WWII book provides glimpse into life of American-born “Axis Sally”

My father was a soldier in Europe in the American Army Air Corps during World War II. I remember his disdain for a female radio propagandist known widely to GIs and airmen alike as “Axis Sally.” Little did my Dad know that years after the war he would live less than an hour from the infamous sultry-voiced Nazi collaborator. Mildred Gillars was born and raised in Portland, Maine, but moved to Conneaut, Ohio, when she was 16 years old. She briefly attended Ohio Wesleyan College before dropping out and moving to Grennwich Village in New York City. She later moved to Europe and lived and studied in various countries. She finally landed in Germany and took a job in radio. Her lover, a professed Nazi (married to someone else), scripted her broadcasts, which increasingly became propaganda tools of the Third Reich. Gillars often tormented Allied listeners, particularly her fellow Americans, with descriptions of the deaths they faced if they attacked and taunted them with stories that their sweethearts back home were unfaithful. Gillars later served time in U.S. prison for treason. She lived a relatively quiet life in Columbus, Ohio, including working in a convent.

Author Richard Lewis has penned a new biography of the notorious voice in the European night entitled Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany.

Mugshot of Mildred Gillars from the Federal Bureau of Prisons

Lewis’s book offers a comprehensive overview of Gillars’ controversial life, which began in coastal Maine and may have included an abusive relationship. The author presents a portrait of a woman who, searching for acceptance and meaning, drifted from job to job around the world before finally finding a home as a radio broadcaster.  Max Otto Koischwitz, a German-born former professor at Hunter College in New York City, became Gillars’ paramour as well as her handler. The book explores in depth Gillars’ subsequent career as “Axis Sally,” the voice that many American soldiers came to hate, yet continued to listen to throughout the war. Lewis gives a detailed account of the trial and punishment imposed by the Federal government after Gillars’ arrest in German as she tried to hide under an assumed name.

The book is well written and offers an interesting glimpse into the tumultuous period of World War II when my own family was impacted by this “axis of evil.”

It is available from leading bookstores everywhere, as well as on-line at amazon.com and other retailers.

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Casemate Pub (October 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935149431
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935149439
Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “WWII book provides glimpse into life of American-born “Axis Sally”

  1. Ivor Janci

    A couple of weeks ago, on CSPAN-2, there was a video-recording of the author speaking to an audience about the book. The subject was interesting, but the author wasn’t a good speaker so I didn’t listen to his presentation in its entirety. Usually, I’m forgiving and sympathetic to a speaker, but he was an exception. 🙂


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