.. ul tactics to arouse controversy and ideas of treason. Although the Committee did serve its purpose, it also caused many hardships for people caught up in this massive witch-hunt. Many people who had been blacklisted either lost their jobs, money, and respect and became homeless or they killed themselves. 27 A big break came for the HUAC when in 1948 the committee started to investigate Alger Hiss.
Alger Hiss was former State Department official who was accused of giving top secret documents to the Soviet Union in the past. 26 Because he had committed these acts more than 20 years before, he could not be charged for spying, but was charged for lying under oath about his involvement with the Soviet Union. 27 Alger Hiss was the first of many spies who either confessed or were caught by the government in a domino effect that eventually led to the capture and final execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Twelve days after the Hiss conviction a physicist from England who worked first-hand with the Manhattan Project confessed to spying for the Soviet Union. 28 The physicist was Klaus Fuchs and the Manhattan project was America’s name for its nuclear experimenting project. 29 Klaus Fuchs was working for the British on a type of war-related project that he later found out to be atomic-bomb research.
During his research with the British, Fuchs traveled many times to the United States to work with American scientists on the problem of the fission bomb. 30 During his travels to the U.S. he was instructed to meet with an American courier for whom he was supposed to give information about his work and the status of the United States nuclear power. 31 Only after about four meetings with the secret courier he knew only as Raymond, Fuchs was transferred to work on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. 32 He did not inform Raymond or his Soviet leaders of this change and left without a trace.
33 He started working on the Manhattan Project in 1944 and for a nearly a year he worked with other scientists and physicists on developing the atomic bomb, not once thinking of his previously assigned duties to the Soviet Union. Not until 1945, when Fuchs came to visit his sister in Massachusetts, did he talk to Raymond again. 34 When they met together, Fuchs outlined the new developments that were taking place and what information he had on the bomb. 35 He told Raymond as much as he could and that he would keep him informed. Later that year he reported on the test of the bomb and exact specifications and size of the bomb.
36 He gave the Soviets our most precious secret at that time to some of the most dangerous people in the world. Now that Fuchs was under arrest the FBI wanted to know the identity of the secret American courier known only as Raymond. Unfortunately Fuchs had no idea what Raymond’s real name was and could only provide a vague description. 37 Through various background checks, the FBI came up with the name Harry Gold. 38 Harry Gold was later questioned and soon after confessed to being Raymond. 39 He confessed to passing the information he received from Fuchs about the atomic bomb and other information concerning the activities that had taken place while Fuchs worked there.
He confessed to giving it to the Soviet Union. 40 In one of his confessions he named David Greenglass as one of contacts. He confessed that he met with David Greenglass in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There he received information from David concerning the atomic bomb and other vital information. 41 David was then brought in for questioning not less than a week later.
He was told that Gold had already confessed and that he should do the same. He said that he would as long as his wife was left out of it. He confessed to talking to Gold in New Mexico about his job. He confessed to having talked to Julius Rosenberg about his job at Los Alamos. They talked about the progress that was being made specific information on how that bomb worked and several drawings and sketches of the bomb itself. 42 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were very active in the communist party.
43 They became members of the Young Communist League as teenagers and grew up in the party ever since. 44 They read the newspapers that were printed for the communist party and held meetings for their party’s branch in their own living room. 45 On July 17, 1950, Julius Rosenberg was arrested for conspiracy to commit espionage and 25 days later Ethel Rosenberg was also arrested for the same charge. They were brought to the attention of the FBI after David Greenglass accused Julius in his statement to the FBI. They were both taken down to jail and were placed at 100,000 dollars bail.
There they waited for half a year before they got their day in court. Prior to the opening of the trial a jury had to be selected. The judge presiding over this case was Judge Irving R. Kaufman. He made it a point to decide who was on the jury and who was not.
Judge Kaufman had a long list of requirements each person had to meet in order to stay on the jury. Some of his questions dealt with being familiar with any organizations on the attorney general’s list, having any personal contacts with the FBI or HUAC, and finally if they were against capital punishment. If any of the perspective jurors answered unsatisfactory to any of these questions they were dismissed. On March 6, 1951 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell were put on trial. Morton Sobell was a friend of Julius who was employed by the Navy’s Bureau of Ordinance. The opening statement by Saypol, the prosecuting attorney, was aimed at putting the Rosenbergs and Sobell’s loyalty toward the United States at question and communism on trial. Even though their participation in the communist party was not of concern in this trial, Saypol insisted that the fact that they were active in the communist party show motivation for what they were accused of.
In order to charge a person with conspiracy to commit anything, very little hard evidence is needed. Hearsay and rumors constitute enough evidence for a conviction. Because the prosecuting team did not have enough hard evidence to convict the Rosenbergs of treason they decided to try for a conviction of conspiracy to commit espionage, something for which they could easily gather enough evidence, seeing as how they only needed one strong witness. One of the key witnesses for the prosecution, and probably the only man who had enough evidence against the Rosenbergs was David Greenglass. He testified that Julius had on many occasions accepted atomic bomb information from himself. He also testified that Julius had by himself stolen a proximity fuse.
He also talked about an entire spy ring headed by Julius that had stolen information and material concerning an atomic airplane and space platform. The biggest question that was on everybody’s mind during the trial was whether or not the Rosenbergs, if found guilty, would have to face the death penalty. Judge Kaufman made it very clear during the jury selection that if anyone was against using capital punishment they should not be on the jury. Even though at that time being found guilty of conspiracy against the government did not call for the death penalty, many people were worried that because of the situation with the Soviet Union and communism the death penalty could be used. Inevitably Judge Kaufman had the final say in whether the death penalty would be implemented or not. When it came time for the trial, the prosecutors had close to 120 witnesses that would all testify that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were involved with espionage. 46 They had testimony from David and Ruth Greenglass and many people they had worked with or associated with in the past.
47 When the verdict came, it was very shocking not that they were found guilty, but that they were going to receive the death penalty. On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed at Sing Sing prison. 48 Because of widely spread fear and hatred for the communist party and its beliefs, and the pain and turmoil the cold war put us through, the United States government was extra hard on the Rosenbergs. Although the government will never say they did not give the Rosenbergs a fair trial, they might admit that because of the situation at the time they were given a harsher penalty for their mistakes. In the past five years, two United States citizens, one a CIA agent and the other a navy officer, were found guilty of espionage and treason.
In their cases Americans actually lost their lives because of their acts, but neither of them received the death penalty. The reason they got off without the death penalty was because we were not fighting a war at that time. Because the United States was in a cold war with the Soviet Union at the time of their trial, Julius and Ethel were executed for their crimes that should have only got them long prison terms.