Our next program will be a lecture by local historian Richard Lucas at the Millburn Library 200 Glen Avenue, Tuesday February 15, 2011 at 7PM.
Lucas will talk about his recently published book Axis Sally The American Voice of Nazi Germany. This is the fascinating story of a notorious failed American actress turned radio announcer, better known to the American GI's who served in the European theatre of war during World War II as "Axis Sally". Her name was Mildred Gillars.
In the early 1930's she struggled as an actress in New York City, appearing occasionally with stock companies, but was unable to establish a theatrical career. After several trips to Europe looking for employment, she finally in 1940 obtained work as an announcer with the German State Radio.
When war broke out she had the opportunity to return home, but elected to stay in Germany. She signed a written oath of allegiance to Germany and broadcast throughout the war. She acquired a number of names from her GI listeners including "Berlin Bitch" and "Berlin Babe" but the one that stuck and for which she is known is "Axis Sally". Her program was titled "Home Sweet Home Hour". The main thrust of her broadcasts was directed toward making the American forces in Europe homesick. A constant theme of hers was the infidelity of wives and sweethearts broadcast regularly to the soldiers in Europe and North Africa.
Her most famous, or infamous, broadcast was just prior to the D-Day invasion of France in 1944 when the Germans knew that an invasion was imminent. She played the leading part in a play as an Ohio mother who dreams that her son died a horrific death on a ship in the English Channel during an attempted [and failed] invasion of France.
She was arrested immediately after the war in Berlin, returned to the United States and tried for Treason. Convicted, she was sentenced to 10-30 years in prison. She actually served 12 years and spent the remainder of her life in partial seclusion teaching in a small Catholic school in Ohio.
Her conviction raised some interesting and controversial legal issues, and many legal scholars attribute her conviction to the hysteria of the times.
Copies of Lucas' book will be available for purchase and signing.