Last Updated on June 19, 2023
June 19th marks the day in 1953 that communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who passed American nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, were executed, after being convicted in a court of law on espionage charges.
At the height of America’s 20th-century fight against the Bolshevik communism that’s reared its ugly head once again in more modern times, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were apprehended, convicted, and later executed by way of the electric chair for their roles in anti-American communist espionage operations, sponsored by the Soviet Union.
Their execution made them the first American citizens to be executed on peacetime espionage charges in United States history.
A married couple with children, the Rosenbergs were for years portrayed as innocent victims of an overzealous American government by sympathetic leftists, who claimed that the charges against them were not only false but “antisemitic” considering the Rosenbergs’ Jewish faith, and the Jewish faith of virtually all other members of their anti-American spy ring.
Contrary to these claims, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, de-classified documents from the old communist regime showed that the Rosenbergs were indeed anti-American spies, who not only passed American secrets onto the Soviets but recruited fellow travelers to their cause, ranking rather high among the treasonous communists of their day.
They were also registered members of Communist Party USA, a well-known fact relating especially to the life of Julius Rosenberg who, before being charged with espionage and executed, was a member of the US Army working on high-level secret research at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey in the 1940s.
Years before his communist spy ring came tumbling down, Julius Rosenberg was discharged from the military and kicked out of Fort Monmouth because of his communist loyalties and his Communist Party USA membership.
The spy ring, which included members of the Rosenbergs’ extended family and employees of America’s famed Manhattan Project that developed the first nuclear weapons, was discovered thanks to Ethel Rosenberg’s own brother, David Greenglass, who was employed on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and was recruited by Julius Rosenberg to feed him the American nuclear secrets that he passed to Soviets.
David Greenglass provided detailed diagrams and information on American nuclear developments to his brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg. In addition to Greenglass, multiple other communist spies, who’d infiltrated both American and British circles, were involved in the espionage.
Despite the US being allied with the Soviets during World War 2, the nations were not sharing nuclear secrets on any official basis, and through the prism of history, many believe that the entire alliance was spurred and supported by communists and communist sympathizers within America’s federal government, particularly within the executive branch.
The aforementioned David Greenglass was arrested for espionage in June of 1950 and implicated Julius Rosenberg as his handler almost immediately. Though he initially tried to protect his sister, Ethel, David Greenglass eventually flipped on her as well and took a plea deal to save his own life.
The Rosenbergs weren’t so lucky and were convicted on March 29th, 1951, under the Espionage Act of 1917.
They were executed by way of the electric chair on June 19th, 1953.
An interesting historical tidbit that goes with the story of the Rosenbergs is this:
Roy Cohn, who went on to work for Senator Joe McCarthy in his attempts to eradicate communism from the US government, and later served as a young Donald J. Trump’s personal attorney, prosecuted the case against the Rosenbergs.
Mr. Cohn, who passed away in 1986, has been credited with personally recommending that the death penalty be carried out against the Rosenbergs.