March 10, 1949: Mildred Gillars, aka “Axis Sally,” American broadcaster for Radio Berlin during WWII, is convicted of treason. Born in Portland, Oregon, Gillars pursued an acting career in New York City, and although she did get work, she didn’t realize the success of her dreams. In 1935 she moved to Germany to teach English, but eventually was hired by Radio Berlin as a broadcaster, which gave her a chance to flex her acting muscles. She referred to herself as “Midge on the mic” but was dubbed “Axis Sally” by the American allied forces who listened to her broadcasts. Her radio program was called “Home Sweet Home” and typically tried to weaken the morale of US soldiers with suggestions that their girlfriends and wives back home were being unfaithful. However, her most famous broadcast was “Vision of Invasion,” a play about a woman who dreamed her son had been killed at sea crossing the English Channel, complete with exceedingly graphic sound effects of the exploding ship. To boot, it was aired just one month before the D-Day invasion. When she was being prosecuted for treason, it was largely this broadcast which was used as evidence of her crime (though her oath swearing allegiance to Germany didn’t help her either). Finally, on March 10, her heavily covered, soap-opera trial which also detailed her romance with German serviceman Max Otto Koischwitz, ended with a sentence of 10-30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. She served 12 years and became a kindergarten music teacher when released.
March 25, 1954: RCA begins production of color television sets. Retailing for $1,000 each, the sets came after an intense war in the 1940s between RCA and CBS about development of the color field sequential system which was to be used as the broadcasting standard, and the system’s compatibility with existing black and white television sets. Also complicating matters was the ban on color television sets was the ban on color set production which began in 1951 with the Korean War–the need to allocate funds to the war put a halt on the development of color receivers. But, RCA eventually had its day, and we’ve never watched TV the same way since.
March 29, 1962: Jack Paar hosts “The Tonight Show” for the last time. After five years of hosting and ultimately creating the late-night talk-show format still used today, Paar left because he wanted to spend more time with his family and escape the press with its ruthless coverage of his internal quarrels with NBC executives and other stars in entertainment. He was replaced by Johnny Carson, who remained the show’s host until May 22, 1992.