Broadcast Nazi Propaganda in World War II : ‘Axis Sally,’ American Turncoat, Dies
Mildred Gillars, the aspiring actress from Ohio who became the Nazi propaganda broadcaster known as Axis Sally during World War II, has died at the age of 87.
Gillars died last Saturday in Columbus. There was no announcement or obituary notice, and her attorney said he knew of no surviving relatives.
Gillars was convicted in 1949 of treason for making Nazi radio broadcasts and served 12 years of a 10-to-30-year prison sentence.
During the war, her broadcasts were beamed at American forces in North Africa and Italy. She often began her programs by saying: “Hello gang. Throw down those little old guns and toddle off home. There’s no getting the Germans down.”
Living in Cellars
After the war, American military officers found her living in the cellars of bombed buildings in Berlin and she was sent to the United States to stand trial.
During her trial, Gillars testified that she had fallen in love with an officer in the German foreign service and that he had persuaded her to make the broadcasts. In tears, she swore that she loved her country and would never intentionally betray it, but the jury convicted her.
She served her sentence at a federal facility in Alderson, W. Va.
When she was released in 1961, she moved to Columbus and taught music at a kindergarten run by the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus.
Gillars was born in Portland, Me., in November of 1900 and graduated from high school in Conneaut, Ohio.
Had Flair for Drama
She attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where school officials later recalled that she had a flair for drama and described her as “completely undisciplined and noticeably eccentric.”
Gillars left college without a degree and pursued an acting career. She moved to Europe and was in Germany when the war started. She subsequently took a job with German radio in 1940.
“She was brilliant,” Colleen Wiley, one of Gillars’ neighbors, told the Columbus Dispatch. “She spoke and taught French and German. She was a great reader.
“She was interested in about everything. We thought the world of her.”