Strapped to a chair, nowhere to go. The only thing visible are your hands under leather straps and beads of sweat are running down your face. Then, suddenly you convulse as 2,000 volts of electricity course through your body. This was what happened to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two spies from the Cold War era. These people were two of the most famous spies in history because of their actions during the Cold War. You may see or hear of fictional spies such as James Bond or Jason Bourne in the media today. In many modern films that feature the stories of fictional spies, the lives of spies are portrayed as exciting and action packed. In reality though, the lives of spies are very risky and scary. Spies have to put their lives on the line 24/7. So even though the life of a spy is an over-glorified action-packed movie in the world of Hollywood, in the real world, the life of a spy is stressful and often miserable. Since spies are not what they seem, many people do not know how prevalent spies really are in their own, personal lives. There are spies everywhere from many countries that could influence a future war. These people play an important role in politics, using reconnaissance to steal tech and plans from the enemy. If people want to know more about their world, they should be aware of the secret people behind the scenes.
The Cold War is not an old war. It was fairly recent, only ending in 1991, and another like it could occur in the near future. The U.S. and Soviet Union had tensions branching from the close of WWII. The leaders of United States had allied with this enormous Communist nation, and now realized that went against their political and religious beliefs, causing pressure not seen before. There was Capitalism vs Socialism, Democracy vs Communism, and Christianity vs Atheism. Also, U.S. leaders did not approve of Joseph Stalin. And, as History.com puts it, “the Soviets resented the Americans’ decades-long refusal to treat the USSR as a legitimate part of the international community as well as their delayed entry into World War II, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Russians”. The United States adopted a policy called containment, which aimed to stop the spread of Communism by paying nearby countries to stay Democratic. Many Americans feared the Soviet expansion into eastern Europe, thinking it was the end of the world. It very well could have been the end of the Democratic world if they had kept expanding. America had to intervene. Eventually, tensions became quite high, launching the U.S. and the Soviet Union into war. Both sides needed to know what was happening behind enemy lines. In order to do that without a full frontline battle, espionage was a necessity. The Soviets were able to acquire plans for radar, aircraft, and even atomic weapons.
The most infamous spies of the era were by far Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Ethel arguably not a spy. Julius and Ethel were both born in New York, and in 1942 were full fledged members of the American Communist party. In ‘43, they both left the party to look into the activities of espionage of which Julius was a big fan. In 1945, before being dismissed from the military because of his past in the Communist party, Julius recruited Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, one of the men working on the Manhattan Project. Notes and sketches made their way into Julius’s hands, all containing information on this new nuclear device. As stated by History.com, “Meanwhile, other Rosenberg recruits purportedly delivered thousands of pages of documents detailing new radar and aircraft technologies [as well]” (Greenspan). Julius and Ethel were subsequently arrested for their crimes that were “worse than murder” according to the judge. They were both sentenced to death by the electric chair, and were killed in 1953. Their actions lead to the most frightening image in the world, that could one day be a
reality. The idea of nuclear winter was conceived, scared the public. That terror has yet to leave, with more than 15,000 warheads existing today between 9 known countries. According to business insider, Russia has 7,000 nukes, compared to The United States’ 6,800 (Mosher). All of this chaos, these terrible weapons that can wipe out entire cities, fell into the world’s hands sooner than they should have, all because of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
When trying to figure out solutions to problems that have been going on for centuries, people often only look at what they can see. Things such as listening to speeches from well-known government officials or media that includes information about the government and military. If people are ever going to actually find a solution to the world’s issues, it will have to be done by looking deeper. People should learn more about spies because they are still relevant to this day. Find out about spies in history, do research so that you are educated about the secret people behind allied and enemy lines. There are spies around the globe carrying intelligence that most people are completely unaware of. All it takes is one rogue spy to end the world.
Article by Garrett Watkins & Video by Lily Altom
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