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Who is Axis Sally?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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Axis Sally was a radio broadcaster who worked for the Nazis during the Second World War. As an American citizen, she used her familiar accent and knowledge of American music and culture to attempt to demoralize American GIs serving in Europe, reading from prepared scripts generated by Nazi propagandists. Numerous broadcasts from Axis Sally can be heard on archival websites, for those who are interested in getting a taste of what her broadcasts were like.

While we know her as Axis Sally, this woman's name was actually Mildred Gillars, and she was born Mildred Sisk in the American state of Maine in 1900. Gillars studied music, and was interested in becoming an actress. In the mid-1930s, she relocated to Europe, ultimately ending up in Berlin, where she studied music and taught English. When Radio Berlin offered Gillars a job, she accepted, working as a broadcaster until the fall of Berlin in 1945.

While broadcasting, Gillars referred to herself as “Midge at the Mic.” The nickname “Axis Sally” was bestowed upon her by American troops, many of whom resented Gillars for working for the Nazis while her fellow Americans were trying to fight them. Axis Sally loved including information about missing, wounded, and captured soldiers in her broadcasts, often teasing listeners with misleading and disheartening information. She was also very fond of making suggestive comments about the loyalties of wives and girlfriends back home, suggesting that while GIs were fighting the war in Europe, their loved ones were cavorting about with 4-Fs, people who had not passed the physical tests necessary for enlistment.

The most infamous broadcast made by Axis Sally occurred shortly before D-Day, when she recorded the “Vision of Invasion,” strongly suggesting that any land invasion of Europe would fail to be successful, and playing with the “D” in D-Day with an alliterative rhyme about how it stood for “doom, disaster, death, defeat” and so forth. Fortunately for most of Europe, Allied troops didn't heed her warnings, and the invasion of Normandy ultimately turned out to be a major success of the Allied efforts in Second World War.

In 1948, Axis Sally was deported back to the United States, where she faced a trial for treason. Her lawyers tried to argue that since she hadn't written her own broadcasts, she hadn't colluded fully with the Nazis. They also argued that she had been coerced into making her famous broadcasts, leading the jury to convict her on only one of the 10 counts she faced. She remained imprisoned until 1961, and after her release, she became a music teacher in Ohio.

Axis Sally died in 1988.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon144137 — On Jan 18, 2011

thanks for your info. i am writing a book about spiritual warfare in the christian community and found axis sally's propaganda assault somewhat relative to what believers in Christ receive from satan and his minions. Thanks.

By royjw2 — On Jun 15, 2009

I am looking for a man named Adam Gallan who was working on a book about Axis Sally while she was in prison in West Virgina. He was the news director of WWVA in Wheeling, where we worked together -- he was doing the news on my morning radio show. Did he finish the book? Who published it? Do you know anything about where Adam Gallan is today? Any thoughts about how to go about finding him?

By anon28742 — On Mar 21, 2009

So interesting! Never heard much about her. This was the most interesting posting yet.

By anon28728 — On Mar 21, 2009

wow! What memories came from the "Axis Sally" story.

Thank you! I recall Dad and Uncles talking about her when she was mentioned in a movie, when I was a girl.

They hated and feared her insidious messages, and would make the jokes about her that you mention to win over it all.

I never knew what became of her. I am glad she was caught, tried and imprisoned, and surprised she lived so long and worked normally before dying.

elle fagan

By screenwriter — On Mar 21, 2009

Great Post, since I love historical facts about people. In today's *upside-down* atmosphere of American Values, frankly, I doubt Mildred would even be tried at all. Sadly, the testament of our times is that the enemies of the United States can simply use our own political leaders as their propagandists, they don't need a music teacher from Maine for their puppet.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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