David Greenglass, member of the infamous Rosenberg atomic spy ring, passed away in July of this year, as was widely reported earlier this week.
Arrested in 1950, Greenglass was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union along with his sister Ethel Rosenberg, brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg, and another member of the ring, Harry Gold. Unlike the Rosenbergs, Greenglass avoided the death sentence by pleading guilty and providing testimony against them.
During World War II, David Greenglass was a U.S. Army machinist working on the secret Manhattan Project to develop atomic weapons. His brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet sympathizer and spy, and recruited Greenglass into passing secrets, such as the drawing shown above, from his workplace at Los Alamos National Laboratory to Soviet agents.
But what about the Jell-O box?
Like a “Best Friends” necklace, pieces of the Jell-O box could be matched, and the spies would be able to confirm their identities.
The Greenglasses were living in Albuquerque when a man (Harry Gold) came to their home, introduced himself saying “Julius sent me,” and produced a piece of Jell-O box. It matched the one David Greenglass was holding.
A Jell-O box was introduced at the trial. It was not the original box, but “trial transcript shows that the prosecution introduced this facsimile Jell-O box to represent the recognition signal.” The evidence is now part of the holdings of the National Archives at New York City.
During the subsequent trial, the Rosenbergs denied all espionage allegations, but on April 5, 1951, the couple were ultimately convicted and sentenced to death for their role, with Greenglass’ testimony helping to seal his sister’s conviction.
Supporters of the Rosenbergs lobbied for a pardon and their two children, ages 10 and 6, even petitioned for their parents’ lives in a poignant letter to President Eisenhower, but no avail. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on June 19, 1953. (The letter from Michael and Robert Rosenberg to Eisenhower is currently on display in the Making their Mark exhibit at the National Archives.)