Good morning Yankees. This is Axis Sally with the tunes that you like to hear and a warm welcome from radio Berlin. I note that the 461st is en route this morning to Linz where you will receive a warm welcome. By the way, Sgt. Robert Smith, you remember Bill Jones, the guy with the flashy convertible who always had an eye for your wife Annabelle. Well, they have been seen together frequently over the past few months and last week he moved in with her. Let's take a break here and listen to some Glen Miller.
- Typical Axis Sally monologue, as recounted by Cpl. Thomas Moran Jr.
The name Axis Sally was given by the GI's to the female propaganda
broadcasters of World War II
's European front, much as Tokyo Rose
was given in the Pacific. A great deal of this broadcasting was done by one Mildred Gillars, and her name and treason
conviction would later become synonymous with the nickname. Gillars was born in Portland, Maine
in 1900. Hoping to build herself career in acting, she dropped out of Ohio Wesleyan University
in 1922. Later, in 1929, she traveled to France
to try her luck there. By 1934 Gillars had moved to Germany
, and was working as a translator and taking small film roles in Berlin
. Eventually, Gillars became employed at Bremensender
, a German radio station
, as an announcer.
Bremensender also employed another American expatriate named Max Otto Koischwitz, who had been forced into a leave of absence by Hunter College in New York after putting too much anti-Semitic material in his lectures there. He moved to Germany in 1940, and was employed as a propaganda broadcaster by spring, transmitting in English as Mister O.K. and Doctor Anders. Koischwitz and Gillars had an affair, and his lingering fondness for her helped her take a job doing the same kind of propagandist work sometime (my sources are unclear on this) around 1942. She continued her work for the short duration of the war after his death from tuberculosis in August of 1944.
Gillars' most famous role was as Midge, Koischwitz's female counterpart in their series The Home Sweet Home Hour, which was broadcast from Tunis, Tunisia to the Allied forces in North Africa. She also had her own show, Midge at the Mike, in which she played classic 78's and read the names and serial numbers of newly taken American POWs. Often, these broadcasts were also listened to over shortwave by Americans like Long Island's Irene Walters, who took down the information about POWs and mailed their families with word that their son was alive. In May of 1944, on the eve of D-Day, she played a leading part in the radio drama Vision of Invasion, which was written by Koischwitz and the Propaganda Ministry to scare GI's out of participating in the next day's invasion. The broadcast featured an all-too-realistic storyline about dying on the beach, along with the sounds of soldiers shrieking and crying in the background -- sort of a German parallel to the American Wandering Soul project in Vietnam.
Gillars was arrested in 1946, and it was the Vision of Invasion broadcast that would eventually lead to her trial for treason. In 1949 the trial concluded with Gillars being found guilty of treason and sentenced to 30 years in prison. She was released in 1961, twelve years later, and found employment teaching German at a Catholic girls' school (!) in Ohio. She also eventually finished getting a degree from Ohio Wesleyan in 1973, a bit more than fifty years after she first enrolled there. Mildred Gillars died, with virtually zero journalistic inquiry, in 1988.