Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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"Axis Sally" (Mildred Elizabeth Gillars) (1900–1988)

American-born propaganda broadcaster for the Germans. Born 29 November 1900 in Portland, Maine, Mildred E. Sisk later adopted her stepfather's name, Gillars. She studied drama at Ohio Wesleyan University but left in 1922 without graduating. She moved through a series of jobs, ending up in Germany by September 1934, where she was soon teaching and translating for the Berlitz school in Berlin. She began an affair with Max Otto Koischwitz, another former American, who was broadcasting propaganda for Germany as "Mr. O.K." She later claimed that he pushed her into broadcasting for the Nazi regime.

Gillars was apparently first heard on a German radio station on 6 May 1940 as an announcer on a service directed toward Britain. She soon became the host of entertainment programs. Persuaded and joined by Koischwitz (she later testified), she began regular broadcasts titled Home Sweet Home for the German Rundfunk (radio), aimed at U.S. soldiers in North Africa. She used the air names "Midge" and "Sally" (her American listeners called her "Axis Sally"). She was soon among the highest-paid broadcasters in Germany. In Midge's Medical Reports, Gillars featured broadcasts from prisoner-of-war camps, attesting that the camps had high standards of treatment. Midge at the Mike offered music and talk for lonesome soldiers interspersed with considerable propaganda. In a particularly chilling broadcast before the D day landings in France, "Vision of Invasion," she claimed thousands would perish.

Koischwitz died in 1944, and Gillars spent the remainder of the war in Berlin. Arrested there by Allied authorities in 1946, she was released and gave an ill-advised press conference explaining her role. That forced Allied action, and she was rearrested and later tried in Washington, D.C. On 10 March 1949, she was found guilty of one of the eight treason counts against her and was sentenced to between 10 and 30 years in prison. She was released on parole on 10 July 1961 from a federal reformatory after serving 12 years. She taught languages and music at a convent in Columbus, Ohio, and died there on 25 June 1988.

Christopher H. Sterling


Further Reading
Bergmeier, Horst J. P., and Rainer E. Lotz. Hitler's Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Radio Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing, 125–131. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.; Edwards, John Carver. "Max Otto Koischwitz, Alias Mr. O.K." In Berlin Calling: American Broadcasters in Service to the Third Reich, 56–98. New York: Praeger, 1991.
 

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