“Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany”
by Richard Lucas
(Casemate Publishers, $29.95)
Reviewed by Larry Cox
After more than half a century, the big question about Mildred Gillars, also known as Axis Sally, is whether she was a genuine traitor or simply a naive American who did what she had to do when she found herself in Nazi Germany following the outbreak of World War II.
Born in Portland, Maine, in 1911, Gillars studied drama at Ohio Wesleyan before moving to New York City, where she was able to secure only a few minor roles as a dramatic actress. Determined to change her luck, she went abroad, where she taught English and studied music, eventually settling in Dresden, Germany. After the outbreak of World War II, Gillars began hosting broadcasts for German State Radio. She renounced her citizenship following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
During one of her broadcasts she described herself as an Irish type, “a real Sally.” The name Axis Sally stuck. Her programs featured American jazz and swing recordings and a soothing voice she often used to taunt Allied troops about the supposed infidelities of their girlfriends back home, as well as the horrible fates they were likely to meet on the battlefield. During the siege of Berlin, she attempted to escape disguised as a refugee but was captured by U.S. authorities in 1946.
Gillars was indicted in 1948 and found guilty the following year of one count of treason. She was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison and fined $10,000. Gillars was released in 1961, and completed her degree at Ohio Wesleyan University in 1973. She died in 1988 after a bout with cancer.
Richard Lucas has written the first full-length biography of Mildred Gillars, and it reveals the mostly untold story of the unfulfilled Broadway showgirl who found international fame as the notorious mouthpiece of the Third Reich in broadcasts aimed at millions of GIs.
© 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.