Atomic Espionage & Atom Spies



By Ratan Lal Basu


Copyright 2015 Ratan Lal Basu

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I Introduction

II Atomic Espionage

III Theodore Hall, Saville Sax and the FBI Mystery

IV Klaus Fuchs

V David Greenglass

VI George Koval

VII Harry Gold

VII Morris Cohen and Lona Cohen

IX Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

X Morton Sobell

The Author


I Introduction

In a general way the term atomic espionage refers to spying and stealing of technological intelligence pertaining to Fission bombs and Thermo Nuclear (T-N) bombs. Fission bombs are several hundred times more powerful than the earlier most destructive bombs based on high explosives like TNT. Again T-N bombs are a few hundred times more powerful than the Fission bombs.

Espionage in this connection was mainly one way traffic – from the US Bloc to the Soviet Bloc. Considering the sophistication of the technologies involved, the persons involved in espionage were generally highly intelligent scientists and nuclear technicians. Many of these spies were moles, schematically implanted by the USSR, many did it simply for financial gains and some did it because of some ideological obsession – either adherence to the Communist ideology or from the belief that monopoly of USA in atomic power would hinder the peace of the world and balance of power in this regard would be more desirable to maintain global peace.

Before going into the stories of atom spies, it is necessary to explain in a way comprehensible to ordinary readers, the actual subject matter of espionage. In brief the subject matter of espionage was related to the intricate and highly sophisticated technologies involved in making the Fission and T-N bombs. If we simply state that the relevant technologies pertained to the making of Fission bombs from Uranium 235 (symbolically ^235^92U) and Plutonium 239 (symbolically ^239^94Pu) or T-N bombs from Hydrogen isotopes, nothing would be comprehensible to the ordinary readers. So we should start at the outset with the definition of Atom.

What is an Atom?

In a general way an ‘atom’ may be defined as the smallest conceivable division of a chemical element. We would see soon that atoms may be further split up, but these fragments of atoms are irrelevant in terms of chemical functions.

The broad concept of atom has been traced in the writings of Greek philosophers like Leucippus and his disciple Democritus (about 5th century B.C.) and in the Vaisheshika philosophy of the Indian sage Kanada (about 2nd century B.C.) In fact this sage (originally named Uluka) got the pejorative because of his concept of Kana (particle).

However, these ancient concepts of particles have very little relevance to modern atomic science which had its real beginning from the discovery of the English chemist John Dalton during the early 19th century. Since then, there have been continued research and discoveries in the field of atomic science. Dalton believed that atom is the smallest particle and it could not be split up into smaller particles. Subsequent discoveries, however, dispelled Daltonian view. In 1896, the British physicists, J. J. Thomson, John Townsend and H. A. Wilson discovered electron, a negatively charged (according to the concept of negative and positive charges conceived by Michael Faraday) very tiny particle. Soon it was realized by scientists that atom is neither an unbreakable nor a solid and compact particle unlike the concept of Dalton.

Discovery of nucleus of the atom by Ernest Rutherford in 1911 was a milestone in the arena of atomic theory and thereafter in 1913 his disciple Niels Bohr, the great Danish scientist discovered the structure of atom, although his discovery was a preliminary outline. But all later atomic theories were based on this basic structure as depicted by Bohr. In brief his concept was like this – the nucleus of the atom is a compact mass consisting of positively charged Protons, and electrically neutral Neutrons, both having the same mass. Around this nucleus negatively charged electrons (with insignificant mass compared to protons and neutrons) revolve in different orbits. Apparently an atom appears like our solar system with sun as the nucleus and the planets as electrons. However, the basic rules of the atom are guided by quantum mechanics, which is radically different from classical mechanics which guide planetary motion around the sun. Considering the basic purpose of this article we need not go into the complicacies of quantum mechanics and its difference with classical mechanics. One should simply keep in mind that atom is not a compact mass, only a small portion of the area in space occupied by an atom are solid matters as electrons, protons, neutrons and some other particles, and the major portions are vacuum.

Atomic Number

The smallest atom of the element Hydrogen contains only one electron and one proton. With increasing number of Electrons (= Proton) we get larger atoms. So we can arrange the atoms of different elements in increasing order of this number which is generally called atomic number. This number in this article would be placed as subscript to the left of the symbol of the atom, e.g. Hydrogen – 1H, Helium – 2He, Uranium – 92U etc. Except natural Hydrogen (Protium), all atoms contain one or more Neutrons. Most of the atoms of the elements from Hydrogen to Uranium, indicated serially by numbers 1 to 92, are assumed to have existence from the Emergence of Earth as a planet. Only a few of them emerged later as a result of radioactive degeneration (defined below). However, all atoms beyond atomic number 92 have been synthesized by human experiments or in course of radio-active degeneration. Recently some scientists have discovered primordial existence of trace quantity of a large atom Plutonium 244 (^244^94Pu)

Atomic Weight (mass)

Weight of an atom depends on the number of protons and Neutrons. Thus weight of natural Hydrogen atom is 1, that of natural Helium is 4 (2 Protons + 2 Neutrons). This number is placed before the atomic symbol as superscript, e.g. ^238^92U, means that this atom of Uranium contains 92 Electrons (= Protons) and 238-92 = 146 Neutrons, ^244^94Pu means that this Plutonium atom contains 94 Electrons and 150 Neutrons.

Radio Activity

All atoms, whether natural or synthesized, are not stable. Nucleus of some atoms decay emitting α (Alfa) – emissions containing mainly proton and neutron particles, β (Beta) – emissions, containing electrons and γ (Gamma) – ray which is very high frequency photon particles. This process of decaying of nucleus of atoms is known as radio activity and elements having such atoms are generally called Radioactive Elements. So one way of classification of atoms is – stable atoms and decaying (Radioactive) atoms. Radioactive atoms degenerate into smaller stable or unstable atoms. Generally radioactive decaying goes through various stages ultimately degenerating to the stable atom of Lead (Plumbum), symbolically 82Pb.

Uranium-238: follows Alfa decay, i.e. decays by emitting Alfa particle (2 Protons + 2 Neutrons, which is equivalent to a Helium Atom). (Alfa-decay, however, accompanies Beta and Gamma radiations also.)

^238^92U→^232^90Th (Thorium) →^226^88Ra (Radium) →^222^86Rn (Radon) →^209^84Po (Polonium) →^206^82U (Lead)

The above is only a broad statement of the decay. The actual decay process (Uranium series or Radium series) is a very complicated process, involving innumerable intermediary stages and likely to involve elements of other atomic numbers [Astatine (85), Bismuth (83), Protactinium (91), etc.]. All these elements have been found, at least transiently, in any uranium-containing sample, whether metal, compound, or mineral.

Of the intermediary elements only Thorium is primordial, and the others are transient.


While defining radioactive decay of elements we generally take into account the ‘Half-life’, i.e., the time by which half of a quantity of a radioactive element would turn into Lead through decaying. In fact radioactive decay process follows exponential decay with constant rate of decay on the average. It may be briefly stated as: e^-λt^

Where λ (lambda) is the rate of decay, t is time, and e is exponential (=2.72 approximately).

If t = half life of any radioactive element, then e^-λt^ = 1/2

(Anyone interested in exponential growth or decay may consult any elementary book of mathematics, if he is not already well acquainted with this). Half life of Uranium-238 is about 4.47 billion years. So if we keep one kilogram of Uranium 238, it would become half kilogram in 4.47 billion years, 250 grams in 8.94 billion years and so on.


Atoms with the same atomic number but having different atomic weights are called isotopes. This difference in mass or weight occurs because of difference in the number of neutrons in the nucleus of the atom. 1H and 2H are two isotopes of Hydrogen. Similarly 235U and 238U are two isotopes of Uranium.

Of the first 82 elements (from Hydrogen to Lead (Plumbum), symbolically 82Pb have at least one stable isotope and only two viz. Technetium (43Tc) and Promethium (61Pm) have no stable isotopes. Of the other 80, Tin (Stannum), 50Sn have the highest number (10) of stable isotopes; 26 elements have only one stable isotope and 54 have more than one stable isotopes. None of the elements with atomic number 83 or more have any stable isotope. Earlier Bismuth (83Bi) was considered to have one stable isotope, ^209^83Bi, but recently it has been discovered that it too decays at a very slow pace.

Dominant or Principal Isotope

Of the isotopes of an element, whether stable or unstable, one isotope dominates in terms of quantity. This may be called principal or dominant isotope to distinguish it from the minor isotopes. Other trace-isotopes remain mixed with the dominant isotope. An element is defined in terms of the dominant isotope, e.g. while we say Hydrogen as such we mean Protium (H). Similarly by Carbon we mean Carbon-12, ^12^6C.

Almost all elements with stable isotopes also have unstable (radioactive) isotopes which undergo Beta-decay ending at the nearest stable nuclide (defined below).


Nuclide refers to atoms with same mass/atomic weight, but different atomic numbers.

For example Carbon-14 (radio-carbon, ^14^6C) and Nitrogen-14 (^14^7N) are two nuclides.

Atomic Energy, Fission and Fusion

Enormous energy is embedded in the atoms. To think rigorously, no particle or so called matter can exist without energy and no energy can exist in vacuum, without the support of matter or particles, however tiny. Matter may carry energy in various forms – kinetic, electric, magnetic, sonic etc. Energy may be transmitted from one material medium to another and the one form of energy may be converted into another.

Radioactive elements decay through emission of nuclear particles, electrons and γ (Gamma)- rays, i.e. very high frequency electro-magnetic wave or photon particles. This energy have two major sources. The most important of them is the energy embedded in binding of the atom. An atom is a specific organization of electrons, protons, neutrons etc and in an atom these particles are compelled to observe specific patterns of behaviour, different from the behaviour of these particles while free. So this force field of the atom that binds the inner particles in a specific rule requires high level of energy and this energy is released while the atom breaks off. Another conceivable source of energy may be that in the commotion of breaking off of the nucleus, particles like electron, proton and neutron may crash and split up into photon particles.

Theoretically the rate of conversion of matter into energy as the terms defined in crude way, the Einstein’s equation of E = MC2 is used, where E is energy, M, matter converted and C the velocity of light in Kilometres per second (300000). We need not go into these mathematical complications and for comprehension of ordinary readers we approach in a different way.

Consider the following facts. The Uranium Bomb, code named ‘Little Boy’ that USA detonated on the Hiroshima City of Japan at 8.15 A. M. Japanese Standard Time, on 6th August 1945 contained around 64 Kilograms of Uranium 235, and the energy level the breaking off of only a fraction of this quantity of Uranium atom into smaller atoms released, was equivalent to energy produced by explosion of 18 Kilotons (18 thousand metric tons) of energy. In a short time, a vast area of the city was completely destroyed killing around 70,000 people and wounding an equivalent number. This would give an ordinary reader a fairly good idea of the energy level that could be produced through atomic explosions.

A piece of Uranium-235, the size of a master seed, can produce energy equivalent to that contained in about two metric tons of coal.

The Plutonium bomb (code named ‘Fat Man’) dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki only three days later (9.6.1945) was overwhelmingly more powerful. The bomb exploded only a fraction of 6.2 Kilograms of Plutonium-239 which released energy level equivalent to that of 21 kilotons of TNT.

[Henceforth, we shall use the equivalence of power of TNT explosion as the unit of power of Atomic bombs, e.g. Little Boy was an 18 kiloton bomb, and Fat Man, a 21 kiloton bomb.]

Both these bombs were Fission bombs. After the Second World War, technology for T-N bombs developed. These were thousand times more powerful and destructive than the ordinary Fission. Now we are to distinguish between Fission and Fusion bombs. Actually, energy output of a T-N bomb comes from both fission and fusion.

Fission and Fusion

Fission means breaking off and fusion means joining. So anybody can guess that fission bombs are based on splitting up of atoms and fusion bombs are based on joining of atoms. But we ought to go into details and intricacies of fission and fusion.

To start with let us arrange all the elements in increasing order of atomic numbers and partition them into two – i) From Hydrogen (H) up to Iron (chemical name Ferrum) (26Fe) and ii) All atoms with atomic number 27 or more.

Now in a very simplistic way we make the following observation:

Observation-1: In category (i), a larger atom in terms of atomic number requires less energy for its formation than its smaller counterpart.

Observation-2: In category (ii) a larger atom requires more energy than its smaller counterpart.

It is clear from the above observations that theoretically for the first category if two or more atoms are joined or fused to form a larger atom, energy would be released. The process may be called ‘Fusion’. On the other hand, for the second category, splitting up of larger atoms into smaller ones would release energy. This process is called fission.

Fission should be carefully distinguished from radioactive decay. The former is a sudden splitting up of a larger atom into two or more smaller atoms and the latter is a continued process of decay – the former may be called revolution or qualitative change and the latter, evolution or quantitative change. In radioactive decay energy release is a long drawn and continued process and at a time too much energy are not released, the energy released may kill human beings but cannot destroy a vast area. In case of fission however, it is a sudden split up of an atom and vast energy is released in a small fragment of time and this energy (generally in the form of kinetic energy) would soon turn into destructive heat waves (in case of a controlled bomb).

There are evidences of natural fissions, in certain areas in prehistoric times, may be because of natural occurrence of suitable objective conditions. In some places effects of minor natural fissions have been observed. This has inspired many fiction writers to emphasize about the knowledge of fission technology of ancient races or emergence of extra-terrestrial living beings on Earth.

Bombs could be generated only if the entire fission or fusion process could be accomplished in a short span of time. One should remember that theoretical statement and technical feasibility are not the same. Here we ought to distinguish between fissible and fissile elements.

Most of the large radioactive elements could be split up into smaller elements by bombarding their nuclei with neutrons, but it may not always set a chain reaction i.e. automatic fission after the first bombardment with neutron without any further outside stimulus. So, all these elements are fissible but only a few are fissile, i.e., the first stimulus is enough to set a chain reaction. Uranium-238 is fissible but not fissile. Only Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 have been found to be fissile.

So the scientists concentrated on technologies relevant to fission bombs, first with Uranium 235 and later on with Plutonium 239. After the Second World War, research on fusion bomb was based on fusing two isotopes of Hydrogen, viz. Deuterium (2H) and Tritium (3H, an unstable isotope of Hydrogen) into Helium (^4^2H). The technological feasibility remained confined to fission of Uranium and Plutonium and Fusion of Hydrogen isotopes.

These technical achievements (or Curse!) have been possible in course of continued painstaking research over a long period of time, involving many countries and millions of researchers and also atom spies. Now let us define in a very simple and comprehensible way the basics of fission and fusion technologies.


Fission technologies have been feasible only for Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239. So in terms of human technological capabilities we may call these two atoms, fissible elements. Theoretically fission technology is very simple to describe. Fist we are to mention that for a bomb, a minimum critical quantity, i.e. critical mass of the fissile element is required.

Critical mass is the minimum mass of the fissile element that would set up automatic chain reaction. For Uranium-235, it is about 48 kilograms and for Plutonium-239, about 16 kilograms, under normal pressure and density of the mass. However, increasing the density of the fissile matter, a lower mass may be forced to set up chain reaction.

The decaying process of fissile atoms is to be accelerated so that they split up in a short span of time and all binding energy released immediately. Is could be done if the nucleus a fissile atom is hit by a free neutron of appropriate velocity. Being hit by a neutron the affected atom would immediately split up releasing vast energy in the form of kinetic energy of the fragments, Gamma ray and some free neutrons which would attack other atoms in the mass. If the fissile element achieves a critical mass, the released neutrons from the decaying atoms automatically set the chain reaction. This chain reaction process would soon break off a considerable portion of the critical mass and if the kinetic energy could be controlled by a sustainable tamper or encasing, the kinetic energy would be converted into heat energy, heating up the tamper to several million degrees centigrade. Under this condition, the tamper would expand enormously and reach plasma-state, resulting in blackbody radiation of X-rays which, coming in contact with the atmosphere would ultimately explode, generating horrible heat-waves, as happened in case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies.

Two Methods of Fission – Gun-type Method and Implosion Method

Gun-type Method: This method was used in the ‘Little Boy’, dropped on Hiroshima. In this case the critical mass of enriched Uranium which contains 80% or more of Uranium-235 (the rest being Uranium-238) is divided into two subcritical masses. The critical mass of 48 kilogram of Uranium-235 would require about 60 kilogram of enriched Uranium.

Now by the gun-type method, the two subcritical masses are shot into one another to reach critical level and start chain reaction.

The U-235 atom may split up in many ways, but the total number of neutrons of the fragments should add up to 236 (235 = Bombarding neutron) and number of protons 92.

Two hypothetical possibilities are given below for understanding the process of fission.

^235^92U + 1 Neutron = ^141^56Ba + ^92^~36~ Kr + 3 Neutrons [Kr- Krypton, Ba- Barium}

^235^92U + 1 Neutron = Strontium-95 (^95^38Sr) + Xenon-139 (^139^54Xe) + 2 Neutrons

Implosion Method: This method was used in Fatman, the Plutonium bomb that wrought havoc on Nagasaki. In this case a subcritical mass of Plutonium-239 forms the core pit.

Actually, as Plutonium-239 cools down, it rapidly changes its allotropic stages, creating complications. So it is presumed that instead of pure Pu-239, an alloy with about 3% Gallium was used to stabilize allotropic changes of Pu-239. Now to avoid corrosive degeneration of Plutonium it might be thinly plated outside by galvanic silver, nickel or gold (none of which chemically react with Plutonium). The outside tamper is of U-238 which encloses a pusher shell of Aluminum -Beryllium alloy, and conventional high explosives (like TNT). The conventional explosives are detonated first by electric spark. The explosion pushes the tamper and the pit inwards compressing Pu-239 to reach enough density so that the subcritical mass (under normal density) turns in fissile mass and chain reaction is initiated.

As the fissile element is split up into fragments, enormous binding energy is set free (as the larger atom embodies more binding energy than that of the fragments taken together). About 93% of this energy is embedded in the kinetic energy of the fragments moving away from each other at a velocity more than 1000 km per second. The rest of the energy is embedded in the kinetic energy of the released neutrons and emission of gamma-ray.

As the tampers prevents the fragments from flying away, the fragments slow down, heating up the tamper to several million degrees of centigrade. At this heat the tamper and the core expand considerably and turn into plasma foam emitting X-rays, which coming in contact with the atmosphere explodes and releases the destructive heat wave. Some released high velocity neutrons also hit the U-238 tamper inducing fission of the tamper and this adds to the yield of the fission device.

The chain reaction of the fissile material (U-235 or Pu-239) follows an exponential growth path (1, 2, 4, 16, 64………….) and each stage of splitting of the fissile atoms takes only a fraction of a micro second (millionth of a second). So, only a fraction of a second is enough to split up the necessary quantity of the fissile material to generate an explosion needed to destroy an entire city (for Pu-239, it may be only 1-2 kilograms).

Technical Problems

i) For continuation of the chain reaction process till the desired output of energy is obtained, the critical mass of the fissile material is to be held together.

Also the fragments are to be prevented from flying away till they cool down enough to transfer most of the kinetic energy to heat of the tamper.

All these would take only a fraction of a second, but long before that the tamper may shatter. The problem is one of holding intact the tamper which would be extremely heated and expanding outwards enormously.

ii) It is more difficult to hold the free neutrons. A considerable number of neutrons would, in any case, escape carrying away around 3-4% of released energy. But it is to be seen that the necessary free neutrons for continuation of the chain reaction are available.

The actual technological aspects pertaining to the above problems are extremely complicated calling for long drawn research and experiments.

End Products – Unwanted Hazards

The destructive effect of the fission bomb does not end up, unlike the conventional bombs, in immediate destruction. It has after effects which may continue for a very long time.

The fragments and the free neutrons undergo beta-decay releasing electrons and gamma rays. The fragments themselves are radioactive elements and the entire fallout from the fission bomb may take thousands of years to completely subside. Environmental pollution, ecological degeneration and serious health hazards are the after effects of the atomic explosion and this may continue for a long time. And here lies the real horror of atomic warfare.


A more powerful destructive devise could be created if Hydrogen isotopes Deuterium (2H) and Tritium (3H) could be fused together to form Helium atoms (^4^2He). To initiate the process, a fission device would be necessary to generate a very high level of temperature. Here also the initial triggering would generate a chain reaction.

This type of bomb is commonly known as Hydrogen Bomb (H-Bomb) or Thermo-nuclear device.

In reality none of the most powerful bombs tested so far are pure Fusion or Hydrogen bombs. The real thermo-nuclear bomb may be called a Fission-Fusion bomb as the energy output comes from both fission and fusion – each having almost equal share.

The most successful technology for a thermo nuclear bomb is known as Tailor-Ulam device after the names of its designers Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam. The first successful test was undertaken in November 1952. The bomb code named Ivy Mike generated an energy equivalent of 10.4 megatons (million tons) of energy. Subsequent thermo-nuclear bombs (as tested) ultimately followed the T-U method or its variants. The methods devised by the USSR before espionage information about T-U technology, has been proved to be much inferior.

Ivy Mike was a two stage bomb – the Primary and the Secondary.

The primary contained an implosion fission bomb. The secondary had a heavy tamper of U-238 which enclosed a spark plug of sub-critical amount of Pu-239 encircling fusion fuel of liquid deuterium and tritium. The explosion of the primary fission bomb produced x-ray radiation which forced the tamper of the secondary outward and the opposite momentum (Newton’s Third Law) pushed the spark plug and the fusion fuel inward.

Soon the spark plug was compressed enough to reach critical stage starting fission chain reaction and the resultant heat and pressure initiated fusion chain of Deuterium + Tritium = Helium plus energy and free neutrons. These fast moving neutrons induced fission of heavy the tamper of U-238. Although the fusion produced overwhelmingly more energy as a percentage of mass, total yield of energy from the U-238 fission was greater because of the huge quantity.

Later on the device was improved by replacing the fusion fuel of 2H and 3H by Lithium-6 or Lithium-7 Deuteride. The implosion of the secondary as result of radiation from the primary explosion would now release Deuterium from the compound, and Lithium being hit by neutrons from the spark plug would break off into Tritium and Helium. Thus the problem related to Deuterium and Tritium as fusion fuels was resolved.

[Lithium-6 (6^3Li) + 1 n = ^4^2He + [^3]H; Lithium-7 (7^3Li) + 1 n = ^4^2He + [^3]H + 1 n]

A Thermonuclear Bomb (Fusion Bomb/Hydrogen Bomb are misnomers) is overwhelmingly more powerful than a Fission bomb. ‘Mike’ under the Operation Ivy tested by USA on 1.11.1952, yielded energy equivalent to 10.4 Megaton of TNT (and we may call this bomb a 10.4-Megaton Bomb). It was 500 times more powerful than the fission bomb ‘Fatman’. The actual power of the bomb was far beyond the expectation of its designers and the consequences were devastating. The horrible blast completely obliterated the Elugeleb Island on which the test was conducted and radioactive fall outs from the fission devices went uncontrolled and spread to far off areas, endangering human life, lives of plants and animals and causing ecological disaster.

The T-N bomb technology developed by USSR was much inferior.

The sources of Fuel for Fission and Fusion


The source of both U-235 and Pu-239 is Uranium.

Uranium is one of the most abundant elements on Earth. But during 1930s and 1940s only a limited sources of minerals containing extractable Uranium had been discovered.

The mineral which is the richest source of Uranium is known as “Uraninite” or “Pitchblend” (for its black color). This mineral contains about 99.27% Uranium-238, about 0.72% Uranium-235, traces of Uranium-234, Radium and other intermediate transient elements and some Lead (the end product resulting from radioactive decay of Uranium). Uranium (U-238 +U-235) is to be extracted first from Pitchblend.

Uranium is preserved best in the form of Triuranium Octoxide (U3O8). Because of its color, it is popularly called ‘yellow clay’.

U-235: To obtain fission fuel of U-235, the combined Uranium is to be enriched by increasing the percentage of U-235 to 80% or more. This was successfully done at Oak Ridge laboratories of the Manhattan project and the relevant technologies were subjected to Soviet espionage.

Pu-239: This fission material is to be synthesized from U-238.

If a slow velocity neutron is inserted into the nucleus of a U-238 atom, the atom turns into U-239, but the commotion continues resulting in further changes. Now two neutrons in the nucleus releases electrons and get converted into two protons and the released electrons settle at the outer orbit of the new atom: Plutonium-239 (^239^94Pu). The actual process of transition is, however, not so simplistic. The complicated process may produce also trace amount of Pu-240 along with Pu-239.

Manhattan Project

Fission bomb technologies were developed under the Manhattan Project during 1939-45. The project led by USA was collaborated by U.K. and Canada. The British atomic research project, Tube Alloys merged with Manhattan Project in 1939. Manhattan Project was a vast project employing around 150 thousand employees and spending US $2 billion (at current price level around US $35 billion). Researches were conducted in more than 30 sites. The principal design and research laboratory was located at Los Alamos, New Mexico (the 47th US state, created in 1912 – nothing to do with the sovereign state of Mexico).

This lab was the most important target of Soviet espionage network. The other important target was the lab at Oak Ridge (Tennessee, USA) which was engaged in research for enrichment of Uranium and synthesizing Plutonium-239 from Uranium-238.


II. Atomic Espionage

An enormous cobweb of Soviet espionage encapsulated the Manhattan Project (code named: ENORMOZ meaning enormous by the Russians), especially the laboratories at Oak Ridge in USA. Only a small segment of the spy ring could be unearthed by the authorities at USA and Britain through the VENONA, a project undertaken jointly by the USA and UK during 1942-1961 to unearth suspected Soviet espionage activities about the Manhattan Project, by decrypting Soviet coded messages intercepted in USA and UK. Many of the findings could not be produced in court for trials because of ‘classified’ nature of the files and they came to the knowledge of the public only after their publication (partially) in 1995. Information from temporary opening up of the Soviet Archives after the fall of the USSR during early 1990s and confessions of many erstwhile Soviet spies through books, articles and interviews, gave people an impression about the enormity of Soviet atomic espionage. In fact, it appears that the USSR could simply befool the US-bloc in this regard.

There have been controversies as to the benefits accrued to the USSR from these espionage as regards advancement of their projects pertaining to making and testing of Fission and Thermo-Nuclear bombs. At one extreme, some opine that these information through the spies of little real value as regards Soviet atomic tests. The moderates opine that the espionage only expedited Soviet bomb tests and they could have done them on their own, but without espionage, it could have been delayed marginally. Facts and declarations by the Soviet authorities from time to time and award op honors to various atom-spies by them, nullify both the above views.

It is now clear that without espionage making of highly powerful atom bombs (comparable to the US bombs) could have been delayed by decades, if not altogether impossible.

Organized Espionage

The Soviet network for atomic espionage was immaculately planned, well coordinated and handled by extremely competent spy controllers. The espionage agencies involved in this regard were the following.


During the regime of Joseph Stalin, Bolshevik repression took a new form and in this regard the agency that played the crucial role was the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Narodnyy Komissariat Venutrennikh Del, abbreviated NKVD). Although NKVD was created right after the Bolshevik takeover of power it was under CHEKA during the Leninist regime. Since 1930 Stalin made it the leading agency since 1934 and by 1934 till the end of the World War II, all other espionage and secret repressive agencies became subordinate to it.


The People’s Commissariat for State Security or NKGB, was the name of the Soviet secret police, intelligence and counter-intelligence force that existed from February 3, 1941 to July 20, 1941, and again from 1943 to 1946, before finally being renamed the Ministry for State Security (today’s MGB).

Separate administration

On February 3, 1941, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet separated the large Main Directorate of State Security (or GUGB) section from the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (or NKVD), while upgrading it to a People’s Commissariat in its own right. This was in order to improve the functions of Soviet security organs. The new administration was called the People’s Commissariat for State Security (or NKGB).


The Main Directorate of State Security (Glavnoe Upravlenie Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, GUGB) was the name of the Soviet intelligence service, secret police from July 1934 to April 1943. It was run under the auspices of the Peoples Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD). Its first head was first deputy of People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs (then – Genrikh Yagoda), Commissar 1st rank of State Security Yakov Agranov.


GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye is the foreign military intelligence main directorate of the Soviet Army General Staff of the Soviet Union. “GRU” is the English transliteration of the Russian acronym meaning Main Intelligence Directorate. At present the official full name translation is Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

The important spy-handlers connected with atomic espionage were:

Jacob Golos (1889-1943)

Initially the most important role in organizing and handling atomic espionage in USA was played by the veteran Yakov Naumovich Reizen. Later on he took an assumed name Jacob Golos. He was a founder member of the Communist Party of USA (CPUSA), established in 1919. He was a well known Communist revolutionary during the Tsarist Regime in Russia. He was arrested several times and could ultimately escape to USA where he became an important spokesman of the newly formed Bolshevik Regime in 1917.

During the 1930s Golos played a crucial role in organizing Soviet spy network in USA, under the cover of chief of the travel agency World Tourist Inc., which was actually an organization to finance CPUSA.

Anatoly Yatskov (1913-1993)

During the 1940, Yatskov (code named: John, Alexei and Anatoly Yakovlev) became the chief of the Soviet espionage network in USA and under his command the Rosenberg Spy Ring and other spy networks were organized mainly for atomic espionage around the Manhattan Project.

Yatskov was an NKVD senior case officer who worked in USA under the cover of Consul General of the Soviet delegation New York City. His primary responsibility was to collect secret information from the Manhattan Project.

Alexander Feklissov (1914-2007)

Feklissov was an NKGB case officer and the most important subordinate of Yatskov in organizing atomic spy network in USA.

Sergey Kurnakov (1892-1950)

The veteran Kurnakov, an immigrant from USSR, was a former Tsarist cavalry officer who got attracted to the Communist regime in USSR. In USA he got associated with the various Communist Party journals. He too played an important role in recruitment for the atomic spy ring in USA.

Semyon Semyonov (1911-1986)

A graduate from the MIT in 1940, Semyonov was a specialist in scientific and technical espionage. He had recruited more than 20 spies from various disciplines of science and technology. He also played a crucial role in functioning of the Rosenberg and other spy networks around the Manhattan Project.

Leonid Romanovitch Kvasnikov (1905-1993)

Romanovitch, the chief of the scientific and technical intelligence of the NKGB, was one of the most prominent initiators of atomic espionage in USA. Since 1940, Kvasnikov supervised the atomic espionage network of the USSR in USA. To this end he visited New York under the cover of deputy chief of the Soviet consul in New York City. He was acclaimed for his professional excellence and deep understanding of the fundamental problems of scientific and technical intelligence.

Spy Rings

The VENONA Project and other counter intelligence efforts by USA and UK unraveled the existence of two major atomic spy rings operating mainly in USA and UK. They were: Portland Spy Ring and Rosenberg Spy Ring.

Of these the most important spy ring for atomic espionage was the Rosenberg Spy Ring.

The Rosenberg Spy Ring

The Soviet controller of this spy ring was Anatoly Yatskov (alias Anatoly Yakovlev), a senior NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del: the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs) officer working under the guise of the Consul General of the USSR at the New York City. He was entrusted with the task of controlling espionage on the Manhattan Project labs in USA.

The American organizer and recruiter of the ring was Julius Rosenberg (code named: LIBERAL).

Scientists involved in the ring were Klaus Fuchs and David Greenglass (code named: KALIBR).

The couriers were Morten Sobell, Harry Gold and Saville Sax (who was also a courier in the Portland ring).

Accomplice: Ruth Greenglass (wife of David Greenglass).

Portland Spy Ring

This powerful and widespread spy ring was centered in Britain and its activities covered a large number of Areas one of which was atomic espionage. This ring included the scientist Theodore Hall, Morris Cohen (alias Peter Kroger), his wife Lona Cohen (alias Helen Kroger), Saville Sax (code named: STAR) all of whom were related to atomic espionage. Other notable spies in this ring included Harry Houghton, Ethel Gee, Gordon Lonsdale and others who were not directly related to atomic espionage. The Cohens were the couriers to the Scientist Theodore Hall (code named: MLAD), to dispatch scientific information obtained from Hall to the Soviet authorities through various channels.

The two rings, in fact, were overlapping and likely to be well coordinated and many of the spies were connected with both the rings.

Another very important scientific source besides these two rings was George Koval (code named: DELMER) who has been claimed by the Soviet authorities as most crucial spy besides Fuchs and Hall who, with his vital scientific information, had enabled the USSR to test successfully her first atom bomb RDS-1 (a Plutonium implosion bomb designed after ‘Fatman’ dropped on Nagasaki by USA) as early as 29th August, 1949. Without espionage, this could not have been possible before 1953.

Fuchs was the most important scientist who kept USSR abreast of researches on Thermo Nuclear bombs in USA, especially by Teller and Ulam. The following facts would substantiate the view that early success of the USSR as regards the T-N bomb could not have been possible without information from Fuchs.

On 1st November, 1952, USA tested its first T-N bomb Mike with an output of 10.5 megaton.

The USSR tested its first T-N bomb (Joe-4). This was designed by the Soviet scientist Sakharov on the basis of Sloyka technology devised by him without the knowledge of T-U technology. This bomb could produce only an energy output of 0.4 megaton. Sakharov realized that technologies devised by him and other Soviet scientists on their own would never be able to devise a megaton range bomb.

Then they took help of the espionage information, coming mainly from Fuchs and learned about the T-U technology, overwhelmingly superior to the Sloyka technology.

In the meantime, USA tested its 15 megaton T-N bomb (Bravo) in March 1954.

Now the Sakharov and other atomic scientists of USSR learned and mastered the T-U technology and enabled the USSR to test its first megaton T-N bomb (RDS-370 in November 1955. It yielded 1.6 megaton energy.

Thereafter, on the basis of espionage information on T-N bomb, research in USSR continued and the Soviet scientists made spectacular progress in this regard through their own research. These successes enabled them to resolve many issues pertaining to T-N bomb and test the most powerful T-N bomb ever tested by the nuclear powers. They could successfully detonate a 50 megaton pure hydrogen/fusion bomb (97% of energy output from pure fusion) in October 30, 1961 at Novaya Zemlya archipelago at Sukhoy Nos in northern USSR. The horrible bomb was code named, ‘Tsar Bomba’ and also referred to as ‘Kuz'kina Mat'.

Trial, Imprisonment and Execution

Of the large number of atomic spies detected by VENONA Project and other counter intelligence efforts by FBI (USA), MI-5 (UK) and other Anglophonic countries, the most prominent and fruitful to the USSR atomic venture, were:

NKVD Controller: Anatoly Yatskov (secret name: Anatoly Yakovlev).

Scientists: Klaus Fuchs, Theodore Hall, David Greenglass, George Koval.

Couriers: Harry Gold, Saville Sax, Morten Sobell, Lona Sobell.

Organizer and recruiter: Julius Rosenberg.

Accomplice: Ruth Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg, wife of Julius Rosenberg (falsely accused).

Of the above, Yatskov could not be tried because of his diplomatic immunity.

Arrested and tried: Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, Morten Sobell, Lona Sobell, Harry Gold.

Executed: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Could not be detected: George Koval.

Were not tried: Theodore Hall, Saville Sax and Ruth Greenglass.

If we scrutinize the lives of the above spies and many other spies, it would be found that most of them were either members of Communist parties or obsessed with Communist ideology. This gave USSR an edge over the US bloc in the arena of atomic espionage and for that matter, espionage in general. In fact the Marxian ideology had a widespread influence among the intellectuals all over the world. Much romanticism, fantasy and dreams centered on the dream-world of Communism – the world free from poverty, inequality and exploitation. In fact, most of the dreamers had no idea about the actual happenings in the USSR and its Communist satellites, as very little transpired to the free world through iron-curtains of these countries. As a matter of fact, the fantasy of Communism generated a deep seated obsession, deeper than any hitherto known religious obsession. It took decades to learn about the dark side of Communism, the actual incidents of centralized molestation of humanity and all human values – the blatant lies, hypocrisy and gigantic propaganda machinery based on pure falsehood. Disillusionment came only after long decades while truths started seeping through the curtains of the hitherto known worst and most torturous dictatorships under the guise of Socialism. Unfortunately, still now, a large number of intellectuals (both obsessed ones and the hypocrites and career seekers) all over the world are engaged in eulogizing Communism, and befooling ordinary people. The root of this degeneration of human thinking is due to the ever increasing poverty, inequality, crime, corruption and social injustice under the capitalistic and pre-capitalistic economic and political systems. Still now, .Socialism and Communism are considered by serious thinkers as the sole alternative to capitalism. The horrible inside stories of the so called socialist countries and the hypocrisies of Communist leaders have hardly shaken the faith in .Socialism, although, many adherents of this belief consider the Marxian concept of Communism with absence of state, private property, family exchange and division of labor as utopia. Terroristic activities in the name of religion could not besmirch the sanctity of religious texts and shake religious faith. Similarly, undesirable activities of Communist countries and Communist leaders could not shake the faith in .Socialism and Communism, if not in their orthodox form.

Another noteworthy aspect connected with the Soviet atomic espionage in USA is that majority of the important atomic spies were of Jewish origin.

Now let us depict the lives and activities of some of the prominent atomic spies.


III Theodore Hall, Saville Sax and the FBI Mystery


Theodore Hall, the atomic scientist, played a crucial role through his espionage activities to enable USSR to detonate her first fission bomb as early as 29th August, 1949. In his mission his Harvard roommate Saville Sax played a very important role as his courier.

Theodore (Ted) Hall was born on 20th October, 1925 in Far Rockway, New York City. His father and mother were Barnett Holtzberg and Rose Holtzberg respectively. As Holtzberg is a purely Jewish surname and clandestine anti-Semitism was on the rise in USA prior to the Second World War, Theodore Alvin Holtzberg along with his elder brother Edward changed their surname to ‘Hall’ so that they could avoid anti-Semitic onslaughts.

Theodore was a child prodigy and from his very childhood he revealed high level talent for physics and mathematics. His gift was recognized by the authorities of his Townsend Harris High School for gifted boys and Hall was accepted as a student of higher grade skipping three grades from the grade at which he was reading at the Public School at Washington Heights. This enabled him to complete his school education at the early age of 14. He was admitted to Queen’s College of the Columbia University in 1940 and to Harvard University in 1942 from where he graduated in 1944. At Harvard he was inspired by Communist ideology and joined the Communist club, John Reed Society.

Because of his brilliant performance as a student he was accepted, even before completion of graduation, as a young scientist at the Los Alamos laboratory of the Manhattan Project. As a brilliant nuclear scientist, he was closely associated with researches pertaining to making of the fission bomb. In 1944, Hall became the team leader of a key project working on the Plutonium implosion bomb. His contribution to resolve various technological issues pertaining to the fission bomb was praiseworthy and he had at his finger tips every aspect of technologies pertaining to making of the fission bombs, ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fatman’.

Hall was obsessed with Communist ideology and was accustomed to looking at everything through the Communist lenses. He considered US capitalism little different from fascism of Hitler’s Germany and he felt that monopoly of the USA in the arena of atom bombs during the postwar era would not be safe for the human race. He had blind faith. Like all other adherents of communism, on the role of Joseph Stalin and his USSR as the rescuer of the world from US capitalism and so he decided to break US monopoly by passing on atomic secrets to the USSR. To this end he decided to approach the Soviets while in New York City on vacation in October, 1944.

While endeavoring to approach Soviet intelligence network in USA avoiding FBI surveillance he fortunately came upon his best friend and one of his roommates at Harvard, Saville Sax.

Saville Sax was born in New York City on 26th July, 1924. Both his father Bernard Sax and mother Bluma Sax were Jewish Russian immigrants and both were deeply involved in activities of the Communist Party of USA.

Saville studied at the Harvard University and here he became the best friend of his roommate, the great scientific talent Theodore Hall. His mother introduced Saville to the Communist Party of USA (CPUSA).

Theodore and Saville with the help of Saville’s mother and CPUSA contacts ultimately met Sergey Kurnakov (code name BEK), the NKGB agent working under the guise of a journalist in New York City.

[NKGB: Narodny Komissariat Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, meaning People’s Commissariat for State Security. NKGB should not be mixed up with KGB: Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, i.e. the Committee for State Security which came to existent during the post-Stalinist era on 15th March, 1953].

At their first encounter Hall gave Kurnakov a brief report he had prepared on the research going on in Los Alamos and other Manhattan laboratories, progress of research pertaining to fission bombs, and the names and roles of the major scientists working on the atomic bomb project. Kurnakov was highly impressed by the intelligence and scientific knowledge of the young scientist and above all by his deep commitment to Communism and the Soviet Union. Kurnakov reported accordingly to Anatoly Yatskov and Stepan Apresyan, the NKGB officers working under guises at New York.

Sax could successfully transmit the first report on Los Alamos and the intentions of Hall to be a Soviet atomic spy to his controller Yatskov, the NKVD officer, entrusted with the task of organizing and controlling Soviet espionage activities pertaining to atom bombs, under the guise of Soviet Consul General in New York City. After careful scrutiny of the first report and the background of Hall, he was accepted as a Soviet atomic spy with the code name ‘MLAD’ (meaning ‘young’, considering his young age). Saville was given the codename STAR (meaning ‘Old Timer’). Thereafter, Saville used to travel to Manhattan at regular intervals and collect nuclear information from Hall which he passed on to his Soviet controllers.

Hall could carry on his espionage activities smoothly. Through his courier Sax and the intricate spy channels, Hall went on feeding the Soviet scientists and atomic technicians on each and every stage from enrichment of Uranium to the final assembly of the fission bombs. Later on similar information obtained from the scientist Klaus Fuchs could be cross checked against this information obtained from Hall.

In 1946, Hall left Los Alamos and completed his doctorate degree in physics from the University of Chicago. Here he married and got settled in family life. However, being earnestly devoted to his job as an atomic spy, he continued sending information on new researches at the University of Chicago on atomic technology. After his doctorate degree from Chicago, Hall took a job at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York.

In 1962, he moved to U.K. along with his wife Joan and joined Cavendish Laboratories at the University of Cambridge where he revealed his excellence as a bio-physicist, but none of his research topics or inventions had any relevance to atomic espionage. Moreover, Soviet atomic research was no longer in urgent need of espionage information from USA. Hall retired from Cambridge University in 1984 and died of renal cancer in 1999 at the age of 74. Hall was a great scientist and had published innumerable articles and books on various branches of physics.

Hall admitted during his later life that he did everything out of conscience as he thought US monopoly in atom bomb would be dangerous for the entire human race. To quote him,

“I decided to give atomic secrets to the Russians because it seemed to me that it was important that there should be no monopoly, which could turn one nation into a menace and turn it loose on the world as … Nazi Germany developed. There seemed to be only one answer to what one should do. The right thing to do was to act to break the American monopoly.”

The post-espionage life of Saville was not as smooth as that of Hall. After he had been dismissed from espionage activities by the Soviet authorities, he drifted from job to job. He started spending a vagabond life and became a drug addict. Under the influence of drugs, he occasionally boasted of his involvement in espionage activities for the Soviets. Saville died on 25th September, 1980. He left two sons (Boria Sax and Joshua Sax) and a daughter (Sarah Sax).

He had a sister (Anne Saville Arenberg) who died in 1967.

FBI Mystery

On the basis of VENONA decrypts both Theodore Hall and Saville Sax were interrogated, but none of them were tried for some mysterious reasons.


IV Klaus Fuchs



Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs was a renowned atomic scientist who had deep faith in Communism since his student life and all his espionage activities for the Soviet Union were motivated, not by any personal interest, but out of his ideological loyalty which he had adhered to till his dyeing day. He was detected and arrested in USA in 1950 and convicted for passing secret information pertaining to Fission and Fusion bombs to the Soviet Union. After release from prison in 1959, Fuchs emigrated to East Germany where he lived until his death in 1988.

In terms of personal integrity, scrupulousness and unfailing loyalty to his faith, Fuchs may be compared with Eli Cohen of Israel. However, Fuchs was not a mole-spy in the true sense of the term. His preoccupation had been scientific research and he remained committed to it till his death. He was undoubtedly one of the great scientists who had played crucial roles in advancement of research on atomic explosion.

Fuchs was born in Russelsheim of Germany on 29th December, 1911. His father was a professor of theology at the University of Leipzig. By faith he was a Communist which had shaped the faiths of all his children including Klaus. As soon as he got admitted to his father’s university, Klaus joined the student unit of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD). Later on Klaus moved to the University of Kiel when his father joined this university. At this time Klaus along with all his siblings joined the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD). When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and started hunting the Communists, Klaus left Germany and moved to Britain with the help of a chance acquaintance.

Soon Klaus got the opportunity to be a research assistant of the Physicist Neville Moll of Bristol University and his sincere research led to his Ph. D. degree from Bristol University in 1937, and publication of a number of thought provoking papers in nuclear physics in notable scientific journals.

He applied for British citizenship in 1939, which he was granted after a few years. This delay was due to his arrest in 1940 and exile to an internment camp in Canada where he got opportunity to associate himself with a Communist study circle through which he got connected with the Communist circle and pro-Soviet network in Europe. He was released in December, 1940 and returning to Britain he continued his research under Rudolf Peierls of the University of Birmingham. This led to publication of a few more important papers. Soon he came in direct contact with the Soviet spy ring in Europe under GRU.

In 1944, Peierls was transferred to the Columbia University, New York and Fuchs accompanied him and his life in USA started in a new way when his Soviet control was transferred from GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye, the foreign military intelligence main directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of USSR) to NKGB (Narodny Komissariat Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, the People’s Commissariat of State Security: the Soviet secret police from 1943 to 1946) and the NKGB agent Harry Gold inspired him to pass information to Soviet Union on advancement of research pertaining to atom bomb in USA, Canada and Britain.

This became possible after Fuchs joined the Theoretical Physics Division of Los Alamos Laboratory (LAL) under Harry Beth, the pioneer in the field of research in technology of fission bombs. Here Fuchs got absorbed in more sophisticated research on the applicable mechanism of nuclear fission leading to Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 bombs. He worked here till 1946 when he joined the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) in Harwell. He now concentrated on theoretical model of U-235 and Plutonium-239 bombs, continuing his earlier research in Los Alamos Laboratory. In 1949 he was able to chalk out the outline of the model of a fusion bomb from hydrogen isotopes. Results of research of himself and that of other scientists of in LAL and AERE in USA and similar researches in other Anglophonic countries were instantly passed to Soviet Union through Harry Gold of NKGB. Thus Soviet Union could instantly be abreast of all information related to the Manhattan Project, the scheme for first test of Atom Bomb undertaken jointly by USA, Canada and U.K.

Fuchs could not carry on his espionage activities undetected for long and in 1950, being confirmed about his involvement in atomic spying for USSR from the VENONA decrypts, he was interrogated by British and US counter-intelligence agencies. He first denied his involvement but finally admitted to William Skardon of MI5 of U.K. that he had passed information on fission and fusion bombs to USSR because of his ideological compulsion. He was convicted on March 1950; his British citizenship was revoked and he was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment, which later on was shortened to nine years. Fuchs was released in early 1959 and he immediately emigrated to East Germany where he was received with great honor.

In East Germany he married a Communist lady and resumed his research interrupted by imprisonment and again he achieved remarkable success. He got various accolades in East Germany – membership of Academy of Science, appointment at the lucrative post of Deputy Director of the Institute for Nuclear Research in Rossendorf, Patriotic Order of Merit and the Order of Karl Marx among many.

There has been much debate on how much help Soviet Union could obtain from espionage of Fuchs in advancing their research leading to successful tests of atom and hydrogen bombs. A thorough study reveals that Fuchs could at least expedite Soviet research in this field to a considerable extent. About the justifiability of espionage of Fuchs many opine that he had played a great role to enable the balance of atomic power between USA and USSR that ultimately played a deterrent to the third World War, as now accidental atomic war would destroy the entire world including the invader, the invaded and the neutral nations. After his demise in Berlin on 28th January, 1988, Fuchs was buried in the respectable Friedrichsfelde Cemetery.


V David Greenglass



David Greenglass was one of the key figures in the Rosenberg Ring of Soviet espionage. The scientific information and the sketch of the atom bomb sent by him was of very little significance to the Soviets as they were likely to be based on incomplete and not clearly understood conceptions. In fact his name came to limelight because of his concocted testimony to the US court to implicate his own sister Ethel Rosenberg and his husband Julius Rosenberg both of whom were executed, the unique case of execution in USA in connection with espionage on behalf of USSR. Julius was certainly involved in atomic espionage as he was the organizer of the Rosenberg Spy Ring, but Ethel’s involvement is doubtful. David himself admitted his lie later on about involvement of his sister Ethel. Moreover his testimony against Julius was grossly exaggerated. Later on, David admitted that he gave this false testimony simply to save his wife Ruth from punishment which could have been disastrous for his two children. The notes he had prepared for the Soviets had actually been typed by his wife Ruth, but he passed on this blame to his sister.

In an interview with the New York Times reporter Sam Roberts in 1996, David said, “I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don’t remember.” He was to save his wife through false testimony. While asked why he did this by implicating his own sister David explained, “My wife is more important to me than my sister, or my mother or my father, O.K.? And she was the mother of my children.” He, however, expected that the Rosenberg couple might be imprisoned. He could hardly imagine that his false testimony would lead to such horrible consequences, the unprecedented execution of the accused. But was David shocked or conscience stricken when he learned that his false testimony had led to execution of Julius and completely innocent Ethel? Most probably not. While Roberts asked Greenglass if he would have done anything differently, he replied, “Never.”

David Greenglass was born on 2nd March 1922 in New York City. Ruth Greenglass (nee Printz) was born on 30th April 1924. They married in late 1942. Both of them were inspired by Communist ideology and joined the Young Communist League in USA. In 1943 David was drafted to the US Army and was ultimately posted at Manhattan Project Laboratories as a mechanic. Julius Rosenberg had already been busy organizing a spy ring for nuclear espionage. So he decided to recruit both David and Ruth to the spy ring. His proposal was highly appreciated by the NKVD as David’s posting at the Manhattan Project laboratories would give him easy access to US nuclear secrets. Both were recruited as nuclear spies of the NKVD. David was assigned the codename KALIBR and Ruth OSA. Both David and Ruth were exhilarated to get the opportunity to serve Communism their dreamland, the USSR.

David continued collecting atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project laboratories. His notes were typed by Ruth and handed over to Julius who ultimately through couriers, mainly Harry Gold, dispatched these to the NKVD authorities. He went on sending nuclear secrets from Manhattan labs till 1946.

Suspicion first arose about his involvement in espionage activities from VENONA decryptions but it could be confirmed only after confession of Fuchs in 1950. On the basis of confessions of Fuchs Harry Gold was apprehended first. Following the trail of investigations about Harry Gold by the FBI, the case of espionage by David came to the surface and thereafter the spy ring organized by Julius Rosenberg under the control of NKVD officials Anatoly Yatskov and Alexander Feklissov could be unearthed.

David was arrested in June 1950. As the involvement of his wife Ruth came to light, David became desperate to prevent her incarceration as he had to save his two children from disaster. Probably through some secret arrangement with the FBI (which probably was desperate to implicate and punish the Rosenberg couple, for some mysterious reason), David gave false testimony against Julius and Ethel and was capable of getting his wife immunity against imprisonment. The FBI authorities permitted Ruth to return to her children. David’s sentence too was reduced from 30 years to 15 years of imprisonment starting from 1951. He was released in 1960, 6 years before completion of his term.

Thereafter they started living in New York City under assumed names. Ruth died on April 7, 2008 and David on July 1, 2014. Death of both of them could be confirmed from their family circles only a few months after their demises because of their false names.


VI George Koval


George Koval was one of the most important espionage sources that had enabled the USSR to successfully detonate their first fission bomb as early as August 1949. He was born as Zhorzh Abramovich Koval on 25th December, 1913 in Sioux City, Iowa, USA. Later on he changed his first name to George to hide his Russian Jewish origin.

His father Abram Koval, a Jewish carpenter from the town of Telekhany in Belarus had immigrated to the USA along with his wife Ethel Shenitsky Koval in 1910. George’s other siblings were Isaya (1912) and Gabriel (1919). During the 1920s Abram became the secretary for ICOR, the Organization for Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union, founded by American Jewish Communists in 1924.

In USA, George Koval attended the Central High School, and graduated in 1929. During his school life he became obsessed with Communist ideology.

During the Great Depression, the Koval family was in serious financial straits which compelled Abram to leave USA in 1932 with his wife and three sons to Birobidzhan, the Jewish autonomous region in USSR. Abram started working in a collecting farm.

George moved from Birobidzhan to Moscow and began his higher studies at D. Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology in Moscow. Here he met Lydmila Evanova in 1934 and their relationship ended up in marriage. After his graduation from this institute in 1939, he was given Soviet citizenship and membership of the Communist Party. All these were done smoothly without any effort on the part of George as the Soviet intelligence authorities had considered him to be a valuable spy to be implanted in USA. Because of his childhood and school studies in USA, he could be easily guised as a US citizen. So, soon after his joining the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Soviet military intelligence agency GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye, the foreign military intelligence main directorate of USSR) recruited him in 1939 right after giving him membership of the Soviet Communist Party and sketched out an immaculate background to implant him in USA as a spy. He was code named DELMAR.

First he had to leave Moscow under the pretext of being drafted in the Soviet Army. Thereafter he was trained as a spy and sent alone to San Francisco in 1940, his wife being kept hostage by the GRU. Thereafter he was sent to New York City where he got employment at the Raven Electric Inc., a company supplying electrical accessories to major electric companies. This was in fact a cover to work as the Deputy Commander of the GRU cell at New York City. He could easily pose himself as a native New Yorker as he had spent his childhood and school studies in New York. For his background some concocted story was enough as no one was going to verify his background in the chaotic milieu of the Second World War. Because of his charming personality he became much popular among all his colleagues and acquaintances. Because of his chemical engineering background, he was originally assigned the job of sending information on chemical weapons. The opportunity of atomic espionage came later on. Initially he used a pseudonym, but later on the GRU let him use his real name considering it not unsafe at all.

As soon as USA got fully involved in the war, President Roosevelt reintroduced conscription for US army. The Raven Company could stall his conscription for some time but ultimately he had to be drafted to the US Army in 1942. Here he had no scope for espionage, but soon the opportunity came. Because of shortage of skilled personnel, the US Army arranged for special training of talented youths. George was selected for Specialized Training Program of the Army at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1943. The program was dissolved in 1944 and Koval was considered for Special Engineering detachment of the Manhattan Project. Because of acute shortage of manpower during the peak time of the war, no background verification was possible and only efficiency and talent was considered while appointing anyone, even to highly secret projects like the Manhattan Project. On the basis of his skill and training background, Koval was appointed as the Health Officer of Oak Ridge and other Manhattan Project laboratories. This gave golden opportunity to Koval to carry on atomic espionage. As a health officer checking up health hazards of radiation in the atomic labs he had free access to all departments of the labs.

Being extremely talented, Koval could easily understand the essence of all sorts of research going on in the labs. So he successfully began sending to his GRU authorities reports on atomic researches under the Manhattan Project. He used various channels and contacts to dispatch his reports and he was never suspected of espionage.

After the war Koval was discharged from the US Army and he completed his bachelor’s degree from CCNY.

In 1948, after defection of GRU spies who were aware of the activities of Koval, he apprehended that his background might be disclosed to the FBI. So he decided to escape. In February 1948, Koval travelled to Europe, apparently to spend vacation and ultimately escaped to USSR and remained there until his dying day.

The importance of Koval’s contribution to Soviet atomic venture could be assessed from the assertion of the Russian military officials in recent years that the initiator of the first Plutonium bomb detonated by the USSR on 29th August 1949, was prepared to the ‘recipe’ provided by military intelligence agent DELMAR (George Koval).

George Koval was well aware of the value of his espionage for the Soviet atom bomb and therefore he had expected grand ovation and honor in USSR. But after arrival in Moscow he had to be utterly disappointed and disillusioned like most of the other Communists and Soviet spies who betrayed their mother land for the cause of Communism and the dreamland of the Communists, the USSR.

Koval did not get any ovation or honors in USSR. On the contrary he was dismissed from all his assignments and became a suspected person (mainly because of his US background). He was almost home arrested and it was impossible for him to get any job in USSR. In fact like many admirers of the Soviet Union from outside, Koval too had no idea of the inhumanity and cruelty associated with Communism in its real manifestation. In the Communist countries spies are considered simply as tools which are to be discarded as soon as their duty is over and nothing more is to expected from them. Gratitude is something foreign to the Communists.

Koval apprehended that he would be sent to the forced labor camps (Gulag concentration camps) and approached his controllers in the GRU. Even in Communist countries humanity and gratitude had not altogether vanished from all the officials. Fortunately for Koval, some of his controllers were sympathetic to him and sheltered him from being sent to the gulags. One of his GRU contacts was kind enough to give him the opportunity to get a teaching job at the Mendeleev Institute.

Because of American background and bad Russian, he was a laughing stock among his students till his death on 31st January, 2006. But he endured this life of isolation and humiliation as he always expressed gratitude to his GRU contacts and the Soviet authorities as he could escape the Gulags.

Only after his death the authorities of the Russian Federation became aware of his contributions to the country and President Vladimir Putin awarded him posthumously the title of ‘Hero of the Russian Federation’ on 3rd November, 2007, he received the posthumous title of bestowed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this connection Putin proclaimed, “Mr. Koval, who operated under the pseudonym Delmar, provided information that helped speed up considerably the time it took for the Soviet Union to develop an atomic bomb of its own”.


VII Harry Gold


Harry Gold was a very important courier who enabled Klaus Fuchs to pass crucial information pertaining to fission and Thermo-Nuclear bombs to the Soviets. He was born in Philadelphia, USA on 12th December, 1910. His parents were both Jewish Russian immigrants to USA. After completion of his school studies Harry got a job at the Pennsylvania Sugar Company, but in 1932 because of the Great Depression the company retrenched Harry with many other employees. He was already inspired by Communist ideology and got involved with activities of the Communist Party of USA. After losing his job he tried many odd jobs. In 1934 he came in contact with a Soviet espionage official and started spying for the Soviet Union. From 1934 to 1936 he studied chemical engineering at Drexel Institute. Gold attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated with honors in 1940.

Although he had been participating in espionage since 1934, he was not able to get any important position in the Soviet spy rings operating in USA. After trying many Soviet controllers like Thomas Lessing Black and Jacob Golos, he ultimately came in contact with the NKVD official Semyon Semyonov, who got interested in Gold and recruited him for atomic espionage. He was now given the code name ‘GUS’. Gold was entrusted with the task of being the courier of the great nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs and played his role faithfully and with remarkable skill so that neither Gold nor Fuchs could be suspected before the Soviets got crucial information about the fission bomb from Fuchs. So along with Fuchs, Hall and Koval, Gold should also be credited for Soviet success in detonating their first fission bomb as early as 29th August, 1949.

Fuchs was arrested in 1950 and on the basis of his confessions, Gold as the courier of Fuchs could be identified by the FBI. Gold was arrested in 1951. On the basis of his confession David Greenglass and thereafter Julius Rosenberg were arrested. Gold was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. He however was released on parole in May 1965. He died in Philadelphia on 28th August 1972.


VIII Morris Cohen and Lona Cohen


Morris Cohen and his wife Lona (Leontine Theresa) Cohen had worked for Soviet espionage network in three spells: 1939-45, 1949-50 and 1954 till his arrest in 1961. They could work for atomic espionage only during the first spell and mainly worked as courier to the nuclear scientist Theodore Hall and some other sources whose identity could not be ascertained. Both of them were born in New York City, Morris on 2nd July 1910 and Lona on 11th January, 1913. Both of them were born in families of immigrants from East European Slavic areas then under USSR.

Morris was a member of the CPUSA from childhood and participated on behalf of the pro-Russian forces in the Spanish Civil War during 1937-38 and returned to USA after being wounded in the war, and started spying for the USSR. In the mean time he got acquainted with Lona who was also a member of the CPUSA. Morris recruited Lona for espionage in 1939. They married in 1941.

Nobody in the US official service knew about the Communist Party membership or pro-Soviet espionage activities of Morris. So he was easily drafted into the US Army in 1942. Cohen now formed a spy network of engineers and technicians and through this network started sending important military secrets to USSR.

At the same time, Lona got the opportunity to collect and smuggle out military secrets while she was employed in two defense plants – the Public Metal Company of New York City in 1941 and the Aircraft Screw Products Plant of Long Island in 1943. In the mean time she was chosen as one of the couriers of nuclear secrets sent to USSR by the scientist Theodore Hall. In this regard her Soviet controller was Leonid R. Kvasnikov. Morris also assisted and collaborated with his wife in this regard. In this w3ay the Cohens became a part of atomic espionage.

Immediately after the end of the Second World War, some Soviet spies defected to USA and divulged many secrets of Soviet espionage networks in USA. Realizing that their contacts were under surveillance of the FBI, Morris and Lona, to avoid detection and arrest, cut off all connections with their Soviet bosses or their contacts. So they could not participate in espionage activities for about four years.

While all witch hunting of the FBI calmed down, the Cohens again contacted the Soviets and resumed their espionage activities. Unfortunately for them, the calm water once again got turbulent and Cohens had to flee to Moscow. The situation arose after the arrest of the Scientist Klaus Fuchs and his confessions that led to arrest and trial of several Soviet spies operating in USA.

Now the controlling authority of Soviet espionage was the newly formed KGB. Both Morris and Lona were assigned important duties pertaining to espionage in Moscow. They also got some special training on espionage. These were targeted at future espionage activities of the couple in USA. In accordance with the plan of the KGB, they were given counterfeit New Zealand passports with which they entered UK. They assumed the names Peter and Helen Kroger and started their espionage activities in UK under the guise of antiquarian book sellers. Now they got well connected with the Portland Spy Ring and started sending secrets to USSR through channels that had already existed.

From the projected antennas (with which they were using strong radio signals to transmit secrets to the KGB) from their house, suspicion was raised about them. Their house was immediately searched by the British Police and evidence could be found of their espionage activities. They were arrested on 7th January 1961 and were tried in British Court. Morris and Lona were sentenced to imprisonment respectively of 25 and 20 years. However, they were released much earlier (1969) in exchange for American prisoners in the USSR.

The Soviet government recognized their contribution and awarded them the title, “Order of the Red Banner and Order of Friendship of Nations”. After fall of the Soviet Union, the newly formed government of the Russian Federation under Yeltsin awarded the Cohen couple the title, “Hero of the Russian Federation.’ Lona died on 23rd December 1992 and Morris on 23rd June, 1995.


IX Julius and Ethel Rosenberg


Julius Rosenberg was born on 12th May 1918 and Ethel Greenglass on 25th September, 1915.

Both were born in New York City and were from immigrant Russian Jewish families. Ethel, originally an aspiring actress, took secretarial job at a Shipping company, where she got involved in labor dispute and joined the Young Communist League (YCL). Here she was acquainted with Julius who had been a member of YCL since his student life in the City College of New York (CCNY). Now he was a leader of the league. He had a degree in electrical engineering from CCNY.

They married in 1936. Julius had recruited many young spies like Morton Sobell in the YCL and later for espionage for USSR, but there is hardly any evidence that he ever did anything to get his wife involved in espionage or any other risky activities although she too was a member of the CPUSA.

Julius joined the Army Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories at First Monmouth, New Jersey as an Engineer Inspector in 1940 and worked there till 1945. This laboratory was connected with important strategic research in the fields of electronics, radar and guided missiles. So there was vast opportunity for important espionage from this institute and Julius exactly did so and in this regard his controller was Alexander Feklissov.

His espionage activities officially started from the year 1942 when he was recruited to NKVD by the recruiter Semyon Semyonov to whom Julius was introduced by the US Communist leader Bernard Schuster. The code name of Julius was LIBERAL. Julius now formed an espionage cell of young engineers which ultimately became the famous Rosenberg Spy Ring. All the espionage activities of Julius were substantiated by the VENONA decrypts besides statements by soviet officials and spy controllers. Julius could recruit in his spy ring a large number of young and promising spies like Morton Sobell, Joel Barr, Alfred Sarant and William Perl.

Under the guidance of Julius the spy William Perl played a crucial role in transmitting to the Soviets important classified documents from National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Important documents transferred by him included a complete set of design and production specifications along with drawings for the Lockheed’s P-80 Shooting Star and a complete proximity fuse, an upgraded version of which was used by the Russians to shoot down Gary Power’s U-2 plane in 1960.

Julius played an important role in recruiting David and Ruth Greenglass for espionage. While his Soviet controller Feklissov learnt about employment of his brother in law in important position in the Manhattan Project Laboratories, Julius was instructed to recruit him for atomic espionage. Julius approached David through his wife Ruth and ultimately could recruit him for atomic espionage.

Detection and Arrest

Detection of the Rosenberg Spy Ring was from the trail of the arrest and interrogation of the nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs. Suspicion first arose about involvement of Klaus Fuchs in espionage activities from VENONA decryptions. He was interrogated by theMI-5 officials and he confessed about his involvement in atomic espionage in January 1950. On the basis of confessions of Fuchs, his courier Harry Gold was apprehended first on 23rd May, 1950. Following the trail of investigations about Harry Gold by the FBI, the case of espionage by David Greenglass came to the surface and thereafter the spy ring organized by Julius Rosenberg under the control of NKVD officials Anatoly Yatskov and Alexander Feklissov could be unearthed by the FBI.

David was arrested on 16th June 1950. As the involvement of his wife Ruth came to light, David became desperate to prevent her incarceration as he had to save his two children from disaster. Probably through some secret arrangement with the FBI (which was desperate to implicate and punish the Rosenberg couple, for some mysterious reason), David gave false testimony against Julius and Ethel and was capable of getting his wife immunity against imprisonment. Julius was arrested on 17th June 1950 and Ethel on August 11.

The Grand Jury convened thereafter adjudged on 17th August, 1950 the trial of the Rosenbergs.

The famous trial started on 6th March 1951. The judge was Irving Kaufman and the public prosecutor, Irving Saypol, the attorney for the southern district of New York. Emanuel Hirsch Bloch was the defense attorney for the Rosenbergs. The testimony of David Greenglass, the principal witness, against Julius was highly exaggerated and that against his own sister Ethel was completely fabricated. David knew that his wife Ruth had typed notes to be handed over to Julius. But he was worried that arrest of his wife would be disastrous for his two children. So, in connivance with the FBI officials, he passed on the blame of typing to his sister Ethel. Greenglass himself had admitted this later on. It appears that Julius had organized his spy ring and recruited many spies, but for reasons best known to him, he never let his wife be involved in espionage activities although she was a staunch Communist.

In course of the trial the Rosenbergs were pressurized in various ways to divulge and implicate others in the spy ring but neither Julius nor Ethel disclosed the name of any third conspirator. They admitted proudly that they were members of the Communist Party but declined any involvement in espionage.

The desperate judiciary ultimately took the most controversial decision – both Julius and Ethel were convicted on 29th March 1951 and on 5th April 1951 they were sentenced to death under section-2 of the US Espionage Act, 1917. Because of the gravity of the judgment the judge Kaufman had to fabricate a story that the Rosenbergs were not only involved in espionage leading to early test of the atom bomb by the Soviets but also they were responsible for the death of US soldiers in the Korean War of 1950. To quote Kaufman:

“I consider your crime worse than murder. I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country. No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension. We have evidence of your treachery all around us every day for the civilian defense activities throughout the nation are aimed at preparing us for an atom bomb attack.”

The Rosenbergs and many others claimed that the harsh sentence was simply a political frame up. As soon as the judgment was declared, great intellectuals and other celebrities all over the world started protesting against the horrible injustice against the Rosenbergs, whose death sentence had no precedence in spy-trial history of USA or its allies.

Immediately after the verdict the great Existentialist Philosopher Jean Paul Sartre made the scathing remark, “a legal lynching which smears with blood a whole nation. By killing the Rosenbergs, you have quite simply tried to halt the progress of science by human sacrifice. Magic, witch-hunts, autos-da-fé, sacrifices – we are here getting to the point: your country is sick with fear … you are afraid of the shadow of your own bomb.”

Other famous personalities who had registered protest included Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Harold Urey, Bertold Brecht, and Nelson Algren etc.

There were protests from some quarters that the judgment was out of Anti-Semitism as the Rosenbergs were Jews. However, the mainstream Jewish community in USA and elsewhere hardly subscribed to this parochial and racial view. The all-black labor union International Longshoremen’s Association stopped working for a day in protest.

Pope Pius XII appealed to President Eisenhower for less harsh punishment for the Rosenbergs but the US president flatly refused.

To make electric chair for death sentence available, the Rosenbergs were transferred to the New York State-run Sing-Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining for execution. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the electric chair at 11 P. M. on 19th June, 1953.

Julius died at the first shock, but several shocks were necessary to take the life of innocent Ethel.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were buried at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn, New York.


X Morton Sobell



Trail and sentence of Morton Sobell for espionage on behalf of USSR through the Rosenberg Spy Ring had raised much protest from various circles as in the case of the Rosenbergs. Sobell maintained for a long time that he had been victim to a conspiracy. The progressive intellectuals through various media claimed him to be innocent. However, Sobell poured cold water on all uproars by declaring his involvement in espionage in 2001 and 2008.

Morton Sobell was born on 11th April 1917 in New York City. Both his parents Louis Sobell and Rose Sobell were of Jewish origin. They had emigrated to USA from Ukraine (then in Russian Empire) in 1906. Morton completed his degree in electrical engineering from the City College of New York. While studying in the City College he got acquainted with Julius Rosenberg. Here he was inspired by Rosenberg to join espionage activities for the Soviet Union. After completion of his engineering degree he was employed at a subsidiary of the General Electrical Company in Washington D. C. in 1945, he married Helen Levitov (a science teacher at Elisabeth Irwin High School) who had a daughter from her earlier marriage. Her earlier husband was Clarence Gurewitz whom she had divorced in 1943.

It appears from various testimonies and statements of the NKGB agent Feklissov that Morton was inspired to join espionage activities for the Soviets by Julius Rosenberg and he was officially recruited to the Rosenberg Spy Ring in 1944.

Suspicion about Sobell arose in connection with Rosenberg trial. In his testimony against Julius Rosenberg, Max Elitcher (a friend of Morton since his school days at Stuyvesant High School and a common friend of Julius and Morton at CCNY) declared that during 1944-1945 he was approached by Julius to join espionage activities for URRS and to attract him, Julius had mentioned that Elitcher’s friend Morton had already joined such ‘noble’ activity.

On the basis of the testimony of Max, the FBI started investigations about Morton Sobell. This alerted Morton, who, with his family (wife Helen, infant son Mark and stepdaughter Sydney Gurewitz Clemens from the previous marriage of Helen) fled to Mexico on 22nd June, 1950. Thereafter he tried to move to Europe but could not manage to arrange for requisite papers. Meanwhile the fleeing of Morton to Mexico strengthened the belief of the FBI about involvement in espionage of Morton. The FBI sought assistance of the Mexican secret police to arrest Morton. At Mexico, some armed men (probably of Mexican secret police) abducted Morton along with his family members, brought them close to the US border and forced them into USA where they were arrested by the FBI men for involvement in espionage activities through the Rosenberg Spy Ring. He was tried and was sentenced in 1951 to 30 years’ imprisonment.

Soon after the imprisonment of Morton, the progressive intellectuals all over the world declared Morton to be completely innocent. They started much hullaballoo about the arrest and conviction of an “innocent” person like Sobell, blamed the ‘dirty politics’ of the US government and the organized The Committee for Justice to Sobell. The great celebrity like Bertrand Russell declared (for reasons best known to him) Sobell to be innocent. The protests continued through mass media even after the release of Morton in 1969. In a book written in 1974, Morton himself claimed innocence.

The statement of the NKGB agent Alexander Feklissov declaring categorically that Sobell was recruited as a spy in the summer of 1944 made it clear that all uproars to prove innocence of Morton Sobell had no basis at all. In this connection Feklissov said, “Sobell was deferred from active military service because he was a top specialist in his field. When I asked him if he could microfilm his own documents, he replied it was not a problem since he knew photography quite well. At our next meeting I brought him a camera with the necessary accessories and a small stock of film.”

In 2001 in a letter to the editor of ‘The Nation’ Sobell gave a hint of his involvement in espionage activities. Ultimately at the age of 91 in 2008, Morton Sobell confessed to New York Times that he had been a recruited spy of the Soviet atomic espionage ring and had passed military secrets to the Soviets during the Second World War and therefore his arrest and conviction was justified and there had never been any conspiracy against him or his comrade Julius Rosenberg.

Helen and Morton divorced in 1980 and thereafter Helen moved to San Francisco. Helen died at a nursing home in Redwood City, California on 15th April 2002. Morton is still alive at the age of 98 +.



The Author



The author of this booklet is a Ph.D. in economics and professionally an economist but his passion for knowledge compels him at times to eschew the arena of economics and venture into other fields of knowledge; philosophy, current politics, espionage and religion are important among them. Dr. Basu may be contacted at [email protected]

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Atomic Espionage & Atom Spies

  • ISBN: 9781310904233
  • Author: Ratan Lal Basu
  • Published: 2015-09-23 21:20:07
  • Words: 14979
Atomic Espionage & Atom Spies Atomic Espionage & Atom Spies