Axis Sally
#1

Supplied to me by James Hennessey. You are just a wealth of information! :D

 

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Dear Mr. Rappaport,

According to me, this article is interesting. During

the war, did you listen her broadcasts???

 

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American-born Axis Sally made propaganda broadcasts

for Radio Berlin in Hitler's Germany.

 

She was named Mildred Elizabeth Sisk when she was born

in Portland, Maine, on November 29, 1900. Her parents,

Vincent Sisk and Mae Hewitson Sisk, were divorced in

1907, and a few years later Mildred's mother married a

dentist, Dr. Robert Bruce Gillars. From that time on

the child was known as Mildred Gillars.

 

The family moved around a great deal during her early

years, but Mildred Gillars eventually graduated from

high school in Conneaut, Ohio, in 1917. Then it was on

to Ohio Wesleyan University in the small town of

Delaware, where, hoping to pursue a stage career, she

majored in dramatic arts. Gillars did well in speech,

languages and dramatics but did not graduate because

of her failure to meet all university requirements and

standards.

 

According to her half sister, Gillars worked at a

variety of jobs after leaving college--clerk,

salesgirl, cashier and waitress--all to further her

ambition to become an actress. In 1929 she went to

Europe with her mother and spent six months studying

in France before returning to the United States.

Eventually Gillars went to New York, where she worked

in stock companies, musical comedies and vaudeville,

but never made enough impact to gain any real

recognition. In 1933 she returned to Europe and worked

in France as a governess and salesgirl. She moved to

Germany in 1935 and became an English instructor at

the Berlitz School of Languages in Berlin. English

teachers were paid less than Russian instructors--a

possible reason for her decision to accept employment

by Radio Berlin as an announcer and actress. This was

a job much more to her liking, and she stayed with it

until the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945. Gillars'

propaganda program was known as "Home Sweet Home" and

usually aired sometime between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m.

daily. Although she referred to herself as "Midge at

the mike," GIs dubbed her Axis Sally. Her broadcasts

were heard all over Europe, the Mediterranean, North

Africa and the United States from December 11, 1941,

through May 6, 1945. Although most of her programs

were broadcast from Berlin, some were aired from

Chartres and Paris in France and from Hilversum in the

Netherlands.

 

Once the war was over, her broadcasts would come back

to haunt her. At a listening post operated by the

Federal Communications Commission in Silver Hill, Md.,

all her programs had been monitored and recorded and

would provide the prosecution with damaging evidence

at her trial. The prosecution charged that her

broadcasts were sugarcoated propaganda pills aimed at

convincing U.S. soldiers that they were fighting on

the wrong side.

 

Most GIs agreed that Gillars had a sultry, sexy voice

that came over the radio loud and clear. Like her

counterpart in the Pacific, Tokyo Rose, she liked to

tease and taunt the soldiers about their wives and

sweethearts back in the States. "Hi fellows," she

would say. "I'm afraid you're yearning plenty for

someone else. But I just wonder if she isn't running

around with the 4-Fs way back home."

 

She would get the names, serial numbers and hometowns

of captured and wounded GIs and voice concern about

what would happen to them, in broadcasts that could be

heard in the United States. "Well I suppose he'll get

along all right," she would say. "The doctors don't

seem... I don't know... only time will tell, you see."

At sign-off time she would tease her listeners some

more, telling them, "I've got a heavy date waiting for

me."

 

Perhaps Sally's most famous broadcast, and the one

that would eventually get her convicted of treason,

was a play titled Vision of Invasion that went out

over the airwaves on May 11, 1944. It was beamed to

American troops in England awaiting the D-Day invasion

of Normandy, as well as to the home folks in America.

Gillars played the role of an American mother who

dreamed that her soldier son, a member of the invasion

forces, died aboard a burning ship in the attempt to

cross the English Channel. The play had a realistic

quality to it, sound effects simulating the moans and

cries of the wounded as they were raked with gunfire

from the beaches. Over the battle action sound

effects, an announcer's voice intoned, "The D of D-Day

stands for doom... disaster... death... defeat...

Dunkerque or Dieppe." Adelbert Houben, a high official

of the German Broadcasting Service, would testify at

Axis Sally's trial that her broadcast was intended to

prevent the invasion by frightening the Americans with

grisly forecasts of staggering casualties.

 

After the defeat of Germany, Gillars was not

immediately apprehended but blended into the throngs

of displaced persons in occupied Germany seeking

assistance from the Western Allies in obtaining food,

shelter, medical treatment, location of relatives and

friends, and possible employment. She spent three

weeks in an American hospital in 1946, then was taken

to an internment camp in Wansel, Germany. About

Christmastime 1946, when she was granted amnesty and

released, she obtained a pass to live in the French

Zone of Berlin. Later, when she traveled to Frankfurt

to get her pass renewed, she was arrested by the Army

and kept there for more than a year. At the end of

that detention she was flown to the United States and

incarcerated in the Washington, D.C., District Jail on

August 21, 1948. She was held there without bond.

Later she was charged with 10 counts of treason

(eventually reduced to eight to speed up the trial) by

a federal grand jury. Her trial began on January 25,

1949, in the district court of the nation's capital,

with Judge Edward M. Curran presiding. The chief

prosecutor was John M. Kelley, Jr., and Gillars'

attorney was James J. Laughlin.

 

Prosecutor Kelley pressed home some important points

right from the start. First was the fact that after

being hired by Radio Berlin she had signed an oath of

allegiance to Hitler's Germany. He also put witnesses

on the stand who testified that Gillars had posed as a

worker for the International Red Cross and persuaded

captured American soldiers to record messages to their

families and relatives in order to garner a large

listening audience in the United States. By the time

she finished weaving propaganda into the broadcasts,

the POWs' messages to their loved ones were not

exactly messages of comfort.

 

Gilbert Lee Hansford of Cincinnati, a veteran of the

29th Infantry Division who lost a leg in the Normandy

invasion, said Gillars visited him in a Paris hospital

in August 1944. "She walked up with two German

officers," Hansford said, and she stated that she was

working with the International Red Cross. She then

told a group of wounded captives, "Hello boys, I'm

here to make recordings so your folks will know you

are still alive."

 

Hansford said he and others talked into a microphone,

recording messages for broadcast to their families at

home. A courtroom playback of the messages as picked

up by the American monitoring stations showed that

Nazi propaganda had been inserted between the GIs'

messages. One insertion by Gillars said, "It's a

disgrace to the American public that they don't wake

to the fact of what Franklin D. Roosevelt is doing to

the Gentiles of your country and my country."

On February 10, 1949, an American paratrooper from New

York, 36-year-old Michael Evanick, told the jury he

was captured on D-Day, June 6, 1944, after parachuting

behind German lines in Normandy. Pointing his finger,

he identified Gillars as the woman who interviewed him

in a German prisoner-of-war camp near Paris on July

15, 1944.

 

"I'd been listening to her broadcasts through Africa,

Sicily, and Italy, and I told her I recognized her

voice," Evanick remembered. "She said, 'I guess you

know me as Axis Sally,' and I told her we had a name

for her." The witness said Gillars gave him a drink of

cognac and a cigarette and told him to make himself

comfortable in a chair. After a few drinks, he said,

she sent for a microphone and began the interview,

asking him if he did not feel good to be out of the

fighting.

 

"No ma'am," Evanick said he replied. "I feel 100

percent better in the front lines where I get enough

to eat." At that, he said, Gillars angrily knocked the

microphone over, but regained her composure and

offered him another drink.

 

On February 19, Eugene McCarthy, a 25-year-old ex-GI

from Chicago, was called to answer a single question.

Defense attorney Laughlin asked him if Gillars had

posed as a Red Cross worker when she came to make

recorded interviews with American POWs at Stalag 2-B

in Germany. The soldier stated that she did not. Then

in a dramatic outburst, shouting over the defense

counsel's angry protest, the witness told the jury:

"She threatened us as she left--that American citizen,

that woman right there. She told us we were the most

ungrateful Americans she had ever met and that we

would regret this."

 

Following McCarthy to the witness stand were veterans

John T. Lynskey of Pittsburgh and Paul G. Kestel of

Detroit. Both testified that when Gillars visited them

in a Paris hospital she identified herself as a Red

Cross worker.

 

Defense counsel Laughlin argued that treason must be

something more than the spoken word: "Things have come

to a pretty pass if a person cannot make an

anti-Semitic speech without being charged with

treason. Being against President Roosevelt could not

be treason. There are two schools of thought about

President Roosevelt. One holds he was a patriot and

martyr. The other holds that he was the greatest rogue

in all history, the greatest fraud, and the greatest

impostor that ever lived."

 

Laughlin also tried to point out to the court the

great influence that Max Otto Koischwitz had on

Gillars. Koischwitz was a former professor at Hunter

College in New York who became romantically involved

with Gillars when she was one of his students. She had

attended Hunter briefly while trying to pursue a stage

career before finally abandoning the effort and going

back to Europe in 1933. German-born Koischwitz

eventually returned to Germany, renounced his U.S.

citizenship, and became an official in the Nazi radio

service in charge of propaganda broadcasts. He thus

was Mildred's superior.

 

In her trips to the witness stand, Gillars was usually

tearful. She said Koischwitz's Svengali-like influence

over her had led her to make broadcasts for Hitler.

She and the professor had lived together in Berlin,

she said, and she burst into tears when informed that

he had died.

 

In his final summation before the jury, prosecutor

Kelley told them Gillars was a traitor who broadcast

rotten propaganda for wartime Germany and got a

sadistic joy out of it, especially those broadcasts in

which she described in harrowing detail the agonies of

wounded American soldiers before they died. "She sold

out to them," he said. "She thought she was on the

winning side, and all she cared about was her own

selfish fame."

 

The trial ended on March 8, 1949, after six hectic

weeks. The next day Judge Curran put the case in the

hands of the jury of seven men and five women. After

deliberating for 101Ž2 hours, they were unable to

reach a verdict and were sequestered in a hotel for

the night. They met again the next morning, and after

17 hours of further deliberation they acquitted her of

seven of the eight counts pressed by the government in

its original 10-count indictment. However, they found

her guilty on count No. 10, involving the Nazi

broadcast of the play Vision of Invasion.

 

On Saturday, March 26, Judge Curran pronounced

sentence: 10 to 30 years in prison, a $10,000 fine,

eligible for parole after 10 years. Mildred Gillars,

alias Axis Sally, was then transported to the Federal

Women's Reformatory in Alderson, W.Va. When she became

eligible for parole in 1959, she waived the right,

apparently preferring prison to ridicule as a traitor

on the outside. Two years later, when she applied for

parole, it was granted. At 6:25 a.m. on June 10, 1961,

she walked out the gate of Alderson prison a free

woman.

 

Gillars taught for a while in a Roman Catholic school

for girls in Columbus, Ohio, and then returned to her

old college, Ohio Wesleyan. She received a bachelor's

degree in speech in 1973. Gillars died June 25, 1988,

at the age of 87.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply
#2

So, that's what happened to her. I'd always wondered. I was stunned reading that the jury only convicted her of 1 out of 8 counts! How could they do that? I mean, her complicity was so obvious! A real no-brainer! Hmmm...perhaps either they or some of their descendants moved afterwards to California. Ah, yes...that would explain a lot of things. :banghead::wacko:

Reply
#3

Loved your last comment.

 

Hmmm...perhaps either they or some of their descendants moved afterwards to California. Ah, yes...that would explain a lot of things.

 

That would explain a lot. :lol::lol:

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply


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