Who was Axis Sally?
Axis Sally, whose original name is Mildred Gillars, was the first woman in US history to be convicted of treason by the United States and was sentenced to 10 to 30 years imprisonment. She was a nickname given to two women radio personalities who were used by Nazi Germany to spread Axis propaganda during World War II. It is her story that is being focussed on in the film ‘American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally’.
Al Pacino, back on his “gruff” autopilot setting, plays a — you guessed it — gruff D.C. lawyer in the based-on-a-true-story misfire “American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally.” https://t.co/BHNP4ahhRY
— New York Times Arts (@nytimesarts) May 27, 2021
How old was Axis Sally?
Axis Sally was 87 years old at the time of death.
Axis Sally Wiki
Mildred’s early life was quite unremarkable, considering what was to come.
She harbored dreams of becoming an actor, which she tried to finance with a number of low-paying jobs. However, her acting dreams never quite took off and she left the United States for Algiers where she found work as a dressmaker’s assistant. From Algiers, she then moved to Dresden Germany to study music.
It was there that Gillars began working as an announcer with the Reichs Rundfunk Gesellschaft (RRG), German State Radio.
Axis Sally Husband
She was engaged to Paul Karlson, a German Citizen, who said he would never marry her if she returned to America. This is what apparently led Gillars to stay on in Germany, even though by 1941 the US State Department was advising American nationals to leave Germany and German-controlled territories.
Shortly afterward, Gillars’ fiance Karlson was killed in action when he was sent to aid the German war effort.
The Trial of Axis Sally
While Gillars’ broadcasts initially were apolitical, this changed in 1942 when Gillars was cast in a new show called ‘Home Sweet Home.
‘American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally’ Review https://t.co/eMqm96Ymm1
— Sergei Ardzinba (@Sergei_Ardzinba) May 27, 2021
‘Home Sweet Home’ was targeted at making US forces in Europe feel demoralized and homesick and the running theme of the broadcasts was the infidelity of the wives and sweethearts who the troops had left behind in the US. Just before the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, Gillars made her most infamous broadcast, a demoralizing account of the horrors awaiting any Allied soldier foolhardy enough to invade Occupied Europe.
In the broadcast, in a radio play called ‘Vision of Invasion’, she plays a mother from Ohio who dreams of her son’s gruesome death on the English Channel during an attempted invasion of Occupied Europe. While Gillars was known by many names amongst the GI audience including ‘Bitch of Berlin’, ‘Berlin Babe’ and ‘Olga’, the nickname ‘Axis Sally’ became the most popular. The nickname came about when Gillars described herself on-air as the Irish type, a real Sally.
However, Gillars wasn’t the only one who would go by the nickname ‘Axis Sally’. In 1943, an Italian American Rita Zucca also began broadcasting to American forces from Rome, using the name Sally. The two often were confused with each other, many even though they were one and the same person even though Gillars reportedly hated Zucca. Gillars remained in Berlin until the end of the war and made her last broadcast just two days before the Nazi surrender.
American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally
In 1946, a US counterintelligence agent spotted Gillars in Berlin. She was brought back to the United States, indicted on 10 counts of treason, and convicted on one of them, that of making the ‘Vision of Invasion’ broadcast. Her defense stated that her broadcasts had unpopular opinions but that they did not amount to treasonable conduct. Gillars was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 to 30 years and was paroled after 12 years in 1961.
Axis Sally Cause of Death
Gillars who converted to Catholicism in prison went on to live at Our Lady of Bethlehem Convent in Columbus, Ohio
She taught German, French and music at St Joseph Academy, Columbus. She died from colon cancer in 1988.