Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany
One of the most notorious Americans of the twentieth century was a failed Broadway actress turned radio announcer named Mildred Gillars (1900–1988), better known to American GIs as “Axis Sally.” Despite the richness of her life story, there has never been a full-length biography of the ambitious, star-struck Ohio girl who evolved into a reviled disseminator of Nazi propaganda. At the outbreak of war in September 1939, Mildred had been living in Germany for five years. Hoping to marry, she chose to remain in the Nazi-run state even as the last Americans departed for home. In 1940, she was hired by the German overseas radio, where she evolved from a simple disc jockey and announcer to a master propagandist. Under the tutelage of her married lover, Max Otto Koischwitz, Gillars became the personification of Nazi propaganda to the American GI. Spicing her broadcasts with music, Mildred used her soothing voice to taunt Allied troops about the supposed infidelities of their wives and girlfriends back home, as well as the horrible deaths they were likely to meet on the battlefield. Supported by German military intelligence, she was able to convey personal greetings to individual US units, creating an eerie foreboding among troops who realized the Germans knew who and where they were. After broadcasting for Berlin up to the very end of the war, Gillars tried but failed to pose as a refugee, but was captured by US authorities. Her 1949 trial for treason captured the attention and raw emotion of a nation fresh from the horrors of the Second World War. Gillars’s twelve-year imprisonment and life on parole, including a stay in a convent, is a remarkable story of a woman who attempts to rebuild her life in the country she betrayed. Written by Richard Lucas, a freelance writer and lifelong shortwave radio enthusiast, Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany is the first thoroughly documented look at this mythologized figure of World War II.
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A somewhat pathetic attempt to write a sympathetic account of Mildred Gillars. Pictures and documents belie the depiction of an unfortunate woman caught in a situation not of her own making. Inadvertantly portrays her as a sociopath. Read full review
Mildred Gillars was one of the most, if not the most, widely known American woman who ended up spreading false information to the United States from a Berlin radio station during World War II. She started life in Ohio and, has come back to the place of her birth, lying in an unmarked burial plot because she became one of the most hated figures in the United States.
Mildred left the shores of the US in 1934, when people still believed very much in isolationism. She preached those views in her broadcasts when she became employed by Berlin Radio as a commentator. The President of the US, Franklin D. Roosevelt, seemed to change the politics of America and, after all of Adolf Hitler’s broken promises and hatred toward non-Aryan races, the US was eager to go against the Facist governments and end the Facist rule in Europe. Mildred, not being in the United States for some time, believed that she could still love America but, stand up for the beliefs of her fiancÚ, - a man that she respected. On December 7, 1941, when America entered the war the tide turned, and Mildred believed that she could still love her home country but also do her job on Reichsradio.
In 1939, at the beginning of the war in Europe, Mildred had been residing in Germany for five years. After many failures in New York in her chosen career as an actress, she wanted to get married and live in Germany. When the Americans living there were ordered to leave the country she stayed, and in the year 1940, she was hired by German Overseas Radio where she went from being a disc jockey to the most talked-about propagandist in the country. She became involved with a married man, Max Koischwicz, and under his direction became Axis Sally, the voice of the Nazi government who spoke to the American GIs and their families.
She peppered her broadcasts with music, using the song Lili Marlene as a theme for her programs. Her calm and gentle voice mocked the GIs, telling them that their wives and girlfriends were being unfaithful back home and also telling them about the horrible things that awaited them on the foreign battlefields. Using people from the German military, she seemed to know where these boys were and what they were doing at all times. Also, she knew some of their names and would send messages to their families about the wounds they received in battle, describing them in living color.
Mildred’s fiancÚ passed away in 1944, but she stayed in Berlin up to the end of the war broadcasting. She was extremely frightened at the end of the war as Berlin was full of Russian military that were not at all happy with her broadcasts. She tried to pose as a refugee but the US authorities found her as she was at the top of their list of traitors, and brought her back to the United States for trial for treason. The current President, Harry S. Truman, wanted to make an example of her treason and the damage she had caused GIs and their families and she was sent to prison. Following prison she was paroled to a convent in Ohio where she attempted to make amends to the country that she had deceived.
Quill Says: The author did a great deal of research and did it well. It was not an easy book to write, I’m sure. The media still can do a great job of making and breaking anyone they want to go after. It makes you wonder how Axis Sally would do today spreading her stories through the media.
(Reviewed by Mary Lignor for Feathered Quill Book Reviews)