The Government of the Soviet Union, as it was then known, publicly
announced the detonation of an atomic bomb. Past experience taught
Americans to treat Moscow pronouncements lightly. However, the White
House, in a solemn statement in September, 1949, related the
disheartening news which startled and shocked the nation.
had finally come to understand the secrets of the atom. Russian
ingenuity in the scientific field probably contributed considerably
to this discovery. But what of the part played by American traitors
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg? This is their story.
In the summer
of 1949, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) learned that the
secret of the construction of the atom bomb had been stolen and
turned over to a foreign power. An immediate investigation was
undertaken which resulted in the identification of Emil Julius Klaus
Fuchs, a German-born British atomic scientist. British intelligence
authorities were advised, and Fuchs was arrested by British
authorities on February 2, 1950. He admitted his involvement in
Soviet atomic espionage, but he did not know the identity of his
was subsequently identified through FBI investigation as Harry Gold,
a Philadelphia chemist. On May 22, 1950, Gold confessed his
espionage activity to the FBI.
of Harry Gold's admissions led to the identification of David
Greenglass, a U.S. Army enlisted man, and Soviet Agent, who had been
assigned by the Army to Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1944 and 1945.
Gold stated that he had picked up espionage material from Greenglass
during June, 1945, on instructions of "John," his Soviet principal.
"John" was subsequently identified as Anatoli Yakovlev, former
Soviet vice-consul in New York City, who left the United States in
December, 1946. Interrogation of Greenglass and his wife, Ruth,
resulted in admissions of espionage activity under the instructions
of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, brother-in -law and sister,
respectively, of David Greenglass. Max Elitcher, a Naval Ordnance
engineer and an admitted Communist, was interviewed. He disclosed
that Morton Sobell, radar engineer and former classmate of Elitcher
and Rosenberg at a college in New York City, was also involved in
the Rosenberg espionage network.
Background of Principal Subjects
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Rosenberg was born on May 12, 1918, in New York City, the son of
immigrants, both of whom were born in Russia. He had one brother and
Rosenberg, nee Greenglass, was born September 28, 1915, in New York
City, the daughter of immigrants. Her father was born in Russia and
her mother was born in Austria. Other members of her family included
David, Bernard, and a half brother.
Julius Rosenberg were married June 18, 1939, in New York City and
had two sons, Micahel Allen, born March 10, 1943, and Robert Harry,
born May 14, 1947.
Ethel Rosenberg lived in the lower east side of Manhattan most of
their lives and both attended the same high school, Ethel graduating
in 1931 and Julius graduating in 1934. Julius Rosenberg attended the
school of engineering at a New York college from September, 1934,
until February, 1939, when he graduated with a bachelor's degree in
electrical engineering. He also took various courses at other New
At the time
of his apprehension he was operating a machine shop in New York City
manufacturing all types of parts for various manufacturing concerns.
revealed that Julius Rosenberg began associating with Ethel
Greenglass around 1932. Julius was disliked by Ethel's parents and
was not allowed to visit her parents' home from about 1932 until
1935. During that period Ethel and her two younger brothers, Bernard
and David, occupied an apartment on a floor above the home of their
parents. Julius Rosenberg would visit Ethel frequently at this
upstairs apartment, which was littered with copies of Communist
Party literature and the "Daily Worker." Julius and Ethel became
devoted Communists between 1932 and 1935, after which they
maintained that nothing was more important than the Communist cause.
obtained in March, 1944, reflected that Julius Rosenberg was a
member of the Communist Party. This information was furnished to the
Security and Intelligence Division, Second Service Command,
Governors Island, New York, in view of Rosenberg's employment by the
War Department at that time. This investigation also established
that his wife, Ethel, had signed a Communist Party petition.
Rosenberg's position with the United States Government was
terminated in December, 1945.
A search of
the Rosenberg apartment at the time of the arrest of Julius
Rosenberg disclosed that Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were members of
the International Workers Order.
In May, 1940,
the FBI's New York Office learned, after Ethel Rosenberg received an
appointment as an employee of the Census Bureau in Washington, D.C.,
that she was a devout communist. Further, Ethel Rosenberg and
another woman, alleged to have been Communist sympathizers, had
distributed Communist literature and and signed nominating petitions
of the Communist Party. Ethel Rosenberg had also signed a Communist
Party nominating petition, dated August 13, 1939, in New York City.
Investigation reflected that Julius Rosenberg claimed to have joined
the Young Communist League when he was 14 years of age. Also, he was
secretary of the Young Communist League while in college.
Greenglass, younger brother of Ethel Rosenberg, was born on March 3,
1922, in New York, where he attended public schools. After
graduating from high school in 1940, he began attending college for
a short period, studying mechanical engineering. He attended another
school for a short period in 1948, studying mechanical designing.
While he was young, he worked in his father's shop.
Greenglass reportedly had come under the influence of his sister
when he was about 12 years old and when the 19-year-old Ethel was
being courted by Julius Rosenberg. At first David opposed the
efforts of Ethel and Julius to convert him to Communism and disliked
Julius, but after Julius brought David a chemistry set, the two
became very friendly and Julius was able to influence David
considerably. Julius Rosenberg, until he married Ethel in 1939,
continued to be a frequent visitor at David and Ethel's apartment.
David became extremely fond of Julius. Having become fully converted
to Communist ideals expounded by Ethel and Julius, David joined the
Young Communist League at the age of 14.
David Greenglass had admitted that he was indoctrinated with
Communist principles in his youth by Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and
was a member of the Young Communist League in New York from 1936 to
1938. He continued his belief in Communism, but never joined the
Communist Party. He claimed to have become disillusioned with
Communism when Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia was expelled from
Cominform, the Communist Information Bureau created to share
information among communist parties, for defying Soviet supremecy.
This incident, he said, brought home to him that Communism was being
used as a tool by the Soviet Union for the purpose of world conquest
instead of a means of reaching a panacea.
her marriage to Julius Rosenberg, Ruth Greenglass claimed she was
converted to the principles of Communism by her husband. A member of
a branch of the Young Communist League for about one year in 1943
and president of that branch for about three weeks, she reportedly
became disillusioned with communism following World War II, when it
became apparent that Russia had embarked on a program of world
was born the son of Russian-born immigrants on April 11, 1917, in
New York City. He married Helen Levitov Gurewitz in Arlington,
Virginia, on March 10, 1945.
of Julius Rosenberg and Max Elitcher, Sobell graduated from college
in June, 1938, with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
In 1941 and 1942 he attended a graduate school at a university in
Michigan, from which he received a master's degree in electrical
employed during the summers of 1934 through 1938 as a maintenance
man at Camp Unity, Wingdale, New York, reportedly a
Communist-controlled camp. On January 27, 1939, he secured the
position of junior electrical engineer with the Bureau of Naval
Ordnance, Washington, D.C., and was promoted to the position of
assistant electrical engineer. He resigned from this position in
October, 1940, to further his studies. While employed at an electric
company in New York State, he had access to classified material,
including that on fire-control radar. After resigning from this
company, he secured employment as an electrical engineer with an
instrument company in New York City, where he had access to secret
data. He remained in this position until June 16, 1950, when he
failed to appear at work. On that date, Sobell and his family fled
to Mexico. He was subsequently located in Mexico City. On August 18,
1950, after his deportation from Mexico by the Mexican authorities,
he was taken into custody by FBI agents in Laredo, Texas.
an admitted Communist, said that in 1939, when he roomed with Morton
Sobell in Washington, D.C., Sobell induced him to join the Communist
reported to have been active in the American Peace Mobilization and
the American Youth Congress, both of which were cited by the
Attorney General as coming within the purview of Executive Order
10450. Sobell also appeared on the active indices of the American
Peace Mobilization and was listed in the indices of the American
Youth Congress as a delegate to that body from the Washington
Committee for Democratic Action.
A resident of
an apartment building in Washington, D.C., reported that Sobell and
Max Elitcher were among those who attended meetings in the apartment
of one of the tenants during 1940 and 1941. This individual believed
that these were Communist meetings.
The FBI's New
York Office located a Communist Party nominating petition which was
filed in the name of Morton Sobell. The signature on this petition
was identified by the FBI Laboratory as being in Sobell's
the instrument company where Sobell was employed showed that he
failed to report for work after June 16, 1950. The company received
a letter from Sobell on or about July 3, 1950, stating that he
needed a rest and was going to take a few weeks off to recuperate. A
neighborhood investigation by the FBI revealed that Sobell, his
wife, and their two children were last seen at their home on June
22, 1950, and that they had left hurriedly without advising anyone
of their intended departure.
airlines company at La Guardia Field, it was determined that Sobell
and his family had departed for Mexico City on June 22, 1950.
Round-trip excursion tickets for transportation between New York
City and Mexico had been purchased on June 21, 1950, in Sobell's
Sobell's stay in Mexico, he communicated with relatives through the
use of a certain man as a mail drop. This man was interviewed and
reluctantly admitted receiving and forwarding letters to Sobell's
relatives. This admission was made after he was advised that the FBI
Laboratory had identified his handwriting on the envelopes used in
forwarding letters to Sobell's relatives.
1950, the Mexico authorities took Sobell into custody and deported
him as an undesirable alien. On the early morning of August 18,
1950, FBI Agents apprehended Sobell at the International Bridge in
the information supplied by a man named Harry Gold, the FBI moved
swiftly to bring to justice those responsible for stealing secrets
of the U.S. Government.
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