Year
1950

Klaus Fuchs arrested for passing atomic bomb information to Soviets

Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist who helped developed the atomic bomb, is arrested in Great Britain for passing top-secret information about the bomb to the Soviet Union. The arrest of Fuchs led authorities to several other individuals involved in a spy ring, culminating with the arrest of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and their subsequent execution.

Fuchs and his family fled Germany in 1933 to avoid Nazi persecution and came to Great Britain, where Fuchs earned his doctorate in physics. During World War II, British authorities were aware of the leftist leanings of both Fuchs and his father. However, Fuchs was eventually invited to participate in the British program to develop an atomic bomb (the project named “Tube Alloys”) because of his expertise. At some point after the project began, Soviet agents contacted Fuchs and he began to pass information about British progress to them. Late in 1943, Fuchs was among a group of British scientists brought to America to work on the Manhattan Project, the U.S. program to develop an atomic bomb. Fuchs continued his clandestine meetings with Soviet agents. When the war ended, Fuchs returned to Great Britain and continued his work on the British atomic bomb project.

Fuchs’ arrest in 1950 came after a routine security check of Fuchs’ father, who had moved to communist East Germany in 1949. While the check was underway, British authorities received information from the American Federal Bureau of Investigation that decoded Soviet messages in their possession indicated Fuchs was a Russian spy. On February 3, officers from Scotland Yard arrested Fuchs and charged him with violating the Official Secrets Act. Fuchs eventually admitted his role and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. His sentence was later reduced, and he was released in 1959 and spent his remaining years living with his father in East Germany.

Fuchs’ capture set off a chain of arrests. Harry Gold, whom Fuchs implicated as the middleman between himself and Soviet agents, was arrested in the United States. Gold thereupon informed on David Greenglass, one of Fuchs’ co-workers on the Manhattan Project. After his apprehension, Greenglass implicated his sister-in-law and her husband, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. They were arrested in New York in July 1950, found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage, and executed at Sing Sing Prison in June 1953.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Clinton ends Vietnam trade embargo

Nearly two decades after the fall of Saigon, U.S. President Bill Clinton announces the lifting of the 19-year-old trade embargo against Vietnam, citing the cooperation of Vietnam’s communist government in helping the United States locate the 2,238 Americans still listed as ...read more

Lunik 9 soft-lands on lunar surface

On February 3, 1966, the Soviet Union accomplishes the first controlled landing on the moon, when the unmanned spacecraft Lunik 9 touches down on the Ocean of Storms. After its soft landing, the circular capsule opened like a flower, deploying its antennas, and began transmitting ...read more

The day the music died

On this day in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed when their chartered Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashes in Iowa a few minutes after takeoff from Mason City on a flight headed for Moorehead, Minnesota. ...read more

Woodrow Wilson dies

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, dies in Washington, D.C., at the age of 67. In 1912, Governor Wilson of New Jersey was elected president in a landslide Democratic victory over Republican incumbent William Howard Taft and Progressive Party candidate ...read more

Cousteau publishes The Silent World

On February 3, 1953, French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau publishes his most famous and lasting work, The Silent World. Born in Saint-Andre-de-Cubzac, France, in 1910, Cousteau was trained at the Brest Naval School. While serving in the French navy, he began his underwater ...read more

U.S. troops capture the Marshall Islands

On this day, American forces invade and take control of the Marshall Islands, long occupied by the Japanese and used by them as a base for military operations. The Marshalls, east of the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean, had been in Japanese hands since World War I. ...read more

Diem institutes limited agrarian reforms

After months of prodding by U.S. advisors, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem introduces the first in a series of agrarian reform measures. This first measure was a decree governing levels of rent for farmland. U.S. officials had strongly urged that Diem institute such ...read more

New England Patriots win first Super Bowl

On this day in 2002, the New England Patriots shock football fans everywhere by defeating the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, 20-17, to take home their first Super Bowl victory. Pats’ kicker Adam Vinatieri made a 48-yard field goal to win the game just as the clock expired. Super ...read more

Clinton ends trade embargo of Vietnam

On this day in 1994, President Bill Clinton lifts a 19-year-old trade embargo of the Republic of Vietnam. The embargo had been in place since 1975, when North Vietnamese forces captured the city of Saigon in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. President Clinton lifted the ...read more

Belle Starr murdered in Oklahoma

The outlaw Belle Starr is killed when an unknown assailant fatally wounds the famous “Bandit Queen” with two shotgun blasts from behind. As with the lives of other famous outlaws like Billy the Kid and Jesse James, fanciful accounts printed in newspapers and dime novels made ...read more

The Music dies in an Iowa cornfield

“It was already snowing at Minneapolis, and the general forecast for the area along the intended route indicated deteriorating weather conditions,” wrote the Civil Aeronautics Board investigators six months after the crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “the Big ...read more

Keats falls deathly ill

On this day, poet John Keats, age 24, coughs up blood and realizes he, like his brother Tom, is doomed to die of tuberculosis. Despite the tender care of his fiancÝe, Fanny Brawne, and a journey to Italy in the hopes of improving his condition, he dies in February 1821, only 25 ...read more

John Cassavetes dies

The film director, writer and actor John Cassavetes, hailed as a fiercely independent filmmaker and a pioneer of American cinema verite,dies on this day in 1989 at the age of 59, in Los Angeles. Born in New York City, Cassavetes studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic ...read more

Marine jet severs ski-lift cable in Italy

On this day in 1998, a U.S. Marine jet flying low over the town of Cavalese in the Italian Alps severs a ski-lift cable, sending a tram crashing to the ground and killing 20 people. Cavalese is located in the Dolomite Mountains, about 20 miles northeast of Trento, Italy. In 1976, ...read more