The Army Fires Live Shells & Hits New York’s Equitable Building – 1942
The old Equitable Building at 120 Broadway was destroyed by fire January 9, 1912.
A different sort of accident occurred thirty years later to the new Equitable Building.
On Friday, March 13, 1942 during World War II, eight anti-aircraft shells were mistakenly launched by the army from the East River. The Equitable Building was hit by one of the 37 millimeter shells.
The Equitable accident faded from memory quickly as miraculously no one was killed.
This forgotten episode in New York’s history was described by the Associated Press.
New York Shelled By Accident, Building Hit
New York, March 13 —-A random shot from an anti-aircraft battery, whose gunners accidentally let go with eight shells, today smashed a piece off one of New York’s financial towers in the Wall street district.
The “direct hit,” which sent dozens of police cars and fire trucks into action, knocked pieces of brick from a ledge between the 37th and 38th floors of the 40 story Equitable building at 120 Broadway. Brick dust particles and fragments of steel fell into the street below.
Shell fragments showered on window ledges of the Bankers’ club, on the 38th floor, and flew into open windows on the lower floors, but no one was reported injured and no windows were shattered.
General Issues Statement.
Maj. Gen. Sanderford Jarman, commanding general of the anti-aircraft artillery command, eastern theater of operations, issued this statement late today: “At about 3:30 p. m., this date, one of the automatic anti-aircraft weapons located along the East river accidentally discharged eight rounds, As far as can be learned to date, seven of these rounds are believed to have fallen into the river and one to have hit 120 Broadway, knocking out a few bricks. “Preliminary investigation indicates that the accident occurred thru some mechanical failure in the firing mechanism of the gun. Further investigation is being carried out.”
Shells Travel 2,000 Yards.
Acting Capt. James Pyke, in charge of the New York City bomb squad, declared after an investigation in which he was aided by army and navy officers: “Eight shells were fired accidentally and they traveled about 2,000 yards. One shell exploded when it hit the Equitable building about 400 feet up.
“It chipped the stonework and went in about ¾ of an inch, then the fragments fell to the street. It was very fortunate that it did not go thru one of the windows, as it would have wrecked any office that it entered.”
Charles N. Feldmann, the air raid warden for that section of the building, said that he thought immediately of an air raid, got his flashlight, his warden’s cap and armband, and started into the main office prepared to guide some 200 employees to the shelter floor if that became necessary.
Shortly after building officials and tenants telephoned police, members of’ an anti-aircraft unit reported to police that they had accidentally fired eight shells from one of their guns-—a gun pointed south in the general direction of lower Manhattan.
A much more memorable accident to a New York City building happened three years later on July 28, 1945 when an American B-25 bomber plane crashed into the Empire State Building killing 14 people.
Heavy fog was the cause of that accident, not an itchy trigger finger.