Volunteers

Email | Share | Print

Morris Cohen

Biography

Cohen, Morris. (Altman, Israel; Pickett, Isreal); b. July 7 (2), 1910, NYC; Russian American; Graduated from Mississippi State University with a BS, completed 2 years graduate work at Columbia University and Mississippi State University; Single; Newspaperman; CP 1935 unit organizer and section leader; received passport# 458513 which listed his address as 1226 Sherman Avenue, NYC; Sailed July 21, 1937 aboard the Berengaria; Arrived in Spain and entered the IB on August 5, 1937; Served with the XV BDE, Mackenzie-Papineau BN, Transmissiones, WIA at Fuentes de Ebro, trained for guerilla work; Last unit Mackenzie-Papineau BN, Co. 1, rank Soldado; Returned to the US on December 20, 1938 aboard the Ausonia; WWII US Army; d. June 23, 1995, Moscow, Russia; Cohen spied for the Soviet Union in the Post-WWII period he was instrumental in passing the secrets of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union.

Source: Sail, SACB, Cadre (under Altman, Isreal), Mac-Paps, Pay, USSDA 2:0456, 53:0366; (obituary) The Volunteer, Volume 17, No. 2, Fall 1995, p. 6; (obituary) "Morris Cohen, 84, Soviet Spy Who Passed Atom Plans in 40's," New York Times, July 5, 1995; Peter Carroll, “ALBA Acquires Rare Letter From Future Spy,” The Volunteer, Volume 24, No. 2, June 2007, pp. 4-5, 10; Ancestry.

 

 

ALB Archival Materials

Search the Tamiment Archives

Full Database Record

Last Name Cohen
First/Middle Name Morris
Ethnicity
Ethnicity Note
Immigration Status
Religion
POW
AKA Last Name 1
AKA First / Middle 1
AKA Last Name 2
AKA First / Middle 2
DOB
City
State
Foreign Nation
Foreign Nation City
Alt Pob State, City
Family: Name
Family: Relationship
Family: Begin Date
Family: End Date
Family: Comments
Education HS
Education College / Univ 1
Education College/Univ Notes
Education College/Univ 2
Graduate or Doctoral Work
Graduate or Doctoral Work Notes
Prior Military Service
Passport #
Passport Series
Passport Reported Lost in Spain
Passport Age
Passport Date
PP or Known Address Street
PP or Known Address City
PP or Known Address State
ALT City
Alt State
Sail Date
Ship
Marital Status
Marital Notes
Vocation 1
Vocation 2
Vocation 3
Party Affiliation
Date Affiliation
ALT Affiliation
ALT date
ALT affiliation 2
Arrival (in Spain) Date
Units served with
Battle action
Rank
Returned Date
Returned other
WWII Service
DOD
Cause
Place Died City
KIA/MIA/Died other
KIA/MIA/Died other Date
KIA/MIA/Died other Location
KIA/MIA/Died other Battle
Additional Notes Morris Cohen was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in New York City in 1910. He attended public schools, graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx, won a football scholarship to attend the University of Mississippi, and subsequently transferred to the University of Illinois. There he joined the Young Communist League and returned to New York City as an organizer for the YCL. He departed the United States for Spain in 1937, using the passport of Israel Altman, his nom de guerre. Wounded in his first action on the Aragon front in 1937 while serving in the Mackenzie-Papineau battalion, Cohen was chosen for a special detachment, where he learned radio transmission and other guerrilla tactics from Spanish and Soviet instructors. "They were thinking of the future," he later told historian Peter Carroll. "Fascism had to be fought, and the Soviet Union was [the] leading opponent of fascism." After returning from Spain in 1938, Cohen began to work for Soviet intelligence in New York. According to documents released by the secret KGB in 1992, Cohen made contact with a physicist assigned to the top-secret Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb, and he arranged to provide scientific information to the Soviet Union. Before the plan could be implemented, however, Cohen was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served in the quartermaster corps. He was eventually assigned to the European theater of war and participated in the liberation of a German concentration camp. In his absence, Cohen's wife Lona journeyed to New Mexico and acquired secret atomic bomb information, which she then passed on to Soviet agents. The Cohen's subsequent role in this project is unknown. After the FBI arrested Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1950, however, the Cohens disappeared. When U.S. officials captured the Soviet spy Rudolph Abel in 1957, they found in his possession photographs of the Cohens. Four years later, the British government arrested 50-year old Peter Kroger and his wife, Helen, in London on charges of stealing naval secrets related to an atomic submarine. Although the couple posed as New Zealand-born booksellers, police found sophisticated espionage apparatus and a radio transmitter in their home. Finger print checks disclosed that the Krogers and the Cohen were the same people. Sentenced to twenty years in prison, the Cohens were exchanged for a British businessman held by the Soviets in 1969, and they lived the remainder of their lives in Moscow, where they were regarded as heroes. "It was unthinkable to me," said Morris Cohen in justifying his activities, "that one country should hold a monopoly of such a powerful weapon." Lona Cohen died in 1992, Morris Cohen in 1995.