"Axis Sally"

Charleston Gazette
March 26, 1949

Axis Sally Is Given 10 to 30-Year Term On Treason Charge

Woman Unruffled On Facing Jurist

Fined $10,000, She Also May Lose Citizenship

Washington, March 25.

A federal judge today sentenced Mildred E. (Axis Sally) Gillars to serve 10 to 30 years in prison for broadcasting Nazi propaganda in World War II.

She also was fined $10,000.

The Maine-born woman, now 48, is the 13th American tried for treason in the last war and the sixth found guilty of the only crime mentioned in the United States Constitution - betrayal of her country.

White but unflinching, Miss Gillars took the sentence dry-eyed with no display of the emotional outbursts that marked her seven-week trial.

When Judge Edward M. Curran finished the brief words of judgment, she threw back her head and walked with swift, short steps from the courtroom.

Notice of Appeal Filed

Later, her half sister, Mrs. Edna Mae Herrick, of Conneaut, Ohio, told newsmen:

"I don't think Ethel Barrymore could have received the verdict any better."

Defense Counsel James L. Laughlink filed a formal notice of appeal immediately after the sentence, contending she had not had a fair trial.

The maximum sentence for Miss Gillars' offense would have been death in the electric chair; the minimum, five years' imprisonment.

As it is, the 10-to-30 year term means that if she behaves, she will be eligible for parole after serving 10 years.

Faces Loss of Citizenship

If her appeal is denied and her conviction stands, she will lose the rights of American citizenship. They could only be restored by a presidential pardon.

Before passing sentence, Judge Curran rejected defense motions for a new trial on the ground that the judge gave "inflammatory" instruction to the jury and "wanted her convicted."

Then, turning to Miss Gillars, Judge Curran said the trial evidence showed that she did not take part in high-level Nazi propaganda policy conferences as happened in the cases of two other American traitors, Robert Henry Best and Douglas Chandler.

Best and Chandler, convicted in Boston trials in 1947 and 1948, both were sentenced to life for treason. The evidence indicated they wrote their own material for Nazi broadcasts, while Miss Gillars spoke lines from scripts prepared by others.

Seven Counts Thrown Out

In finding Miss Gillars guilty, the jury threw out seven of the eight counts in the government's indictment and convicted on the single count of engaging in a broadcast entitled "Vision of Invasion." The melodramatic "Vision" broadcast was beamed to American troops in May, 1944, just a month before they sailed across the English Channel and stormed the German-held coast of France in the Normandy invasion, June 6.

In the broadcast, Miss Gillars luridly and in gruesome detail depicted the purported horrors that awaited any Allied attempt to attack Hitler's so=called "Fortress Europe."

Star of Nazi Troupe

As the star performer of the German radio troupe, Miss Gillars played the role of an American mother who dreams that her soldier-son dies in agony aboard a flaming invasion ship.

During the trial, Chief Prosecutor John M. Kelley, jr., bore down heavily on the "Vision" broadcast as a typical example of German psychological warfare, aimed at destroying the morale of American soldiers by dramatizing the horrors and carnage awaiting them.

When Judge Curran asked Miss Gillars if she had anything to say before he pronounced sentence, the white-haired defendant nodded and immediately launched into a long statement.

"I shall never be able to understand why I was found guilty..." she began.

Sally's Oration Cut Off

She said the "Vision of Invasion" broadcast was written by Dr. Max Otto Koischwitz, a one-time Hunter college (N. Y.) professor, whom she had described at the trial as the man she loved and "my destiny."

Miss Gillars contended that Prof. Koischwitz, now dead, was indicted in absentia for treason in 1943 - he had become an American citizen before returning to Germany - but had been exonerated "for lack of evidence" in 1947.

So, she said, she too should be exonerated.

But Judge Curran cut her off. He said her attorney already had presented the argument for her defense and now she was seeking to prolong it after being convicted.

Miss Gillars will be sent to a prison selected by the U. S. attorney general.

Military and Wartime