The Other Rosenbergs
During his hearing, Sidney Rosenberg explained that the man in the kitchen wasn’t Louis Kaplan but a fellow student in NYU’s master’s program. “We would study electric wave magnetism together,” says Rosenberg, now 97 and living in Sunnyvale, California. “He was helping me with the math. I was a biologist. The guy looked like Kaplan; he was about the same size.”
After the hearings the two families waited. Four long months later, on March 26, 1951, Milton Rosenberg was cleared and immediately reinstated into the Signal Corps with back pay. “After we were cleared some friends came back,” says Eva Rosenberg. “They said how badly they felt. Everyone was afraid for their jobs.” Other friends never returned.
Within a few months, he was transferred with his unit to Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York. The family moved to a house in Utica, from which Milton Rosenberg commuted. “We didn’t want to live in another apartment project where everyone worked for the government,” recalls his widow.
“Milt grieved about what had happened,” she says. “He was very hurt and had a lot of hard feelings, but he liked his work.”
Sidney Rosenberg’s case took longer to resolve. When he was cleared in June of 1951, he too was transferred to Rome. The family settled there, in the hopes of beginning their lives anew. But unfortunately for both Rosenbergs, President Dwight Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10450 was still to come.
Both Eva Rosenberg and Sidney Rosenberg are convinced that the surname Rosenberg was a red flag for investigators. “They got everyone with the name Rosenberg,” says Sidney Rosenberg angrily. “I had no relation of any kind to Julius or Ethel Rosenberg. That son of a gun passed secrets. Of course I didn’t know him.”
Other Jewish names also attracted unwanted attention, and in fact, any Jewish name was a liability. “Names were a category, just like whoever went to City College in New York or studied in a physics class with Julius Rosenberg was suspected,” says Donald Ritchie, historian of the U.S. Senate, who edited the closed hearing transcripts of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Kaplan was another problematic name at the Signal Corps. This was due to the same Louis Kaplan who had lived in Washington Village and worked at the Standards Agency. Kaplan, who was not suspected of being a spy and was never convicted of any crime, invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked during the 1953 McCarthy hearings about possible communist activities. While Kaplan was not the only former Fort Monmouth employee to plead the Fifth at the hearings—others who refused to testify about possible communist activities were Albert Socol and Marcel Ullman—Kaplan’s name was the most common.
This was unfortunate for another Louis Kaplan, a high-level scientist in the Thermionics Unit at the Camp Evans Signal Laboratories, a facility a few miles south of Fort Monmouth. From 1942 on, he was plagued by mix-ups with the Louis Kaplan at the Standards Agency. At first, it was paychecks, then bank accounts. “His wife’s name was Ruth, the same name as my wife, and he had two boys and I had two girls,” recalls Kaplan, now 94 and living in South Orange, New Jersey. “Down the line I began to see there was a problem with this guy…security people were after me and I was being investigated until I was blue in the face. We had seven-and-a-half years of hell.”