Gillars, Mildred Elizabeth

Mildred Elizabeth Gillars

Born : 11/29/1900 Portland, Maine
Died : 06/25/1988 Columbus, Ohio

Mildred E. Gillars worked as a presenter and radio actress for the German Großdeutschen Rundfunk, Radio Berlin during World War II. Due to her propagandistic appearances, she earned the nicknames"Axis Sally", "Berlin Betty" or "Berlin Bitch" from Allied soldiers.

Her original surname was Sisk, but her mother remarried and little Mildred adopted her stepfather's surname. After successfully graduating from high school in Conneaut, Ohio, she began studying acting at Wesleyan University. However, her academic performance forced her to leave the school. After her departure from school, she worked as a cashier, a saleswoman, and also as a clerk. But she still longed for a career as an actress, so she decided to try her luck in Europe. In 1929, she studied in Paris for six months and returned again with her mother to the United States, specifically to New York. In New York she works for a brokerage firm, which did not prevent her from appearing in musicals and variety shows. In 1933, she decides to go to France, where she unsuccessfully struggles through life as an artist. A year later she moved to Germany, where she took a job as an English teacher at the Berlitz-Sprachschule language school in Berlin. However, her salary was very low, so she decided to take up the offer and became an announcer and actress for Radio Berlin's foreign broadcaster.
She introduced herself as "Midge at the Mike" (Komarik at the microphone) and her show under the name "Home Sweet Home" was broadcast every day from 20:00 to 02:00. This show was a mixture of fascist propaganda and popular American music. Her most controversial show, Vision of Invasion, was broadcast just a month before the Allied landing in Normandy, when she played the grieving mother of an American soldier killed in the landing on the French coast.
After the Allied landings, she visited wounded Allied soldiers in field hospitals and, disguised as a Red Cross member, taped interviews with them. She then used these in her nightly broadcasts, adding cynical commentary. Mildred Gillars continued her broadcasts almost until the end of the war, and her last broadcast was just two days before the German surrender.
After the end of the war she was not immediately interned, even enjoying the benefits that accrued to foreign nationals, i.e. receiving larger rations of food and rations. She lived peacefully in the French zone of Berlin until 1948, when she was arrested and taken to the United States, where she was indicted. She was charged with ten counts of treason, and indicted on eight, without bail. Gillars' main defence was the right to freedom of speech, where she merely represented a less popular view of society and did not amount to treason. After six hectic weeks, on March 08, 1949, the jury was to decide on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The jury eventually found Gillars guilty only of Count 10 of the indictment for the Vision of Invasion broadcast. The judge ultimately handed down a sentence that entailed 30 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years at the earliest and a $10,000 fine.

Mildred Gillars served her sentence at the women's prison in Alderson, West Virginia. Her cellmate was also the infamous enemy propaganda figure Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino, known as "Tokyo Rose."

Gillars was released on parole in 1961 and began teaching music and languages at the school. She died in 1988 of natural causes and is buried in an unmarked grave.

1. Gordon L. Rotmann, FUBAR - Soldier slang of WWII., Osprey Publishing 2007, ISBN 978 1 84603 176 2
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