4 February 1944

4 February 1944


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4 February 1944

War at Sea

German submarines U-854 sunk with all hands after hitting a mine off Swinemunde

Burma

The Japanese begin an offensive on the Arakan front

Chinese troops attack in the Hukawng valley

Eastern Front

Moscow announces that the Novogorod-Leningrad railway and the coast of the Gulf of Finland are both clear of German troops

Italy

US troops made temporary progress at Cassino



Today in World War II History—Feb. 4, 1944

75 Years Ago—Feb. 4, 1944: US secures Kwajalein and Majuro Islands in Kwajalein Atoll.

Japanese open offensive against Indian troops on Arakan, Burma.

US authorizes Bronze Star medal for meritorious or heroic achievement, less than the Silver Star, retroactive to 7 Dec 1941.

US Navy blimp K-29 makes the first carrier landing by a nonrigid airship, on escort carrier USS Altamaha off San Diego, CA.

K-29 of Airship Patrol Squadron ZP-31 lifts off from escort carrier USS Altamaha off the California coast, 24 Feb 1944 (US Navy photo)


Contents

The Japanese occupied Micronesia, including the Caroline Islands, in 1914, and established Truk as a base as early as 1939. The lagoon was first built up to house the IJN's 4th Fleet, its "South Seas Force". After the outbreak of war with the United States, the 4th Fleet was put under the command of the Combined Fleet, which continued to use Truk as a forward operating base into 1944. In addition to anchorages for warships, and port facilities for shipping between the home islands and the Southern Resources Area, five airfields and a seaplane base were constructed at Truk, making it the only major Japanese airfield within flying range of the Marshall Islands. [2]

Despite the impressions of U.S. Navy leaders and the American public concerning Truk's projected fortifications, the base was never significantly reinforced or protected against land attack. In fact, the development of Truk only began in earnest and in hurried fashion in late 1943, when the airfields were extended, shore batteries were erected, and other defensive measures taken against a U.S. invasion. [3]

Because aircraft stationed at Truk could potentially interfere with the upcoming invasion of Eniwetok, and because Truk had recently served as a ferry point for the resupply of aircraft to Rabaul, Admiral Raymond Spruance ordered Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force, designated TF 58, to carry out air raids against Truk. Three of TF 58's four carrier task groups (TGs) were committed to the operation. Their total strength consisted of five fleet carriers (the Enterprise, Yorktown, Essex, Intrepid, and Bunker Hill) and four light carriers (the Belleau Wood, Cabot, Monterey, and Cowpens), carrying a total of 500+ warplanes. Supporting these aircraft carriers was a task force of seven battleships, and numerous heavy cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. [4]

The Japanese, meanwhile, understood the weakness of their position at Truk. The IJN had begun withdrawing fleet units from its anchorages as early as October 1943. The effective abandonment of Truk as a forward operating base accelerated during the first week of February 1944, following Japanese sightings of U.S. Marine Corps PB4Y-1 Liberator reconnaissance planes sent to reconnoiter the area. [5]

The three carrier task groups committed to Hailstone moved into position and began launching their first fighter sweep 90 minutes before daybreak on 17 February 1944. No Japanese air patrol was active at the time as the IJN's 22nd and 26th Air Flotillas were enjoying shore leave after weeks on high alert following the Liberator sightings. [6] Similarly problematic for the Japanese, radar on Truk was not capable of detecting low-flying planes — a weakness probably known and exploited by Allied intelligence organizations. Because of these factors, U.S. carrier aircraft achieved total surprise. [7]

Japanese pilots scrambled into their cockpits just minutes before TF 58 planes arrived over Eten, Param, Moen and Dublon islands. Though there were more than 300 Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) and Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS) planes present at Truk on the first day of attacks, only about half of them were operational compared with over 500 operational aircraft among the carriers of TF 58. U.S. Navy fighter pilots in their Grumman F6F Hellcats, with the advantages of speed, altitude and surprise, achieved a one–sided victory against IJNAF pilots flying the inferior Mitsubishi A6M Zero. As many as 30 of the 80 Zeros sent up in response to the fighter sweep were shot down, compared with four Hellcats reported lost. Only token aerial resistance was encountered for the rest of the morning almost no Japanese aircraft were present by the afternoon. [8] [4]

Due to the lack of air cover or warning, many merchant ships were caught at anchor with only the islands' anti-aircraft guns for defense against the U.S. carrier planes. Some vessels outside the lagoon already steaming towards Japan were attacked by U.S. submarines and sunk before they could make their escape. Still others, attempting to flee via the atoll's North Pass, were bottled up by aerial attack and by Admiral Spruance's surface force, Task Group 50.9, which circumnavigated Truk, bombarding shore positions and engaging enemy ships. [9]

Torpedo bomber and dive bomber squadrons from the carrier air groups (CAGs) were responsible for the bulk of the damage inflicted on Japanese ground facilities. Early on the first day of Hailstone, Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber squadrons from Enterprise ' s Air Group 10 (CAG-10) and Intrepid ' s CAG-6 dropped fragmentation and incendiary bombs on runways at Eten Island as well as the seaplane base on Moen Island. Dozens of aircraft were damaged or destroyed, further blunting any possible response by the Japanese to the strikes. Subsequent joint attacks by dive bombers [nb 2] and Avenger torpedo bombers cratered runways and destroyed hangar facilities. [11] [12]

Morning strikes were also launched against shipping targets in the lagoon. Lieutenant Commander (later Rear Admiral) James D. Ramage, commanding officer of Dive Bombing Squadron 10 (VB-10), is credited with sinking the previously damaged merchant tanker Hoyo Maru. [13] Lieutenant James E. Bridges and his crew in one of Intrepid ' s Torpedo Squadron 6 (VT-6) Avengers scored a direct hit on the ammunition ship Aikoku Maru. The bomb blast set off a tremendous explosion, which immediately sank the ship and apparently engulfed the plane as well, killing all three men inside. [14]

By the second and third anti-shipping strikes of the day, carrier air group action reports listed the apparent enemy mission as "escape". [15] Those ships able to make for open sea steamed for the North Pass exit from the lagoon while weathering repeated aerial attacks. One particular group of warships—cruiser Katori, auxiliary cruiser Akagi Maru, destroyers Maikaze, Nowaki and minesweeper Shonan Maru—was given special attention by carrier bombers. Multiple air groups attacked these ships, inflicting serious damage. Yorktown ' s dive and torpedo bombing squadrons claimed two hits on Katori and hits on another cruiser and multiple destroyers Essex bombers claimed five hits on a Katori-class cruiser as well, stating that the ship was stopped dead in the water after the attack. [16] [17]

At this point reports reached Admiral Spruance concerning the group of warships fleeing through North Pass. Spruance was so adamant on engaging in ship-to-ship combat that his carrier commander, Admiral Mitscher, ordered his air groups to stop attacking Katori and her companions. The admiral put himself in tactical command of Task Group 50.9, made up of four destroyers, heavy cruisers Minneapolis and New Orleans, and the new battleships Iowa and New Jersey, which he personally led in a surface engagement against the previously damaged Japanese ships. [18] The battered Japanese ships did not stand much of a chance against Task Group 50.9, though members of his staff saw Spruance's decision to engage in surface action when aircraft likely could have achieved similar results as needlessly reckless. Indeed, the Japanese destroyer Maikaze managed to fire torpedoes at the battleship New Jersey during the engagement. Fortunately for Spruance, the torpedoes missed, and the "battle" ended with predictably one–sided results. The U.S. Navy surface combatants incurred virtually no damage, and it was the only time in their careers that Iowa and New Jersey had fired their main armament at enemy ships. The IJN lost Maikaze, Shonan Maru, Katori and Akagi Maru. Destroyer Nowaki was the only Japanese ship from this group to escape. [19]

Retaliation for the day's strikes arrived late at night in the form of small groups of Japanese bombers probing the task groups' defenses. From roughly 21:00, on 17 February, to just minutes past midnight on 18 February, at least five groups of between one and three enemy planes attempted to sneak past screening ships to strike at the fleet carriers. One such plane, a Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" bomber, managed to evade night fighter planes protecting the U.S. task force and dropped its torpedo on Task Group 58.2. The torpedo struck Intrepid on the starboard quarter of the ship, damaging steering control and killing 11 sailors. Intrepid was forced to retire to the U.S. for repairs and did not return to combat until August 1944. [20] [21]

Truk, like so many other Japanese bases, was left to itself without hope of resupply or reinforcement. Army forces which had arrived at the atoll before the U.S. attacks put increasing strain on available foodstuffs and medical supplies. Dwindling ammunition even limited the ability of shore batteries to fend off intermittent attacks by Allied forces, including experimental raids by Boeing B-29 Superfortresses and attacks by Allied carrier aircraft. [22]

Losses at Truk were severe. Some 17,000 tons of stored fuel were destroyed by the strikes. [23] Shipping losses totaled almost 200,000 tons including precious resources in fleet oilers. [24] This represents almost one tenth of total Japanese shipping losses between 1 November 1943 and 30 June 1944. [25] Moreover, the isolation of this whole area of operations by submarine and air attack began the effective severance of Japanese shipping lanes between empire waters and critical fuel supplies to the south. The ultimate effect of such a disconnect was later seen during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, when IJN forces had to sortie separately from Japan and Lingga Roads due to fuel constraints. [26] The neutralization of Truk, and the seizure of Eniwetok, paved the way for the upcoming invasion of Saipan, which for the first time put U.S. land-based heavy bombers within range of the Japanese home islands. [27]

Truk is renowned today as a tourist destination for divers interested in seeing the many shipwrecks left in the lagoon, many of which were sunk in Operation Hailstone. [28]

Warships Edit

List derived from Jeffery's War Graves, Munition Dumps and Pleasure Grounds (2007) [29]

Sunk Edit

    Cruiser (CL)
      (香取) 5,800 tons (那珂) 5,195 tons
      (舞風) 陽炎型 2,000 tons (文月) 睦月型 1,320 tons (追風) 神風型 1,270 tons (太刀風) 峯風型 1,215 tons
      , 440 tons , 440 tons

    Damaged Edit

    • Repair ship Akashi (明石) 10,500 tons
    • Seaplane tender Akitsushima (秋津洲) 4,650 tons
    • Destroyer (DD)
        (松風) 神風型 1,400 tons (時雨) 白露型 1,685 tons
      • (伊10), 2,919 tons
      • RO-42, 1,115 tons

      Merchant ships Edit

      List derived from Jeffery's War Graves, Munition Dumps and Pleasure Grounds (2007) [29]


      Anne Frank captured

      Acting on tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captures 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied the small space with another Jewish family and a single Jewish man, and were aided by Christian friends, who brought them food and supplies. Anne spent much of her time in the so-called “secret annex” working on her diary. The diary survived the war, overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered the hiding place, but Anne and nearly all of the others perished in the Nazi death camps.

      Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began arranging a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam.

      On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. Less than a month later, Anne’s older sister, Margot, received a call-up notice to report to a Nazi “work camp.” Fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in the secret annex the next day. One week later, they were joined by Otto Frank’s business partner and his family. In November, a Jewish dentist—the eighth occupant of the hiding place—joined the group.

      For two years, Anne kept a diary about her life in hiding that is marked with poignancy, humor, and insight. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne’s spirits were raised by the Allied landings at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.

      On August 1, 1944, Anne made her last entry in her diary. Three days later, 25 months of seclusion ended with the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo. Anne and the others had been given away by an unknown informer, and they were arrested along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them. 

      They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in February 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later.

      Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam via Russia, and was reunited with Miep Gies, one of his former employees who had helped shelter him. She handed him Anne’s diary, which she had found undisturbed after the Nazi raid. 

      In 1947, Anne’s diary was published by Otto in its original Dutch. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 70 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.

      The Frank family’s hideaway at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam opened as a museum in 1960. A new English translation of Anne’s diary in 1995 restored material that had been edited out of the original version, making the work nearly a third longer.


      Today in World War II History—Feb. 4, 1944

      75 Years Ago—Feb. 4, 1944: US secures Kwajalein and Majuro Islands in Kwajalein Atoll.

      Japanese open offensive against Indian troops on Arakan, Burma.

      US authorizes Bronze Star medal for meritorious or heroic achievement, less than the Silver Star, retroactive to 7 Dec 1941.

      US Navy blimp K-29 makes the first carrier landing by a nonrigid airship, on escort carrier USS Altamaha off San Diego, CA.

      K-29 of Airship Patrol Squadron ZP-31 lifts off from escort carrier USS Altamaha off the California coast, 24 Feb 1944 (US Navy photo)


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      4 February 1944 - History

      DePauw - 35 (Head Coach: Lloyd Messersmith)

      PlayerFGFGAFTFTAPFPts
      Gordon Ingram3180026
      Bob Johnson191223
      Wayne Montgomery020140
      Rollie Marston010000
      Charles Radcliffe71611215
      Joe Van Hooreweghe41725210
      Charles Roberts041111
      Totals 15 67 5 10 13 35

      Kentucky - 38 (Head Coach: Adolph Rupp)

      PlayerFGFGAFTFTAPFPts
      Jack Tingle2160114
      Wilbur Schu41324110
      Don Whitehead010000
      Bob Brannum61856317
      Walter Johnson1131343
      Tom Moseley0100000
      Jack Parkinson280014
      Totals 15 79 8 14 10 38

      Halftime Score: DePauw 23, Kentucky 17
      Officials: Referee - Dan Tehan (Cincinnati) and Umpire - Dan Townsend (Indianapolis)
      Arena: Alumni Gymnasium
      References: Lexington Herald , Lexington Leader and DePauw Sports Information Department


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      Axis Sally: The Americans Behind the Infamous Nazi Propaganda Broadcast

      Mildred Gillars, better known as "Axis Sally" to American GIs, sits for an interview with an AP reporter in her cell at a U.S. Army prison in Oberursel, Germany, after learning she had been released. The Oregon native served 12 years in jail for taking part in a Nazi propaganda radio show that broadcast throughout Germany aimed at American troops.

      Richard Lucas
      February 2010

      From the deserts of North Africa to the Normandy beaches, GIs listened to the traitorous Axis Sally broadcasting over the radio for Nazi Germany.


      Mildred Gillars, the Berlin Axis Sally, attracts a new audience as she arrives in the United States in 1948 to face charges. (National Archives)

      “Well, kids, you know I’d like to say to you, ‘Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag,’ but I know that that little old kit bag is much too small to hold all the trouble you kids have got.” —Axis Sally

      From the deserts of North Africa to the Normandy beaches, GIs listened to the sensual voice of an American woman broadcasting over the radio for Nazi Germany. The voice, alternately seductive and condemning, wondered aloud if their wives and girlfriends were “running around” with the 4-Fs (men not qualified for military service) back home, and gently pointed out the benefits of surrender. As the men tried to imagine the mysterious beauty behind the microphone, the swing music she played kept them tuning in. She cultivated a persona of worldly allure, ready to welcome the boys and understand their troubles.

      The reality behind the voice was less glamorous. Two American women competed for the soldiers’ fantasies: Mildred Gillars, a middle-aged former showgirl from Ohio, broadcast from Berlin the other, a cross-eyed 30-year-old New Yorker with a honeyed voice named Rita Zucca, broadcast from Rome. One was the willing mouthpiece of her mentor and lover, while the other collaborated with the Nazis for financial gain. But both women became enmeshed in the collective memory of American soldiers and sailors as one indelible figure: Axis Sally.

      They, like the women who broadcast for Japan under the name Tokyo Rose in the Pacific theater, entertained their audience despite ham-handed attempts to break the morale of Allied soldiers. As Air Corps corporal Edward Van Dyne said of Axis Sally in 1944, “Doctor Goebbels no doubt believes that Sally is rapidly undermining the morale of the American doughboy. I think the effect is directly opposite. We get an enormous bang out of her. We love her.”

      And indeed, both Sallys became women who were wanted and pursued by the end of the war, but in a way that ultimately had nothing to do with desire—and everything to do with treason.

      The Germans’ use of foreign nationals in radio broadcasting began early in the war with the hiring of William Joyce, better known as Lord Haw-Haw. Joyce, an American-born Irish fascist, was a protégé of Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists. He fled to the Reich on August 26, 1939, narrowly escaping arrest in Britain, and the German Propaganda Ministry hired him to write anonymous commentaries on British foreign policy and politics. At the height of his influence, in 1940, Joyce had an estimated six million regular and 18 million occasional listeners in the United Kingdom alone.

      Lord Haw-Haw’s success as a broadcaster was aided immeasurably by the lack of forthright reporting at the BBC station, which featured entertainment programming—largely organ music—and severely censored news broadcasts. The BBC’s disadvantage was compounded as Holland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Belgium, and Norway fell in the spring of 1940, and the Germans appropriated Europe’s most popular and powerful commercial stations. Combined with the huge 100-kilowatt transmitters in the Berlin suburb of Zeesen, the Reichsrundfunk, or Reich Radio, broadcast worldwide 24 hours a day in 12 languages.

      The Propaganda Ministry and the German Foreign Office hoped to extend Reich Radio’s European success to North America, but needed broadcasters who could communicate with American listeners in terms they could understand. At the outset of the war, American expatriates in Berlin were few and far between. Most had returned home in the face of hostilities, but there were some willing candidates. One of the first was Frederick W. Kaltenbach, an Iowa-born high school teacher fired from his job in 1935 for establishing a student organization based on the Hitler Youth. The Germans dubbed him Lord Haw-Haw for his folksy style, and cast him as the American equivalent of William Joyce. Kaltenbach and Max Otto Koischwitz—a naturalized American citizen and former professor who would play a defining role in the creation of Axis Sally—dominated Berlin’s broadcasts to America in those early years of the war.

      Much of the German propaganda effort in 1940 and 1941 was aimed at keeping America out of the war—attacking the idea of American military aid to the British war effort and blaming “Jewish finance” for the conflict. The message was finely tuned, but the thick Teutonic accents of the German newscasters spoiled the effect. “It is advised of the importance of our American newscasts to use as far as possible American-born speakers,” the head of the German Radio and Culture section, Dr. Markus Timmler, wrote in March 1940. Radio officials paid heed, and within a month of Timmler’s memorandum, a 39-year-old former Broadway showgirl named Mildred Gillars—out of work and recruited by a social acquaintance who worked for Reich Radio—walked into the massive Berlin radio complex known as the Big House.

      Gillars, who had come to Berlin in 1934 to study music, was promptly hired as an announcer for Reich Radio’s British Service, where she broadcast under the name Midge. Within months she had her own show, playing records and chatting about art and culture—and soon found herself in a quandary. By the spring of 1941 the U.S. State Department was counseling American nationals to return home. But Gillars’s fiancé, a naturalized German citizen named Paul Karlson, warned that he would never marry her if she returned to the United States. Hoping for a wedding ring, she remained in Berlin as the last ships departed. Not long after, Karlson was sent to the Eastern Front, where he died in action.

      On December 7, 1941, Gillars was working in the studio when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was announced. Stunned, she broke down in front of her colleagues and denounced their allies in the east. “I told them what I thought about Japan and that the Germans would soon find out about them,” she recalled. “The shock was terrific. I lost all discretion.” She knew that such an outburst could send her to a concentration camp—a fear the Germans used to their advantage. Faced with the prospect of joblessness or prison, she produced a written oath of allegiance to Germany and returned to work, her duties limited to announcing records and participating in chat shows.

      The apolitical nature of her broadcasts changed one year later, however, when Max Otto Koischwitz cast Gillars’s Midge in a new show called Home Sweet Home. Koischwitz, the married father of three daughters, had started a romantic relationship with the lonely American now he aggressively encouraged her to broadcast propaganda he wrote for the Reich. “Even Shakespeare and Sophocles could be taken as propaganda,” he told her. Feeling she had no choice in the matter, she relented. “You could not just go around [Nazi Germany] saying, ‘I don’t want to do this’ and ‘I don’t want to do that,’” she later said.

      As the Allies engaged in fierce battles in the deserts of North Africa, Home Sweet Home was designed to arouse homesickness. Opening with the quintessentially American sound of a moaning train whistle, the program tugged at the heartstrings and exploited the fears of fighting men. In a playful voice, Gillars portrayed Midge as a young but worldly woman. She played the vixen behind the microphone, taunting the frontline soldiers and casting doubt on their mission, their leaders, and their prospects after the war.

      The GIs had several names for the woman on the radio, including Berlin Bitch, Berlin Babe, Olga, and Sally, but the one that stuck for public consumption was Axis Sally. When asked to describe herself on the air, Gillars had said she was “the Irish type…a real Sally.” In a January 1944 article in the Saturday Evening Post, “There’s No Other Gal Like Axis Sal,” Corporal Edward Van Dyne wrote, “Axis Sally is a different proposition. Sally is a dandy—the sweetheart of the AEF [Allied Expeditionary Force]. She plays nothing but swing, and good swing!”

      Although the GIs found the propaganda laughable, the lively music drew thousands of listeners. Captured prisoners of war admitted to their German interrogators that they regularly listened to the broadcasts. And so the Foreign Office sought to replicate what they considered a successful formula.

      As Allied troops pushed up the Italian peninsula in the summer of 1943, the Italian national radio network in Rome hired a 30-year-old Italian American named Rita Luisa Zucca. The daughter of a successful Manhattan restaurateur, Zucca had spent her teenage years in a convent school in Florence and, as a young woman, had worked in the family business. She had returned to Italy in 1938, working as a typist and renouncing her American citizenship three years later to save her family’s property from expropriation by Mussolini’s government. Fired from her typing job in 1942 for copying an anti-Fascist pamphlet, Zucca was hired as a radio announcer in February 1943. She was teamed with German broadcaster Charles Goedel and given the name Sally their program, Jerry’s Front Calling, extended Axis Sally’s fame to the Italian front. Every night, Zucca signed off by sending her listeners “a sweet kiss from Sally.”


      Desperate to save her family's estate under threat of Italian Fascist rule, 30 year Zucca renounced her citizenship and took over as Gillar's counterpart as Axis Sally on the Italian front. She soon fled after the Allies took control of region, and would later be caught, tried, and sentenced by the Italian government after the war. (Helge Collection)

      While the show’s format was almost identical to Gillars’s, Zucca’s broadcasts used intelligence provided by the German embassy in Rome in an attempt to deceive and confuse the advancing troops. For instance, it was Rita Zucca who addressed the Allied troops on July 8, 1943, the night before the invasion of Sicily. Speaking to “the wonderful boys of the 504th Parachute Regiment,” she told them, “Colonel Willis Mitchell’s playboys [the 61st Troop Carrier Group] are going to carry you to certain death. We know where and when you are jumping and you will be wiped out.” The value of this particular revelation backfired when Sally announced to the men that their regiment had been decimated—a full hour before the first plane took off.

      In Berlin, Mildred Gillars was incensed when she discovered there was another woman broadcasting as Axis Sally, and threatened to quit. “I felt that I could be responsible for anything that I said and I didn’t want any confusion after the end of the war as to what I said,” she recalled. “It caused a great deal of trouble.” Her threats were empty ones, however, and both Sallys continued their broadcasts until the war’s bitter end.

      As the Allies advanced on Rome in May 1944, Rita Zucca traveled north with the retreating Germans and resumed broadcasting from Milan. On September 15, 1944, the cast and crew of Jerry’s Front fled to the sliver of northern Italy known as the Italian Social Republic. The program was now attached to a German military propaganda unit called the Liberty Station. In a castle in Fino Mornasco, near Como, Axis Sally was the guest of honor at a party broadcast live on that station. The GIs who tuned in heard the sounds of merriment, clinking glasses, and laughter. Other radio personalities, including English fascist John Amery (later hanged by the British for treason), took part in the festivities.

      The broadcast accentuated the desperation of those final days. It was then the familiar, sweet voice of an American girl floated over the radio to troops on the front lines. “Hello boys…how are you tonight?” Zucca asked the GIs. “A lousy night it sure is…Axis Sally is talking to you…you poor, silly dumb lambs, well on your way to be slaughtered!”

      By then the seductive-sounding Zucca was heavily pregnant her son was born on December 15, 1944. She returned to the microphone 40 days later and continued until her final broadcast on April 25, 1945. With Italian partisans in pursuit she boarded a train to Milan, where she was met by one of her cousins. Zucca took refuge at her uncle’s home in Turin, where she was captured on June 5, 1945.

      “When I saw her coming through the door, I said to myself, ‘What the hell is this, another rape case?’” an officer of the IV Corps military police later told Stars and Stripes’ European edition about being one of the first Allied men to lay eyes on the legendary Axis Sally. She was dressed in an American field jacket, a blue print dress, and sandals. As the arresting officers loaded Zucca and her son into a jeep for the overnight drive to Rome, they handed her eight blankets for protection against the cool night air. Although Stars and Stripes was not allowed to interview the prisoner, the correspondent breathlessly described her feminine charms: “True, her left eye is inclined to wander—but that cooey, sexy voice really has something to back it up.”

      Stateside newspapers took a more bitter tone and tried to demolish the Axis Sally mystique. “Soft-Voiced ‘Sally from Berlin’ Found to Be Ugly Ex–N.Y. Girl” was a typical headline, with descriptions of the young mother as “[as] ugly and unattractive in person as her voice was appealing.” Another journalist called her “cross-eyed, bow-legged and sallow-skinned.”

      Though the press touted her arrest, it soon became clear to the U.S. Justice Department that the Rome Axis Sally could not be prosecuted for treason. When the FBI discovered documentation of her 1941 renunciation of citizenship, J. Edgar Hoover wrote to the Justice Department, “In view of the fact that she has lost her American citizenship, no efforts are being made at the present time to develop a treason case against her.”


      Mildred Gellar shortly after her arrest. (Federal Bureau of Prisons)

      As the U.S. government’s effort to try Rita Zucca fizzled, it stepped up efforts to track down Mildred Gillars, who had continued to broadcast in Berlin until just before the German surrender. The U.S. attorney general dispatched prosecutor Victor C. Woerheide to Berlin in the summer of 1945 by August, he and Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) special agent Hans Wintzen had only one solid lead: Raymond Kurtz, a B-17 pilot shot down by the Germans, recalled that a woman who had visited his prison camp seeking interviews was the broadcaster who called herself “Midge at the mike.” Kurtz remembered that the woman had used the alias Barbara Mome. That detail became the key to tracking her down.

      Wanted posters went up throughout occupied Berlin, adorned with a dour photograph of Gillars, in which she looked more like a schoolmarm than a legendary woman of glamour and deceit. Wintzen discovered that “Barbara Mome” was selling her property on consignment at various Berlin antique shops to obtain hard currency. The investigation hit pay dirt when the agents found a small table that had belonged to Gillars in an antique shop tucked away on an isolated side street. The shop owner gave the CIC the name of the friend who sold the table to the shop. Under “intensive interrogation,” the man eventually admitted selling the item for Gillars and revealed her address.

      On the evening of March 15, 1946, Gillars returned home to a boarding house in the British sector to find a pale, nervous U.S. Army soldier pointing a revolver in her direction. CIC special agent Robert Abeles announced, “Miss Gillars, you are under arrest.” With a surprised “Oh…” she surrendered, and asked to take one possession with her: a photo of Max Otto Koischwitz, the man who had led her down the path to treachery. He had died of tuberculosis in September 1944.

      Mildred Gillars spent two and a half years in the Allied prison camp at Frankfurt-am-Main without charges before being returned to the United States in August 1948 to await trial. She was found guilty in March 1949 after a three-month trial and sentenced to 10 to 30 years imprisonment with a $10,000 fine. She served 12 years at the Alderson Reformatory for Women in West Virginia, was paroled in 1961, and became a teacher at a Roman Catholic convent school near Columbus, Ohio.

      Gillars’s counterpart in Rome also served time, though far less. In September 1945 an Italian court found Rita Zucca guilty of collaboration. She was sentenced to four years and five months in jail, but was released after serving only nine months. Zucca remained in Italy, and faded into obscurity. The woman who came to replace her as the embodiment of Axis Sally in the memory of the American public died in Columbus of colon cancer in 1988, at the age of 87. Mildred Gillars was buried in an unmarked grave, surrounded by World War II veterans.

      This article originally appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of World War II magazine.


      Alice M. Walker (1944- )

      The first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Alice Walker was born the eighth child of sharecroppers Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker, on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. Walker became the valedictorian of her segregated high school class, despite an accident at age eight that impaired the vision in her left eye. Before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College, where she received a B.A., she attended Atlanta’s Spelman College for two years, where she became a political activist, met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and participated in the 1963 March on Washington.

      Also, during her undergraduate studies, Walker visited Africa as an exchange student. She later registered voters in Georgia and worked with the Head Start program in Mississippi, where she met and married civil rights attorney Melvyn Rosenthal (the marriage lasted ten years), became the mother of daughter Rebecca, and taught at historically black colleges Jackson State College and Tougaloo College. Walker has also taught at Wellesley College, University of Massachusetts at Boston, the University of California at Berkeley, and Brandeis University. At Brandeis she is credited with teaching the first American course on African American women writers.

      Walker continued working in the civil rights movement while teaching at various universities. During this time she also became a major voice in the emerging feminist movement led by mostly white middle-class women. Aware of the issues of race in that movement, Walker later created a specific black woman centered feminist theory, which she called “womanism,” to identity and assess the oppression based on racism and classism that African American women often experience.

      Walker’s collected work includes poetry, novels, short fiction, essays, critical essays, and children’s stories. Her collections of poems includes: Once (1968), Revolutionary Petunias And Other Poems (1973), Horses Make A Landscape Look More Beautiful (1984), and Absolute Truth in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems (2003). Her novels include The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), Meridian (1975), The Color Purple (1982), The Temple of My Familiar (1989), Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), By the Light of My Father’s Smile (1998), and Now Is The Time to Open Your Heart (2005).

      Her major non-fiction works includes Living by the Word, I Love Myself When I am Laughing . . . And Then Again When I am Looking Mean And Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (1979), In Search of Our Mother’s Garden: Womanist Prose (1983) and Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women (1993). Walker’s most recent work is We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For (2007).

      The recipient of a Rosenthal Foundation award and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters award for In Love and Trouble, Walker won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Color Purple, which has been made into a Stephen Spielberg directed movie and a Broadway musical produced by Oprah Winfrey.

      Committed to maintaining “an openness of mystery,” Alice Walker identifies herself as an “earth worshiper” who believes in the intrinsic sacredness of the earth and is interested in the traditional religions of her African and Native American ancestors. In Northern California where she lives, she rigorously pursues and practices the tenets of a highly spiritual life grounded in daily meditation, yoga, and Eastern religious thought.


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