Harry Gold (11 December 1910 – 28 August 1972) was a laboratory chemist who was convicted of being the “courier” for a number of Soviet spy rings during the Manhattan Project.
Gold was born in Switzerland to Russian Jewish immigrants. As a young man he became interested in socialism which eventually led him to contacts within the Communist movement. After leaving school, Gold worked for the Pennsylvania Sugar Company as a laboratory assistant. He lost his job in 1932 as a result of the Great Depression. After a variety of menial jobs, Gold studied chemical engineering at Drexel Institute (1934–36). Gold attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated summa cum laude in 1940. Gold was recruited into espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union in 1935 by Thomas Lessing Black. He eventually found work with Brothman Associates.
In 1940, Gold was activated for Soviet espionage by Jacob Golos, but he was not a recruited agent of the rezidentura. This changed in late 1940 when Soviet Case Officer Semyon Semenov appropriated Gold from Golos (Gold confession, KF-AS, p. 196). Gold became a formally recruited Soviet agent at this time, and was assigned the codename GUS, or GOOSE. Semenov remained Gold’s control officer until March 1944.
In 1950, Klaus Fuchs was arrested in England and charged with espionage. Fuchs confessed that while working in the United States during World War II he had passed information about the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. Fuchs denied working with other spies, except for a courier who collected information from him. When initially shown photographs of suspects, including Gold, he failed to identify him as the courier, but did so after subsequent prompting.
Under interrogation, Gold admitted that he had been involved in espionage since 1934 and had helped Fuchs pass information about the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union by way of Soviet General Consul Anatoli Yakovlev. Gold’s confession led to the arrest of David Greenglass. His testimony resulted in the arrest, trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, though he was later accused by defenders of the Rosenbergs of being a somewhat unreliable witness. Gold’s biographer Allen Hornblum counters these claims, defending the accuracy of Gold’s testimony and the tremendous amount of detailed information that he provided to investigators.
Harry Gold was sentenced in 1951 to thirty years imprisonment. He was paroled in May 1965, after serving just under half of his sentence.
He died in 1972 in Philadelphia, where he is buried in Har Nebo Cemetery.