On This Day
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were United States citizens who spied for the Soviet Union and were tried, convicted, and executed by the United States government. They provided top-secret information about radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines to the USSR and were accused of transmitting nuclear weapon designs to the Soviet Union; at that time the United States was the only country with nuclear weapons.
Other convicted co-conspirators were imprisoned, including Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, who supplied documents from Los Alamos to Julius and who served 10 years of a 15-year sentence; Harry Gold, who identified Greenglass and served 15 years in federal prison as the courier for Greenglass. Klaus Fuchs, a German scientist working in Los Alamos and handled by Gold, provided vastly more important information to the Soviets. He was convicted in Great Britain and served nine years and four months in prison.
For decades, the Rosenbergs’ sons Michael and Robert Meeropol and many other defenders maintained that Julius and Ethel were innocent of spying on their country and victims of Cold War paranoia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, much information concerning them was declassified, including a trove of decoded Soviet cables, code-named VENONA, which detailed Julius’s role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets and Ethel’s role as an accessory. Their sons’ current position is that Julius was legally guilty of the conspiracy charge, though not of atomic spying, while Ethel was only generally aware of his activities. The children say that their father did not deserve the death penalty and that their mother was wrongly convicted. They continue to campaign for Ethel to be posthumously and legally exonerated.
In 2014, five historians who had published on the Rosenberg case wrote that Soviet documents show that Ethel Rosenberg “hid money and espionage paraphernalia for Julius, served as an intermediary for communications with his Soviet intelligence contacts, provided her personal evaluation of individuals Julius considered recruiting, and was present at meetings with his sources.” They also demonstrate that Julius reported to the KGB that Ethel persuaded Ruth Greenglass to travel to New Mexico to recruit David as a spy.
There is a consensus among historians that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were guilty, but their trial was marred by clear judicial and legal improprieties and they should not have been executed. Distilling this consensus, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote that the Rosenbergs were “guilty – and framed.”
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Born On This Day
1816 – William H. Webb, American shipbuilder and philanthropist, founded the Webb Institute (d. 1899)
William Henry Webb (19 June 1816 – 30 October 1899) was a 19th-century New York shipbuilder and philanthropist, who has been called America’s first true naval architect.
Webb inherited his father’s shipyard, Webb & Allen, in 1840, renamed it William H. Webb, and turned it into America’s most prolific shipyard, building 133 vessels between 1840 and 1865. Webb designed some of the fastest and most successful sailing packets and clipper ships ever built, and he also built some of the largest and most celebrated steamboats and steamships of his era, including the giant ironclad USS Dunderberg, in its day the world’s longest wooden-hulled ship.
After the American Civil War, the U.S. shipbuilding industry experienced a prolonged slump, and Webb, having already made a considerable fortune, decided to close his shipyard and turn his energies toward philanthropic goals. He chaired an anti-corruption council, became a founding member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and established the Webb Academy and Home for Shipbuilders, which today is known as the Webb Institute.
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Here’s an ironic update on an item we reported recently:
The Farm Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several other organizations have created a series of listening sessions on how to improve rural broadband. Today’s is being held at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault, Minn., and the Farm Foundation promised a live webcast of the session would be available.
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Click here to see a video of the session afterward.
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