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The September 21, 1944 cable:
The Rosenbergs and the Greenglasses

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This cable documents the act that eventually led to the downfall of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and their execution in 1953—namely, the recruitment of Ruth Greenglass, Ethel's sister-in-law. Ultimately, it was Ruth and David Greenglass who implicated the Rosenbergs, who became the only persons put to death for espionage in the U.S. during the Cold War.

The Greenglasses were ardent Communists. During the war, David was drafted and became a skilled machinist in an Army ordnance unit. He was transferred to Los Alamos in August 1944, the same month as Klaus Fuchs. There he joined a group that designed models of high-tech bomb parts, including implosion detonators for the plutonium bomb, the type eventually dropped on Nagasaki.

Rosenbergs Ethel and Julius Rosenberg leave federal court following their indictment on espionage charges, August 23, 1950.

Ruth Greenglass told Julius Rosenberg about her husband's work. By then, Julius ("Liberal" in this cable) was heading up a sizeable group of spies working for the Soviets. As the cable suggests, Julius set about recruiting Ruth to join his group, with an eye to eventually pulling in her husband (see also November 14, 1944 cable). In this cable, Ruth's name is in clear text, because she's just being introduced to the Soviets; soon she would be given the cover name Osa ("Wasp"). In November, David wrote a letter to his wife saying he "most certainly will be glad to be part of the community that Julius and his friends have in mind." And so he was, under the cover name Kalibr ("Caliber").

Just as Klaus Fuchs' confession led the FBI to Harry Gold, so did Gold's confession guide them straight to David Greenglass. Gold told the FBI that while most of his trips to Los Alamos were to pick up goods from Fuchs, he once received materials from someone he described, according to his FBI interrogators, as "a soldier, non-commissioned, married, no children (name not recalled)."

When the FBI confronted David Greenglass, he confessed. Not one to bear up well, he also implicated not only Julius Rosenberg but also his own wife. Ruth, when questioned, corroborated her husband's statements about Julius' recruiting. Later, the Greenglasses also implicated Ethel, claiming she knew all about Julius' spying activities and even typed up espionage-related documents for him.

Greenglasses Left: David Greenglass on June 16, 1950, shortly after his arrest by the FBI. Right: Ruth Greenglass testifying at the Rosenberg trial on March 14, 1951.
David Greenglass was sentenced to 15 years in prison, while his wife escaped prosecution. The Rosenbergs were not so fortunate. Convicted of conspiracy to provide atomic secrets to the USSR, they were sentenced to death. According to John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, authors of Venona: Decoding Espionage in America, U.S. authorities never expected to carry out the executions. Rather, they thought the death sentence would force Julius to confess. He didn't, and neither did Ethel, and both died in the electric chair on June 19, 1953.

In a December 5th, 2001, Associated Press story, David admitted he lied under oath about his sister Ethel's involvement to reduce his own sentence and keep his wife Ruth out of prison. In an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes II," David said simply, "As a spy who turned his family in ... I don't care." David and Ruth Greenglass continue to live in the New York area under assumed names.

The September 21, 1944 cable
Note: Consult the footnotes at the end of the cable for identities of individuals and definitions of terms appearing in capital letters.
Rosenbergs and the Greenglasses intercept page 1

Rosenbergs and the Greenglasses intercept page 2

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