well as provided a summary of the bombing and surrounding events for the commemoration’s four-page program. “The police launched a large manhunt and rounded up hundreds of suspects, including known Nazi and IRA sympathizers, but none proved to be the perpetrator.”=
Whelan ended his written account: “The July 4, 1940 World’s Fair Bombing case remains open and unsolved to this day.”
Read more about the July 4, 1940 bombing case.