They Had The Wrong Name At The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
An investigation into discrimination against Jews who worked for the U.S. Army Corps at Fort Monmouth, NJ in the wake of Julius Rosenberg’s arrest.
It was September 14, 1950, and the American hunt for communist infiltrators was at its peak. A little more than a year before, the Soviet Union had detonated its first atom bomb, which was built using information supplied by spies. Two months earlier, Julius Rosenberg, a young radar inspector for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, had been arrested for passing secrets to the USSR. Milton Rosenberg—a civilian electronic radio engineer with high-level clearance and a spotless record—was in his office at the short-range navigation unit of Watson Laboratory, just a few miles from Signal Corps’ headquarters at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, a sprawling hub of military communications research.
Milton Rosenberg was not related to Julius Rosenberg, whom he had never met. The child of struggling Orthodox Jews who had fled Eastern Europe, he was a staunch anti-communist, a Republican and a civilian Air Force employee since 1941. So he was shocked, when an Air Force officer entered his office and told him that he was being dismissed—without pay—as a security threat. His dismissal, based on Executive Order 9835, the loyalty program President Harry Truman authorized in 1947, was effective immediately. Rosenberg was escorted from the building to his car.
By the time he arrived at his apartment in nearby Asbury Park, he was ashen, says his widow, Eva Rosenberg, now 93 and living near Cleveland, Ohio. “We had young children,” she recalls. “Paula was seven and Stuart was four. Karen was an infant.” Her mother cried, recalls her daughter Paula Hecker, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. “I remember a lot of hysteria.”
Rosenberg was given no explanation for his dismissal. “For 30 days we didn’t know why,” says Eva Rosenberg. On October 12 he received a letter from the Central Loyalty-Security Board, detailing the charges:
1. “On all the evidence, reasonable grounds exist for the belief that your immediate removal is warranted by the demands of national security. The evidence indicates that: During the period from 1945 to May 1950, at or near Washington Village, Asbury Park, NJ, you associated to a close and habitual degree with Louis Kaplan, who, evidence in the files of the Air Force indicates, has been active in the affairs of the Civil Rights Congress and of the Communist Party. The Civil Rights Congress has been designated by the Attorney General of the United States as communist. The Communist Party has been designated by the Attorney General of the United States as communist, subversive and seeking to alter the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means.
2. The foregoing reported association, and all the evidence related thereto, indicates that you have been and are a member, close affiliate or sympathetic associate to the Communist Party.”