How Did A Woman From Portland Become The Most Popular DJ In Nazi Germany?
According to Wikipedia, Mildred Elizabeth Sisk was born in Portland, Maine on November 29th of 1900. Despite being born in a small town in New England, she would go on to become one of the most well known radio personalities of the 1940s.
At the height of World War 2, millions in Europe and the United States listened to the broadcasts of "Axis Sally".
She was born, and spent her early years, in Portland. After that, her family moved to Ohio. When her mother remarried, she changed her name to Gillars.
After a short amount of time in college, she moved to New York City to break into show business. She worked basic jobs to pay for drama classes. She spent a few years touring with acting companies and doing vaudeville shows. She spent some time in Paris before eventually ending up in Germany.
In 1940, she began working for the Reich Broadcasting Corporation.
Initially, she was just an English language announcer for the radio service. However, as it appeared that the United States would enter the war on the side of the allies, her broadcasts became more dedicated to propaganda. When the United States did enter the war (in December 1941), the broadcasts began pushing the idea that America was on the wrong side and attacked United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The talk breaks were interspersed with contemporary jazz music.
As the war progressed, she would make mention of specific soldiers and their parents on-air. Sometimes, she would even announce the death of a soldier before the War Department had notified the family.
Despite the fact that she was creating broadcasts for the enemy, millions of allied soldiers and their families were listeners. Because of this, she was probably the most listened to DJ of her the 1940s.
Her broadcasts continued through the duration of the war. Her final broadcast came just two days before Germany's surrender.
Following the war, The US attorney general sent prosecutor Victor Woerheide to Berlin to find "Axis Sally". It took nearly a year, but she was eventually apprehended. Eventually, she was brought back to the United States and stood trial for treason. She was found guilty and sentenced to 10-30 years in prison and order to pay a $10,000 fine. She was released from prison in 1961.
She died of cancer on June 25th, 1988.
There is a new movie on Amazon Prime that tells her story...